Bionicle Eternal (Story) - Act 2: Rebellion

A new week begins, and so does a new topic.

Prepare yourselves for Act 2.

###Lasting Scars
The sun rose on the second day of the Festival, the Borran with it, and it wasn’t too long before the sounds of celebration echoed throughout the treetops. Vineon lounged on a tree branch a ways away from the rest of the celebration. He was thinking about the previous day. The new Toa team of course, and he was definitely pondering the identities of the assailants, though he already had a pretty good idea there, but mostly he was remembering his conversation with Grillon.
From the moment he’d met the little sucker, he’d seen something in him. Something that scared Vineon to his core. Grillon was a dreamer, a visionary. An idealist. He had that insipid look of someone of would do something for someone else just to ‘make the world a better place’ or some crap like that. Just like her. And so, he’d taken every opportunity to mock, belittle, and abuse him, doing everything in his power to crush that spark before the fool got burned.
And yet… it hadn’t worked. Just when he thought for sure that the spark had finally died, he showed up on his doorstep with all his new friends and a sparkly plan for peace. Worse, he’d actually managed to sweep the Ironwood Knight along for the ride. Guess you were right after all, huh? He thought lazily, drifting off to sleep…
“Come on, Vineon! I know it was over here somewhere!” She yelled over her shoulder, disappearing into the foliage.
“Hey Lyra, wait up!” Vineon called after her, tripping over his feet as he charged headlong into the undergrowth. She was just on the other side of some brambles when he caught up, sitting beside a babbling brook with something in her hands.
“Hey! Don’t run ahead like that!” Vineon gasped out, short of breath, “Who knows what could be hiding here on the ground…” He shivered at the thought. Very little sunlight made it through the many canopies of twisting branches and leaves to the forest floor. Three-story high oaks towered above them, as if greedily devouring the light before it could reach the bottom. Strangely enough, that didn’t stop smaller plants from growing. This was their first time on the ground, and it really shouldn’t have been for another five years, when they turned thirteen.
“Lyra!” Vineon protested again, louder this time, looking nervously about.
“Shush! It’s resting!” Lyra said, turning back to what she had cradled in her hands. It was a small bird, with vibrant green eyes contrasting with deep blue feathers on its body, that turned purple on its four wings. “Isn’t it beautiful?” She whispered, looking at each detail in awe. Vineon’s eyes were drawn to the hole in its third wing.
“You were right, they are using ndege for the target practise exercises.” He gasped. “That’s awful.”
Lyra nodded in agreement. “So, you’re gonna help me sneak it into the bunks, right?”
“WHAT? Lyra, are you crazy? We can’t do that!”
“Well, we can’t just leave it here.”
“We have to! Can you imagine what Pater would do to us if he found out?”
“I’m not going to let it die.”
“WHY NOT? It isn’t a person, it’s just a dumb bird!”
“So? What does that have to do with it? Doesn’t mean birds can’t feel. Doesn’t mean the world wouldn’t be lesser for the loss of it. Doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be an awesome pet.”
“But- I mean-” Vineon sighed in defeat. “Fine. But if we get caught, I’m totally ratting you out.”
“Oh come on, we both know that isn’t true. Besides, the Poisoners won’t care about one little bird.”
Vineon snapped awake, jerking around to make sure no one had seen him. As he blinked, he was surprised to feel tears running down the insides of his mask.
“Oh, curse it all. Fire-spitter must be getting to me. Still, I suppose I should probably tell him about the Poisoners… ah well, it can wait till tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Grillon was pacing back and forth in his study, excitedly flipping through the pages in various texts and documents, thinking out loud all the while.
“Alright, this is a one time opportunity Grillon, so don’t blow it. You are now the leader of the six strongest beings on the island―well I suppose there’s Icarax, and any other of those Dyn, but that only makes it more important. I need a plan for tomorrow. I can’t go out there with no idea of what to do. But I have no idea what to do! If only there was a more experienced leader that I could confide in and get some advice from…” He stopped in his tracks as an insanely reckless decision popped into his head. “Wait a minute. I think there is.”

Kerila and Maerkon strode through the streets of Ga-veza, taking in the sights of the Festival.
Kerila’s eyes were wide with wonder as they passed by food stands, toy shops, elaborate puppet shows put on for the children, and firework stands being set up for that night, filled with sparklers, firecrackers, Tay candles, and other wonders. As if the famed city of ships wasn’t grand and exciting enough during the rest of the year. Of course, the pair attracted their own share of attention. After all, Maerkon had been a popular war hero even before the ‘Great War’ had started, and his renown had only grown since then. And Kerila was the mysterious and exotic ally from the north, the famed Mirror Knight.
“Wow, this is all so incredible!” Gushed Kerila, looking like her eyes would fall out of her head.
“Careful now, you’ll lose your air of mystique if you keep being so easily impressed.” Maerkon said, chuckling. “This is nothing to the celebrations that took place before the war, when all the nations would gather in the valley outside the city. Surely you’re not so young that you can’t remember them?”
“Well no, I remember that happening, but… I was never allowed to go.” Kerila said glumly, looking at the ground. “Kind of a shame, if it was as great as you say.”
“Kind of a shame? Kind of a shame? Kerila, it’s sacred law that all try their best to attend the Festival! What do you mean you weren’t allowed?”
“I dunno, I just… wasn’t, I guess. The war starting was my first time leaving Kothe.” Maerkon couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Part of him wanted to march all the way to Kothe and give someone a piece of his mind, but the ragged tone in her voice warned him that it was best to drop it. He quickly looked around for something to change the subject.
“Hey, what do you think of, uh…” His mouth slammed shut. Oh dear. Not exactly the best thing to lighten the mood with.
“Huh? What’s that?” Kerila asked, pointing to a statue of an armored Galin.
“Ah, that’s the heroes monument, where the names of all the greatest heroes in Galis are carved.”
“Really? That’s awesome! Is your name on it?”
“Not yet, little one. Y’see, it’s only for the very greatest heroes. Here,” he pointed at one name, “Halden, for example. We were Shieldbrothers, and he saved my life from a vicious sea serpent that attacked the coast when we were still young. Sadly, he didn’t escape the serpent’s gullet. And here we have Johtun, another of my old pals. He and five others were stranded in a cave full of mata-ra. For six days they held out, slew almost half of the beasts. It was only through his Valor that even one of them made it out. Galatia was a Spearmaiden, a little younger than you are now, and placed under my command little over nine months ago. We marched out… and met Yeela.”
Kerila looked on in awe, scanning the list of names.
“I get it… this is a memorial for soldiers who’ve fallen in battle.”
“Indeed, little one. One of five in Ga-veza, each dating back eight hundred years, and divided by clan.”
“Wow… you know a lot of these names, huh?”
Maerkon laughed, but it didn’t sound half as cheerful as it normally did.
“Kerila, I’ve been a soldier since I was fourteen, and lived with the army five years longer. Most everyone I’ve ever known are on one of these statues, and more every day.”
Kerila looked at him sadly.
“I-I’m sorry for bringing up sad memories.”
“Ah, never you mind. Sure, it gets me down at times, but that’s only because I was so dang happy when I was with ‘em. It balances out, yeah? I’ve got more than enough good to bear the bad. Now come on, there’s so much more to see! We can’t waste our time being depressed, we’re here to have fun!”

Elsewhere, the Leta celebrations were in full swing. The sounds of partying echoed through every caravan in the desert, but none more so than the tent of Allya of clan Tamu. It had been many a long moon since Brahn had been able to return from the front, and many laughingly said that Allya had been literally glowing with happiness the day before.
“Mom! Pops!” Briata yelled, running through the door. “Friana’s back!” She was then promptly pushed out of way by the Toa of Air.
“Alright, I can announce myself, thanks.” Brahn looked up from where he’d been sitting next to Allya.
“Hey there, ifanca. Good to see you when we’re not on the battlefield for once.”
“Hey Pops. Hey Mom.” Friana said, smiling so wide her face actually hurt. “It’s good to see you again.”
Briata nudged her in the back.
“C’mon Sis, I can see how tense you are trying to resist the urge to tackle hug them. Just go ahead and get it over with, ya big baby.”
And so she did.
The four laughed, played, talking long over lunch and later supper. Briata showed Brahn how she’d learned to weave cloaks that would blend in perfectly with both the sand of the desert and the sparse underbrush of the border. Brahn showed everyone a new musical instrument he’d been working on in his spare time (“It’s based on a Kona instrument called a sitar. It’s still awfully off tune…”), and all the while, Allya and Brahn never left each other’s side.
When the sun was setting in the sky and the first stars were becoming visible, Briata and Friana both decided to take a long walk. They left the tent and walked around the caravan a couple of times, till finally they came to a stop by the spring, leaning against the few trees that grew there. And there they sat in silence.
“Hey Sis, where were you yesterday, anyway? Brahn came back around midday, and we had no idea where you were.”
“Oh yeah, I was taking a hike with Yeela. I guess we lost track of time. Sorry for being late, but… I can’t bear to think of Yeela being alone for the Festival.”
“Well, that was nice of you… hey, you remember the good old times, when you and Brahn weren’t always away fighting, there wasn’t even a thought of war, and it was like this all the time?”
“Oh yeah, ‘course I do. You, me, Yeela, Hafu, Eryr, Frind, and Leif. Back when it didn’t matter that Leif was Galin, when Hafu and Eryr were still alive… we were inseparable, and we thought nothing would ever change that. Those really were the days.”
Briata sighed, looking up at the sky. “Do you even know where Leif is right now?”
“Nope. To be honest, I just hope he’s not in the army. I mean, I’ve fought Galis before… what would I do if I’ve killed him? Or Yeela?”
The two sisters were silent for a time, looking up at the night sky, lost in their own thoughts.
“Well aren’t we the sunshine and smiles brigade today!” Friana said, bursting into laughter.
“Yeah, you’re right. It’s the Spring Festival, we should be celebrating or something.”
“Don’t worry, chera ifanca. Something tells me the war won’t last too much longer.”

So there you have it: the first chapter of Act 2! More to come!

1 Like


Grillon approached the border to Galis, fidgeting nervously. Even during the Spring Festival, this could be disastrous. Also, he hadn’t really thought of a great plan…

“Hey!” Two Galin ran up, brandishing spears. “Who goes there―OH CRAP IT’S A TOA!” One of them dropped his weapon, fell on his rear, and frantically started scrambling backwards. The other one, oddly enough, stayed calm, still pointing his spear at the Light Knight.

“Whoa, calm down guys. I’m not trying to cause trouble. I just wanted to see if it was okay to see Maerkon.”

“What do you want with our Toa?” The calm one snarled, a strange light in his eyes.

“Well, you see…” Grillon frantically wracked his mind for a believable excuse. “I… lost my lucky quill! Yeah, last time I fought Maerkon, I lost one of my quills, and I think he might have it, and I thought since, I mean, it is the Spring Festival and all, I could… ask for it back? Maybe?”

The guards stared at him, incredulous. “For real? You’re entering enemy territory… for a quill?

“A lucky quill, yes.” Grillon corrected, growing more comfortable with his bluff.

The two guards fell back ten paces and held a whispered conversation, glaring suspiciously at him. A few moments later, the one who’d panicked came back to him.

“Alright, we’ve decided that as long as you head to Maerkon’s place, and come straight back, and not do any nefarious Tayish things, you can pass.”

“Wait, seriously? Just like that? You’re not gonna blindfold me, or report me, or anything?”

“Well normally yeah, but well… three months ago, there was fighting in my hometown, with lots of civilians hurt, and you… you saved my sister’s life. I think you’re a good sort, for a Tay, and I figure we owe ya one.”

Grillon smiled, both relieved and elated.

“Well thanks, I promise not to report you.”

“Much appreciated!”

They gave him directions to Maerkon’s house, and Grillon sped away, humming happily to himself. I guess a good deed will always come back to you. Take that, Nuhrii!

The sun was just starting to set as Grillon knocked on the door to Maerkon’s humble abode.

“Who’s there-Grillon! Great to see you!” Said Kerila as she opened the door.

“Hey Kerila, who is it-oh.” Maerkon stopped speaking when he saw Grillon. “Um… hi. Come on in, I guess.”

Grillon stepped into the house, inwardly cringing. Whoops. I was so busy stressing out about how to get here that it didn’t even occur to me how awkward this could be. We were enemies just yesterday after all, and I came unannounced and uninvited on top of that…

“Um, sorry about this,” he stammered out.

“Oh, not at all. I admit that I wasn’t expecting visitors from Tayru, but you are our leader, and from what Kerila tells me, you did spare her life. What do you need?”

“Advice.” Grillon admitted, “I just have no idea what to do for tomorrow, I thought maybe you could help?”

Maerkon paused for a moment, staring into space. “I don’t think I can do that, Grillon.” The Toa of Water held up his hand, halting Grillon’s protests before they could leave his open mouth. “I’m a warrior, a soldier. I have been my whole life. It gives me experience on a field of battle, sure. But like I said before, we’re not dealing with some battle. You’re trying to convince a group full of enemies, including two of the most bloodthirsty fighters this island has ever seen - and trust me, there’s a few contenders I’ve met in my time - to work together. This, I have no experience with.”

“It’s not like I have any experience either!” The protest was immediate. “You at least are comfortable leading people! I walk onto a battlefield and tell someone else to organize the soldiers!”

“Which means you know your strengths,” Maerkon retorted, “which is an essential skill. One of the the first things I learned from my brotherband was when their experience outweighed my own. Only a fool tries to command what he doesn’t know.”

“You just contradicted yourself!” Grillon cried. This was not going as planned, and he was starting to wonder if the journey would even be worth it.

“No,” Kerila interjected before the argument could continue. “You’re a healer, Grillon. You have been for, well, I don’t even know how long. But it’s what you do best. And, you are trying to heal the island, or the people, or something like that. This is something only you know how to do.”

Maerkon patted her on the back. “Well spoken.” His eyes returned to Grillon. “See? We put you in charge for a reason. I’m not going to guide others when I don’t know the path myself. Peace is your vision, Grillon; you’re the only one who can lead us to it.” Grillon sighed, looking at his feet.

“I still don’t know what to do tomorrow. I know that I want peace, sure, but just knowing that doesn’t help me. If I walk out there without a plan again tomorrow there’s no way I’ll hold Vineon or Yeela’s attention. We need a goal, something tangible.” Grillon paused for a moment. “I don’t have that.” Maerkon took a step backwards, sitting in his chair.

“Tell me again: what do you want to accomplish?”

“Peace,” Grillon and Kerila said automatically, almost in unison. To the Fire Toa’s surprise, Maerkon waved the answer off.

“Too open,” the elder Toa said. “Peace can be interpreted in any way. Would you be content to see Tayru ruling the entire island, as long as it was peaceful?” Grillon shook his head, horror etched across his face. “Then try again: what do you want to accomplish?”

“I want the war to end,” Grillon began, more hesitant, more thoughtful. “But not by one alliance conquering the others. I want an alliance between all six nations. For everyone to agree to put down their weapons and leave war in the past.” Maerkon nodded in approval.

“Good. Now what’s standing in your way? Why can’t you just walk outside right now and make this happen?” Kerila snorted.

“It’s not like anyone would listen to him. No offense,” she added after a beat.

“None taken,” Grillon said, waving her concern away. “It’s just how things are. If we could just talk our way to peace, the protests in Tayru would have worked already.”

“Protests in Tayru?” Kerila asked incredulously. “You mean that people there actually want to end the war?”

“Only a handful,” Grillon clarified, “and they lost steam a long time ago.” The thought made Grillon uneasy. In the early days, he and the others had protested without a doubt that their voices would someday be heard. When the war had paused for the Spring Festival for the first time, they had celebrated it as a victory. The sight of soldiers ready to return to battle only a week later had broken the core of their resistance. Nowadays, visible resistance was few and far between. It wasn’t a good sign. If a large group had made no progress, how was he supposed to do anything?

“Exactly. So what you need is a way to make people listen, to calm their zeal and open a way for peace talks. I admit, how exactly you do this is a little bit beyond me, but at least it’s something to think on.”

Grillon bowed. “Thank you Maerkon, you’ve been a great help. But hey, one other thing: if we get into a battle with the Dyn again… when they attacked, I focused on my own actions, and had no real idea how to coordinate the team. Kerila got hurt because of me!”

“Oh please, that wasn’t your fault! It’s my reactions that were slow―”

“How can I improve? How can I lead us in battle?”

“Well, I think you could take a page from my Brotherband. I was technically the leader, because I was the best strategist and well rounded fighter. But it was Berryk who was the master scout, and when we needed the lay of the land, I would defer to his judgement. Dri was a born sailor, and when we had occasion to fight on boats, he was the captain, not I. Do you see what I mean? Being the leader doesn’t mean standing alone. If your companions are better than you at something, don’t hesitate to ask for help.”

“There’s no one to help you now!” The shadowy figure said, grinning smugly.

“Please, please no! Please have mercy!” Vineon screamed, sobbing with terror and scrambling backwards.

“Oh, the time of mercy is long, long past. Didn’t you know? It’s too late for your sniveling hide.” The figure stepped out of the shadows, revealing itself to be a matoran of the Green. He moved strangely, stiffly, almost like he was a puppet, with someone else pulling all the strings. His armor crackled and shook with age, each plate looking like a long dead leaf, full of tears and holes. Vines swirled under the cracks, and as he kept coming closer, you could see his eyes: empty sockets with flowers growing out of them.

“NO!” Vineon yelled, gathering his energy, and unleashing an all out assault on the menace. Barbed vines, venomous gases, spears made of ironwood; the desperate Knight threw everything he had at his foe. “I REFUSE TO DIE!” The flora-filled cadaver held out a hand, and it all stopped in midair, before turning to dust.

“Such arrogance. This world bows only to me, not you.” He took a step forward, and then another, till he was face to face with Vineon.

“Master Clove… please…” Vineon pleaded, shivering and shaking with equal parts terror and exhaustion.

Clove laughed, his mouth twisting into a hideous mockery of a smile. Out of his mouth came dozens of tiny vines, wrapping around the Toa till Vineon was completely bound.

“Don’t worry, my pawn. Your body will continue to serve me for all eternity.”

Then his clawed hand reached up… and plunged into Vineon’s chest.


“NOOOO!!” Vineon woke up screaming, flailing around in his bed. Vines shot out from his hands, whipping through the air on their own. A thick layer of wood now covered his chest in the place where he’d been attacked. After a few seconds, he came to a stop, breathing heavily and shaking all over.

Calm down, calm down. It was just a dream.

Vineon sat up, looking at himself in the mirror. In many ways, he didn’t look that much different than the cadaver that haunted his nightmares. Sure, he had the body of a Toa, but his armor was styled after leaves the same way, and plantlife coursed through his body. Sure he had eyes, but when he looked in a mirror, he always saw them as so broken and empty that they might as well have been flowers growing out of a skull.

He sighed long and hard, letting all the air leave his body. And then again. No matter how hard he tried, he never felt the need to inhale. The plants that were all throughout his body absorbed the carbon dioxide from his used air and create oxygen, which his body would use, producing more carbon dioxide. Vineon hadn’t needed to inhale for seven years. Nowadays, he couldn’t even if he tried. It was as if his lungs had forgotten how to do it. Look at yourself, man. Or can you even call yourself that? You’ve tried so hard to rid yourself of your mortality.

Of course, everyone in the Poisoners was required to take at least one implant, having plants grafted to their own flesh. But almost everyone stopped at one, and a small one at that, because the more you took, and the larger they were, the more dangerous it got. Even the brave ones, the strongest of them, only really dared to take three, and they could barely take it. But you weren’t brave, were you? You just couldn’t take living without her, and so you thought you’d get yourself killed by taking ten. But you survived, and became so valuable in the process that they wouldn’t let you be so reckless anymore, and now you have to live with yourself.

The light streaming through the window reminded him that he had somewhere to be today.

“So,” he addressed the mirror, “How much should I tell them? On the one hand, the more they know, the better chances they have.”

And yet, if I tell them too much… well, my nightmare could easily become reality. I also run the risk of scaring them off, or making them abandon me.

“Maybe so. Certainly Yeela, or that self-righteous Kona. But Grillon… I dunno. He just doesn’t know how to give up on this stupid dream of his. Nothing else I tried could get him to quit, so this probably won’t either…”

“All these years… all the things I’ve done… I guess it’s time to ‘fess up and face the music.”

###Tragedy (Part 1)
The sun rose on the fateful day. Grillon got out of his bed and stretched, feeling the sunlight warm the room.
“Alright! Finally, today’s the day! It’ll all come to together, or fall apart. Time to face the music.”
He opened the door of his room–and stopped.
“Sukiru, why are you in my house? Again?”
The Tay looked up from the stove. “I’m making breakfast.”
“What? Why?”
Sukiru shrugged. “I haven’t seen you the past couple of days, and I know you’ve been feeling down since the border battle, so I thought I’d check up on ya. Y’know, for old times sake.”
“Aw, thanks.” Grillon sat down at the table, sniffing at the smells that filled the air. “Dude, how did you get to be such an amazing cook? This smells awesome.”
Sukiru grinned and pulled something out of the oven, keeping it covered with white cloth.
“Well yeah, I kinda had to be. It was either that or put up with Father’s cooking, and you remember why that wasn’t going to happen.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” Grillon shivered, and the two laughed.
“Well anyway, I got some news I thought you might like to hear.” Sukiru said, whipping off the cloth and grabbing for several spices. “In the aftermath of the border skirmish, General Arbreak himself recognized Melody’s valor in saving you, and she was officially promoted to his second lieutenant.”
Grillon looked up, startled. “What, really? That’s incredible!” Not the promotion itself, though it’s a nice gesture. But that you’d go to the trouble to tell me, just because you thought I was feeling down… Grillon watched Sukiru bustling around in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on whatever it was being cooked. Maybe I’m not so friendless as I thought in Tayru. “Thanks, Sukiru.”
Sukiru brought out breakfast: a pan of sweetbread, baked to perfection and lightly dusted with cinnamon and other spices that Grillon himself never really knew what to do with. They sat down to eat in silence. Barely a minute had passed before Grillon began shivering, not out of cold, but he suddenly felt incredibly hyper.
“Ah! S-sukiru, what exactly is in these?”
“Hm? Oh right, I put some volo berries in your slice.
“How many, exactly?” Grillon asked, feeling like his inner fire was roaring out of control.
“Aw sorry, I put too many, didn’t I? I wasn’t sure how much energy your Toa body needed. But I figure you’ve got a long day ahead, so I went pretty heavy.”
“Wait, what do you mean, a long day?” Grillon asked, freezing in place.
“Oh please, don’t think I don’t know what you’ve been doing.” Grillon’s mind raced. Oh snap oh snap OHSNAPOHSNAP
“You dragged me along with you last year, remember?”
“You spent that entire week traveling through Borrara and even across the border with Galis, helping local doctors deal with the fields of injured soldiers. Pretty sure you did it year before last too. Now that you have a Toa body, you’re probably trying to heal the entire freaking island, aren’t you?”
“Oh, uh… yes actually! Yeah, totally that!” I mean, it’s not a complete lie.
“Well then, you don’t have much time. I’d best be going.” Sukiru got up and walked to the door, but then paused. “One more thing: Namiken asked me to invite you to his house tonight. Apparently he’s holding some celebration or another. I think… I think he’s really trying to make amends.”
Grillon snorted and rolled his eyes.
“Tell him thanks, but no thanks. I’ve got better things to do.”
“Come on Grillon, at least give him a chance–”
“Namiken burned that bridge long ago! You of all people should know that.”
Sukiru just shook his head sadly. “Hate him all you like, but he is your father. You should at least give him a chance.”
“Don’t you have someplace to be?”

Yeela and Maerkon were already there when Grillon arrived at the meeting site.
“Good morning!” Grillon said, making sure none of his nervousness bled through. “Where’s Kerila and Fri?”
Maerkon smiled warmly, breaking off from whatever discussion the two had been having. “Kerila slept late, and then said she had a couple of things that needed doing, so I went on ahead.”
“Yeah, and Fri is off scouting the area to make sure we don’t have another surprise visit from the Dyn.”
“Ah, right. Guess that means the only one unaccounted for is Vineon.” The Fire Toa said, feeling slightly uneasy about it as he spoke. It felt like he should say something, but nothing came to mind, and so the three stood in awkward silence.
“Hm.” Yeela turned around and sat on the ground with her back to the other two. Today she’d brought most of her arsenal, but she didn’t seem nearly as bloodthirsty as before. Now she just seemed… uncomfortable. Hm, come to think of it, I know almost nothing about her. Wouldn’t a good leader know everyone in his troop?
“So uh, how’d you meet Friana?” Grillon asked, sitting near her. “Fri talks about you like you’re really close. So did you meet during the war, or…?” His sentence trailed off under Yeela’s withering glare. Grillon quickly backed away. “Hey, you know what? Not my business! Heh heh, yeah…” The awkward silence returned, till Yeela sighed and began to speak.
“Well, this is boring. I suppose I might as well tell. I grew up in a small village towards the western edge of the island, where any farther west the tunnels fill with seawater. It was a pretty good place to grow up, nice and peaceful and prosperous, and you’d be a fool not to appreciate a place like that. But, I guess I was that fool. When I was seventeen I left my village and began traveling. For a couple of months I explored the tunnels and caverns of Onura, but it just wasn’t enough for me, and it wasn’t long before I went aboveground and started exploring the desert. I hadn’t been out a whole day before I ran into a seven year old Leta girl, covered in cuts and injuries, trying to drag a dead sand-kofo back to her village. She was dehydrated, close to starving, and the sand-kofo was easily three times her size, but I still had to convince her to take a break and take some of my food. As I asked what she was doing, she said that a pack of sand-kofo had injured her mom, so she’d tracked them back to their den and ensured that they’d no longer be a problem. Her name was Friana. I helped her get the creature back to her village, and they invited me to stay for the night. The next morning I was all set to head out and explore the desert some more, but Fri followed me, the little fool. And, yeah. I explored the western half of the island, on and underground, sometimes alone and sometimes with Fri, for two years. I returned to my village, but she kept in touch. When I took to journeying again a year later, Fri brought her sister Briata and a friend, Eryr. We explored all over the desert and even out of it, having plenty of adventures. Two Onu, Hafu and Frind, joined us often, even a Galin named Leif. Those were the good days, let me tell you.”
“Of course!” Grillon exclaimed, snapping his fingers, “That’s why you use that same language as the Leta!”
“Yep. Anyway, time moved on, and we grew up. Me and Hafu married, and I finally settled down in one place to raise a family. But all good things must come to an end, and so it was with me. I went on a short walking trip through some caverns, and when I returned home, I found that the Kona had killed my family and burned my village to the ground.” Her tone was so completely even and devoid of emotion that it took the other two Knights a second to comprehend what she’d said.
“Wha-!” Maerkon actually took a step back, visibly shaken. Grillon knelt down beside her, reaching a hand out for her shoulder.
“Yeela, I’m so sorry-”
“Get your hand off me!” Yeela glared at him, voice suddenly flaring with that characteristic rage. With all she’d been through, Grillon could only feel sorry for her.
“Hey guys, what’s going on?” Friana touched down next to them, Kerila running up the hill behind.
“Oh, nothing. Just waiting on you guys.” Yeela said cheerfully, getting up and high fiving the Air Toa. Grillon watched her incredulously.
Well that was a one-eighty if I’ve ever seen one.
“Ahem.” A cough from behind them, as Vineon stepped out of the brush.
“Guys, there’s something I need to tell you.”

###Tragedy (Part 2)

“Vineon?” Grillon looked at him in concern. “Is this about–”

“Of course not, this is actually important.” Kerila looked back and forth between the two, clearly confused. The other three tensed up reflexively, something learned from many battles with him.

Well, no going back now.

“I might have a lead on how to find the Dyn.”

“Really?” Kerila’s voice squeaked out. “But how?”

Vineon glared at her. “I was getting to that, Snowflake.” Kerila’s mouth snapped shut, and she stepped back, fuming. “Anyway, I think I’ve got a story to tell you. It’s about what happened to the Republic of Borra.”

“Borra? Don’t you mean Borrara?” Maerkon said, frowning.

“I know what I mean, Raincoat, and I mean Borra! Yeah, the outside world has known us as Borrara, but for the last couple of centuries we’ve been the Republic of Borra. Or, we were.”

“Republic? Huh. Not even the Onu knew the old kingdom had crumbled. Also, is Raincoat the best insult you could come up with?”

Vineon glowered at Yeela. She stared back without flinching.

“Y’know, all these interruptions are really annoying. I could just not tell you anything.” Silence. “Great. Now unfortunately for the Republic, there was a secret society, hidden just below the surface. It’d existed for nearly a thousand years, slowly growing in influence and power. It’s called the Poisoners, and they’d wormed their way into every facet of our lives without us even knowing it. By the time I was born, every family had at least a few members in it. In the senate of thirty, I know at least twelve who were members. Many families ‘donated’ their second child to the Poisoners at birth, where they were raised into ultimate soldiers for their army.”

“Of course!” Friana exclaimed. “At the beginning of the war, when the legion of modified Borran soldiers appeared almost out of nowhere, that was the Poisoner army!” She looked at Vineon and her eyes widened. “But that means you–”

“Yes indeed, Rifflefeathers. I was one of those kids. Raised by the Poisoners, trained in all the arts of killing, modified until I was more plant than matoran. The things I’ve done for them… But that’s not the most important thing. Y’see, when the war started, the Poisoner leader Clove took total control of Borrara, officially ending the Republic and creating a virtual dictatorship. Borrara is under martial law, occupied by the Poisoners. I’ve come to believe that Clove helped manufacture the start of the war so he could take control of Borrara, and ultimately all of Inoria. But he’s cautious and smart. The Poisoners have been gathering information for centuries. If there’s some other force at work here, then I guarantee Clove knows about it, and has either allied himself with it, or conquered it.”

As his story came to a close, the silence was deafening.

Five masks stared back at him, eyes inscrutable.

Well, the secret’s out. What do you think now, Fire-spitter?

But Friana was the first to speak.

“Your own family gave you away?” Huh? “That’s messed up.”

“If the Poisoners knew you told us this, your life would be in danger,” Maerkon said; “Thanks for trusting this with us.”

“Y-you don’t blame me?”

“Hey, we’ve all done things we’re not proud of, I’m no different.” Kerila said, smiling. “It’s why we have to end this war.” Vineon looked to Grillon, and their eyes met. The Light Knight just smiled and gave him a thumbs up. Well. Maybe you were right.

“Alright, now that we know about the Poisoners, we have our next move.” Grillon said. “If they truly had a hand in this war, then we need to investigate. Plus, if they have Borrara in a death grip, then maybe we can help them.”

Yeela snorted. “Really? I didn’t join this team just to help your side, Grillon.”

“YEELA!” Friana sputtered, elbowing the Earth Toa in the side. “Don’t be a golgwyn! If Onura or Leto were being oppressed by some weird science cult, you’d be asking for their help too!” Yeela rolled her eyes, but she didn’t protest anymore.

“Anyway, we need some sort of plan to deal with the Poisoners. Maerkon, Vineon, do you have any ideas?”

The Water Toa sat down, deep in thought. “What we need is more information. Say, Vineon, do the Poisoners have some sort of base?”

“No, Raincoat. We camp out under the stars and–OF COURSE WE HAVE A BASE!” The Ironwood Knight snapped. The two began to plan - and argue - while the other four watched from a distance.

“What kind of insult is Raincoat, anyway?” Friana wondered aloud.

“I’m not sure, but if it makes it any better, he’s called me ‘Fire-spitter’ for as long as I’ve known him. You get used to it. And honestly, it’s not much worse than our official titles, ‘Light Knight’ and all that.”

“Yep, being known as the Puppet Sword Knight sucks. Who even came up with these?”

“I think it was that Kona exile, Shu, that first came up with them, and they somehow stuck.” Kerila supplied. “If he’d never opened his mouth…”

“Oh come on guys, the titles aren’t that bad!” Friana protested. Yeela laughed.

“Easy for you to say, your title’s awesome! Demon Gale Knight, why couldn’t I have something like that?”

“Everyone, come over here!” Maerkon called. “We have a plan!”

The Toa hastily gathered around as Vineon quickly scratched out a map.

“So, the Poisoner base is an underground bunker situated beneath the Redwood ring in the center of Borrara.”

“What? That can’t be right! The Onu have tried tunneling under there.”

“And?” Vineon countered caustically.

“The miners kept dying of unknown causes. It was like the earth down there was cursed, or… poisoned…” She trailed off. “Oh. Nevermind.” Friana facepalmed and gestured for Vineon to continue.

“So, yeah. Most of the ways in and out are guarded or in places we can’t get to, but there’s a passage in my house. If we can get there undetected, we’ll have a safe way in and out of the base. Not to say that’ll be easy, and of course the base will be full of Poisoners that won’t give a noc-ko scale about the treaty and will kill us on sight. But it’s our only chance. Once inside, I can get us around, but where do we go? What’ll we look for?”

Grillon thought for a second.

“For now, we just need tangible evidence that they’ve been manipulating the war, as well as information on the Dyn. We can show the evidence to the leaders of the other nations, get them to extend the treaty past the Festival limits so that we can take care of the Poisoner threat. Then… well, hopefully it will make them more open to diplomacy.”

Vineon snorted.

“Yeah, sure. So I suppose we’ll be heading towards the archives… hmmm. That’s a problem. The archives are about as far from my entrance as you can get, and we’ll have to pass through the Hall of Agony.”

Kerila took a step back.

“Whoa, hold up! The Hall of what? How literal is this title?”

“Calm down Snowflake, it’s just what it’s called. It’s a corridor through the tenth locus, where the archives, ascension labs, and Dominus throne lie.”

He looked up to see five blank stares.

“Alright, long story short, Clove’s throne room is right next to the archives. We’ll have to be extra careful.”

“Why are you so scared of this Clove guy?” asked Grillon. “He’s just a matoran, isn’t he?” Vineon violently shook his head, remembering last night’s dream.

“No, he’s no matoran. It doesn’t really matter, just know that he’s more powerful than that Dyn. Far more powerful.”

Maerkon nodded.

“Duly noted. Alright then, let’s be off.”

###Into the Woods
The Toa had reached the edge of Borrara when Vineon stopped them.
“Alright, this is where things get tricky. From this point on, Poisoners could be anywhere. We’ll have to be really stealthy.”
Friana laughed.
“Relax, this is my specialty.” Before anyone could stop her, she disappeared into the trees. Vineon paled.
“You half-wit!” he spat, “She better know what she’s doing.”
Yeela patted him on the shoulder.
“One time she ran from one end of Ga-veza to the other without being spotted by anyone. Becoming a Toa hasn’t made her any less stealthy. Don’t worry, she’ll be back soon.” A few tense minutes passed. Finally, Friana appeared at the edge of the undergrowth.
“Don’t worry, there aren’t any sentries in a five-hundred yard radius.”
“What if they have patrol circuits and you just missed them?” Vineon questioned, fretting.
“I thought of that, don’t worry. Unless they have stupidly long patrols, we’re in the clear.”
Vineon sighed in relief, and the rest of the Keata followed Friana into the wood, taking care to make as little noise as possible. It was eerily dark on the forest floor. As they went, the temperature rapidly rose, and what had been a pleasant day rapidly became unbearably hot… to Kerila and Maerkon, at least. This was typical for Grillon and Vineon, Friana lived in an arguably hotter climate (though windier), and Yeela had spent lots of time in the desert as well.
In portions of Borrara such as this were hotsprings, small offshoots of the Lake of Fire, causing the sudden rise in heat. A sickly sweet smell filled the air as they passed patches of rotted vegetation. The still living plants had unnaturally long branches and leaves reaching high into the air, as if desperately clawing for a bit of sun. Kerila shivered.
“I thought Borrara was supposed to be some fount of natural life and beauty, but this is… creepy.”
“It’s not like this everywhere,” Vineon whispered, “The main roads in and out, as well as the canopy province, are exactly what you’d expect. And most of the kingdom isn’t nearly this bad. I deliberately choose this route through Flormortem. Only exiles and cripples live here, so surveillance is light even during wartime. Heck, we don’t even properly guard this province. If an enemy wants to charge in and take some useless baggage off our hands, the better for us. And if these rejects somehow repel the enemy, well then we win anyway.”
“That’s… horrifying.” Friana whispered, looking askance at the Ironwood Knight.
“But it is strategically sound.” Maerkon supplied.
“I’m not agreeing with it, but there’s some logic to it.”
They cautiously crept from tree to tree, scanning their surroundings with every step. Fearful eyes peered out from ramshackle huts and hollows, but a fierce glare from Vineon caused them to draw back into shadow. About half an hour passed with no change in scenery, with Friana frequently consulting with Vineon before disappearing ahead. They changed course seven times, with little explanation from either of them, till finally Vineon held up his hand to stop everyone. Friana returned from another recon, a troubled look on her face.
“Yep, it’s right where you said it’d be.”
Vineon turned to the others. “Alright, up ahead is the first guard. You all know about mata-ra, right?”
Maerkon nodded.
“But they’re extinct everywhere but the sea, aren’t they?”
“Yeah, not exactly…” Vineon gestured ahead, and they continued on till they could hear scratching and growling. And there, in a clearing up ahead, they could see the mata-ra.
It was chained to a post, with thorny vines digging deep into its skin. It was a little taller than a matoran, with a huge pair of spiralling horns and a thick hide. His scaled legs, hoofed feet, and stubby arms further marked him as separate.
“The Poisoners have a small group of captive mata-ra that they’ve bred for guard posts like this. It marks the border between Flormortem and the part of Borrara that actually matters. During the Festival, matoran aren’t allowed to cause harm to any living thing except in self defense. Mata-ra, however, have no such compulsions, so they make handy guards during the Festival.”
Maerkon shook his head. “I’ve battled the mata-ra all my life, and this still repulses me. This Clove, whoever he is, sure is a sadistic tactician.”
Yeela set down her weapon case.
“Yeela, what are you doing?” Friana hissed.
“Come on Fri, can’t you see this is wrong? We’ve got to free this thing!”
“NO!” Vineon yelped, nearly loud enough to alert the mata-ra. “You’ll alert the Poisoners that we were here!”
“Yeah, come on Yeela, we can free it later!” Friana protested.
“No, Yeela’s right.” Grillon interjected. “We can’t let this stand. Even if it makes our task more dangerous, mata-ra are living creatures too!”
“Grillon, maybe…” Maerkon began, but Kerila elbowed him in the side.
“Don’t worry, I got this.”
Kerila held out her hands, focusing her power. A small lens made of ice formed in her hand, and then another, and another, till she had a strange network of connected lenses that she held in one hand.
“A little light, please?” Grillon sent a small stream of light into the first lens, which split the light and sent it rocketing and ricocheting into the other lenses like a mini light show till three small lasers shot out, burning away the vines and chains that bound the mata-ra. The beast looked around, surprised. It opened its mouth to roar, but no sound came out. It looked confused, stumbled forward, then fell unconscious to the ground. Friana exhaled in relief.
“Guys, do you know how much effort it takes to prevent air from entering someone’s lungs?” The Air Toa growled. “A lot, that’s how much!”
“Wait…” Grillon looked at her fearfully. “You did that? You can keep someone from breathing?”
“Of course I can. Toa of Air, remember? I just hate doing it, cause it’s gwirin tiring, and it makes me feel… weird.”
Four Toa took a collective step backwards. “Also it freaks out my friends, and that’s annoying.”
Yeela grinned. “That’s Fri for ya! Strongest person on the island, but weaker than even Fire-spitter here!”
“Hey! I’m not weak!”
“Ahem.” Maerkon and Vineon both glared at the two of them. “A little loud for a stealth mission. We have less time now that the mata-ra is down, so we’ll have to hurry.”
“And onto worse news, there’s more guards up ahead. We’ll be caught for sure!” Vineon growled.
“Wait, why don’t we just cut through the Charred Forest?” Grillon suggested. “It shouldn’t be too far ahead, and it cuts a straight line towards the center of Borrara. Plus, the Poisoners probably aren’t watching it as intently, right?”
“Yeah, because there’s NO FRIGGING COVER. They wouldn’t have to be looking and we’d still be caught. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re a colorful bunch.”
“But even a small breeze stirs up these clouds of ash, right? Friana could create an ash cloud to hide us.”
“Blynydd idea, but I’m afraid I’m still tapped. Like I said, that fancy trick used up a lot of power.”
The Keata stopped to think.
“I can do it.” Yeela supplied. “I might not control ash, but I can stir up an actual dust cloud.”
Vineon sighed. “Whatever, Scraps.”
Scraps? Grillon wondered to himself. Maybe Vineon just isn’t paying attention to our actual names…
Yeela cracked her knuckles, and dust rose up in a huge cloud around them, swirling and spinning till they could barely see where they were going.
“Wait. How are we going to see where we’re going?” Kerila asked.
The dust cloud spread and thinned a bit. It was still hard to see, but they could at least make out what was in front of them.
“Oh. That’s better.”
It was disorienting, at first. Grillon realized that this must have been what it was like to be in an actual sandstorm, or a blizzard, for that matter. Dust clouded around them, obscuring even the sun. The others around him were indistinct shadows, charred husks of trees fading in and out of view around them. They trudged through it without a word, as if each in their own world.
Grillon was relieved when Yeela finally let the dust settle. It still took them an hour, but they were able to cross over the Charred Forest with little incident.
Vineon looked around warily as they re-entered the treeline.
“Alright, now we’re in Florcen, the central district. You can almost see the redwoods from here. Our little shortcut has bypassed so many layers of security that we might not need to worry as much about running into trouble, but let’s keep our guard up.” Or at least, Friana kept her guard up for the rest of them. It took about fifteen minutes for them to reach the outer edge of one of the redwoods. While there weren’t any Borran in sight, they could hear the sounds of celebration.
Vineon growled in frustration.
“Grrrrrrrr, I forgot about that blasted party! There’s no way we’ll get to my house without being spotted!”
“Not necessarily.” Maerkon said. “Grillon, do you know the way to Vineon’s house?”
“Of course, why?”
“Vineon, you go on ahead and make the path to your house as clear as possible. I can create a fog bank to conceal us, but I can’t maintain it for long. Grillon, you’ll have to hurry and guide us to his house.”
“I can help with that,” Friana supplied; “I have enough power built up to at least help a little-”
“Relax, Air Toa, you’ve done more than enough. I’m perfectly capable of holding this for as long as we need, and we may need your powers more when we reach the Poisoners.” Vineon nodded and ran ahead.
A few seconds later, and a scream echoes through the air. Then another, and another, and there was an audible stampede of panicked Borran. Above it all, they could hear Vineon shouting.
“All that secret organization training, and he didn’t learn a lick of subtlety.” Maerkon shook his head, then stretched out his arms. The air began to glow and glitter as all the water vapor coalesced into shining droplets, extending outward like an endless airborne sea. Then it began to mix and thicken and change, till it was a great fogbank.
“Alright, let’s go!” Maerkon said, strain evident in his voice.
“Follow me guys!” Grillon whispered loudly and plunged forward into the mist. They rounded the tree and started up the ramp that circled it, Yeela supporting Maerkon as they ran. The Diamond Knight gritted his teeth with effort, arms shaking as azure power flowed out of him.
They were halfway up the tree before the fog began to thin, little by little. Hardly noticeable at first, it soon became clear that their cover was rapidly deteriorating. A Borran walked out in front of them, straining his eyes.
“Eh? Who’s that!” He called. His eyes widened with recognition, but Yeela hit him with a club and he collapsed unconscious.
“Let’s hurry it up!” She growled, practically dragging Maerkon forward as he began to stumble. The fog had a radius of barely ten feet at this point, and was starting to thin.
“There! His house is less than a hundred feet ahead!” Grillon called. The Keata were sprinting forward at this point, the mist barely able to keep up. Finally they reached his house and piled inside, slamming the door shut behind them as the last of the mist dissipated.
“That,” Kerila said, gasping, “Was a terrible plan.”

Apologies on not remembering to post yesterday. You’ll get two today to compensate.

###Of Poisons and Poisoners…

The six Toa sat in a circle in the middle of Vineon’s living room, such as it was. It was quite spartan, with not a trace of decoration, and barely any furniture to speak of. His bed and a cracked mirror was in an alcove off to one side, but that was basically it. The late morning sun barely shone through a small window in the door, which Vineon promptly covered with tree bark.

“Alright, we can take a quick breather here.” He said, relaxing a little. “I know Maerkon and Friana especially used up a lot of their powers.”

Kerila turned to Maerkon, questioningly.

“Hey Maerkon, why was summoning that fog cloud so much more taxing for you than it was for Yeela to create that dust cloud?”

The Water Toa shrugged. “I’m not quite sure myself, to be honest. Maybe Yeela just has that much more power?”

Grillon shook his head. “Actually, it’s simple physics. Yeela was just stirring up layers of dust that were already there, Maerkon had to not only call upon a much larger mass of water, he had to cause it to change forms, not to mention water is a much less stable element than-” a pinecone hit him in the head, cutting him off.

“No one cares, Fire-spitter!” Vineon shouted, but not nearly as malicious as normal. Friana turned to Yeela.

“Hey, did you bring the-”

“Yeah yeah, fine, I brought your stupid snacks.” Yeela said grumpily, as if they’d argued about this earlier.

She reached into her sack and pulled out six carefully wrapped packages, handing one to each Toa, and one for herself.

“What are these-?” Maerkon wondered out loud, unwrapping his package. “Wait. Actual snacks?”

Indeed, inside each package was a small meal, with kane-steak sandwiches and a small cookie.

“Oh yeah!” Friana cheered as she unwrapped her package (her and Yeela’s cookies were noticeably larger than everyone else’s). “My friends, prepare for a true treat! For while you may know my friend Yeela as a crazy killer blacksmith, she’s actually a crazy killer cook!” Yeela glared at the Air Toa.

“You know, one day I might get tired of bringing you meals and just poison you.” Friana chattered on like Yeela hadn’t spoken. “When I was little and my friends and I went exploring, it was always Yeela who brought the snacks. She was basically Team Mom.” As Friana began regaling the Keata with tales of old adventures, Grillon looked around, noticing that Kerila had left their circle and was hanging close to the door. He got up and walked over to her.

“Hey, is something the matter?”

Kerila shook her head, but her eyes glittered, as if she’d been wiping away tears.

“Oh, it’s nothing really,” she stammered, her voice strained. “It’s just, you know… I’ve never been close to my family, haven’t even seen them in a few years. When I started working with Maerkon, he was like the father I’d never really had. And now, well, I’ve got a whole new family!”

“Hear hear!” Friana cheered from behind Grillon. The two jumped in surprise as the Air Toa laughed and pulled them back towards the rest of the group. “You’re exactly right! After all, we’re the only Toa in existence, so it makes sense to stick together! And we already know we work great together.”

The Air Toa’s enthusiasm was infectious. Grillon found himself unable to stop smiling as he listened to her.

“I like the sound of that. More than a team: a family!”

“Yeah, that’s the spirit! We’ve got a Team Mom,” (Yeela rolled her eyes) “the wise old Gramps,” (Maerkon raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment) “that one cousin that no-one likes” (“Hey!” Vineon protested) “and you two could easily be my younger siblings.” She laughed, grabbing on to Grillon and Kerila, who eyed each-other awkwardly.

“Yeah yeah, that’s great.” sniped Vineon, still annoyed about that ‘one cousin’ comment. “As you’ve clearly recovered your strength, I suggest we get moving.”

He tapped a seemingly random tile in the wall. Without a sound, the wall slid away, revealing a passage that dove down until it faded away in the dark. Just above the entranceway, on the lintel, the image of a snake’s head baring its fangs was carved. Grillon and the others could only assume it was an insignia of some kind for the Poisoners, but didn’t comment.

“Follow me, into the fifth locus, and the Hall of Madness.” Silence fell for a second, till Grillon stepped forward, light glowing gently in his palm.

“So, you going first, or me?”

Vineon led the way down a byzantine labyrinth of passages, creeping cautiously in seemingly random directions as surely as if he’d been born here… which he practically had, of course. Every tunnel was almost indistinguishable from the one before: perfectly spherical, the heartwood of the tree was a bright green, and sap was everywhere… but the dim light coming from Grillon’s palm left so much in shadow that even the green seemed menacing, and every drip-drop echoed around till it sounded like the banging of a gong. The silence was a thick and oppressive shroud, actively trying to choke any living thing.

Occasionally Vineon or Friana would wave for them to stop, not daring to break the silence themselves. They could hear the thump of distant footsteps and the muffled chatter of voices, waiting with bated breath for the illusion of safety to return. The silence became less frequent as they ventured further into the maze of chambers, subliminal mutterings and the echoing of busy feet following them like a malevolent phantom. It was even more oppressive than the silence, a feeling that discovery was just around the corner, that the very trees were conspiring against them. As if the conspiratorial nature of the place bred paranoia.

The group cringed slightly as the faint sounds of agonized screams started to reach them, echoing through the winding corridors. “We’re getting close,” Vineon remarked grimly.

“I’ve never heard anyone scream like that, not even on the battlefield.” Grillon grimaced.

“What do they actually-?” Vineon put up a hand to quiet the Air Toa.

“You don’t wanna know.”

The screams grew louder and louder as they approached the Hall. Soon, the sobs and frightened whimpers of prisoners fearing their own fates could also be heard, and Grillon could feel a boil rising in him from the pain and distress surrounding them. “We need to do something about this.”

“Like what, Fire-spitter? Anything we try will blow our cover. I know it’ll bother your little goody two-shoes conscience, but they’re not our problem.” Vineon snapped. Grillon sighed and reluctantly conceded. As they hid behind the cover of the entrance, they could distinctly hear a torture in progress.

“Do you know why you get this?” A growl echoed from far off.

“I swear, I didn’t do anythi-!” The voice was cut off by a scream of agony.

“The poison is in your bloodstream now. It’s been specially made just for little criminals like you to go as slowly… and painfully… as possible.” The torturer spoke with a tone that was both matter of fact and sickeningly satisfied, as if the speaker enjoyed what they were doing. It took a moment for Grillon to realize that was probably the case.

Most of the Toa gritted their teeth, though Vineon seemed unmoved.

“When they called themselves the Poisoners they weren’t screwing around, were they?” Friana hissed.

“This’ll make for decent cover, they won’t notice us with all this noise.” Vineon reasoned.

“Vineon!” Grillon snapped.

“What? I’m thinking tactically.”

“Guys, focus!” Kerila interrupted in the same hushed tone.

“Okay, the guards have just gone by. We should probably move now before they come back.” Friana pointed out. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for the team to unanimously agree.

They crept quickly but quietly from their cover, passing row after row of bewildered prisoners, who they urged to keep quiet. Some of them showed clear signs of having been already been through it at least once.

Vineon led the others down one way that did not include blood-curdling screams. It still led to a torture chamber.

“Avert your eyes, wimps: they don’t always leave their subjects alive. Or in one piece, for that matter.”

Kerila shivered, “This is j-just totally messed up.”

“Well, they’d hardly be hiding sunshine and rainbows down here, now would they?”

Wandering through the room, various chairs with a choicy selection of bindings and horrific implements of torture were at the user’s disposal. Implements that could bend, crush, pierce, pull or tear pretty much any part of their subject.

“If this is just the Hall of Madness, I’m scared to think what the Hall of Agony is like.” Friana remarked.

“Just a little further will get us into locus 6 and the Hall of Despair.”

“Oh, great.” Yeela muttered sarcastically.

The team suddenly stopped dead as they saw the… shape, in front of them. Slumped in its chair, the only indication that it had once been alive was the mask lying cracked beside it. Above it on the wall was the cold, unfeeling stare of the snake’s head - the mark of the Poisoners.

Kerila clamped her mouth and hand around a small scream, Friana leapt backwards and took an instinctive defensive stance, Maerkon’s eyes betrayed his horror, even Yeela bristled at the sight. And Grillon? He doubled over, unable to look. “I think I’m gonna throw up.” He groaned.

“Oh, can it, you cowards.” Vineon snorted, “The way to the next locus is just up ahead. And you’ll see worse crap yet.”

The Toa were quick to learn why this next place was called the Hall of Despair.



“D-daddy, what’s going on?!”


A sickening scream was heard, followed by a plaintive moan of despair.

Grillon was fighting the urge not to break down completely or yell himself hoarse in the face of the horrors he could hear taking place such a tiny distance away. He was shaking. The others were taking it hard too, even Vineon was wincing a little. Kerila put a hand on the Fire Toa’s shoulder, trying to comfort him, with little success.

“This is horrible,” He choked.

“Sure are some sick sons of ce.” Yeela agreed, ignoring the glare from Friana.

“And do you wanna know the worst part?” Vineon added.

“No!” Hissed the other five as one Toa.

“Well, anyway, I know a side-entrance through here. That way we won’t have to see any of the corpses-”

At that moment Grillon hunched over and started quietly retching, gaining Vineon a death-glare from Kerila, who was now supporting him. “I-I’m sorry Grillon, but there’s nothing we can do.” Kerila said in what she hoped was a soothing voice.

“Th-that’s the worst thing… a-about it.” Grillon managed, before falling back into retching again.

“Listen to me Grillon, look at me.” Maerkon prompted his younger leader to look up, he complied. “I know this is horrible, we all do, and we want to do something about it. And we will. But first, we need to end this war.”

“Okay,” Grillon nodded shakily, drawing himself back up to his full height, “Lead the way Vineon, let’s get this over with.”

###The Hall of Agony
The other halls passed in a blur.
The seventh locus, the Hall of Retribution, where Prisoners of War were contained when they weren’t being used. Vineon’s matter-of-fact explanations of how war prisoners were sought after materials for experimentation made even Maerkon tremble in rage.
The eighth locus, the Hall of Eyes, seemed to be the surveillance center. Vineon had explained that it was for coordinating both their spies and the defenses that laced the kingdom.
The ninth locus, the Hall of Hands, served as bunks for the Poisoners that lived in the base (Vineon explained that it was not to be confused with the Hall of Youth in the third locus, which was for agents-in-training.).
To think that such an organization has existed under our nose for so long… and that my people are allied with them.
Grillon shivered just thinking about it. Just what sort of monsters are they? Who could be this evil?
“Alright guys, we’re here.” Vineon whispered, tremors running through his voice. Grillon looked at him in concern. For all the awful things they’d witnessed, they hadn’t actually run into trouble. To be honest, it had been pretty easy so far. And Vineon had been unfazed by the other halls, so what here could scare him so?
“This is the door to the tenth locus: the Hall of Agony.”
In front of them was a massive stone door, with a carving of the redwood tree devouring matoran.
“Well, that’s just lovely.” Friana quipped, trying to get a laugh.
Shut up!” Vineon hissed. “Do you want to die? Once I open this door, our chances of survival start dropping really quickly. No more wisecracks or wimping out.” Grillon and the others nodded solemnly, and the Ironwood Knight pushed open the doors.

Right away, it was clear something was different about this one. While they hadn’t ran into any other Poisoners, they had always been nearby, audible throughout the base. But this place seemed almost abandoned. The only sound was a deep, rhythmic thrum, sounding almost like a heartbeat. While the other loci had been long straight halls with passages shooting out from the side, this one was a large rounded chamber, with an entrance at each compass direction. They had entered through the western door.
Each door had the same image on it as the one before, while the floor was one massive mosaic, picturing mata-ra and matoran of the five other kingdoms being massacred by a beast made of redwood. The wall held hundreds of sconces, each with a lit candle. The light flowed strangely, at once illuminating everything yet making it seem darker. All in all, this room had a solemn, almost ceremonial feel to it, like it was from a different era than the rest of the base. Vineon looked around warily, tensing up even more.
“This isn’t right,” he whispered, “This place is never crowded, but it’s never abandoned either. And we haven’t run into Poisoners at all.” He paused, humming in thought. “Alright you wimps, before we go into the archives, there’s something I need to check. Follow me.” He walked to the north door, Grillon and the others following close behind. Taking a deep breath, he swung it open abruptly, nearly slamming it into the wall.
“Just as I thought,” he remarked grimly. “It’s abandoned.” This room contained what was clearly the science labs he had spoken of earlier. Nearly as large as the room behind them, it was filled to the brim with (as Yeela bluntly put it) science junk. Workbenches covered with a variety of plants were everywhere Grillon looked, and racks filled with mysterious vials lined the walls. A life-sized diagram of the matoran body was spread across one wall, each part neatly and thoroughly annotated, with additional notes scrawled into the margins. Vineon marched down the center of the room, the other Toa slower to follow as they examined everything. Grillon found an examination table, similar to the one in his old doctor office, but with various cutting instruments affixed to the sides. It was very clean, as if it was scrubbed down regularly, but a few bloodstains still peppered the surface. Grillon shuddered and moved on, hurrying to catch up to Vineon.
“Vineon, what are we doing here?” he whispered, still hesitant to speak out loud.
“It occurred to me, that it’s entirely possible that the Poisoners created Icarax. If that’s true, looking here will be faster and may tell us more about how to stop it.” They followed him to the very end of the lab, where there was a shelf full of files. “Firespitter, help me look through these, they’re logs of successful experiments and inventions. Bookkeeping is what you’re good at, right?” Grillon nodded, ignoring the insult, and started looking through them.
“Let’s see, Implant 64, that probably isn’t it, Project Ironvine, no, Project Lucky? No, this about some matoran named Leif…” Friana started and grabbed the file out of his hands. “Hey, what gives?”
Friana ignored him, scanning the document.
“I-I knew Leif.” she said sadly. “Says here he’s a Galin prisoner of war they experimented on, giving him implant X3 and 51.” She gave Vineon a confused look.
“Yeah, he’s probably dead. X3 was something they were trying to work on even back when I was a kid. It was intended to extend a person’s senses, but it always drove people insane and they ended up blinding themselves. I’ve never heard of 51, but if they were trying it on a war prisoner, it’s probably just as dangerous.”
Yeela growled furiously and punched the wall. The others watched in shock as the wall gave way beneath her fist, not accompanied by the crack of splintering wood, but by the barely audible whir of well-oiled hinges.
“What’s this?” Grillon muttered to himself as he darted inside, Vineon close behind. They found a much smaller space, more of a closet than anything else.
A shelf took up a majority of the little room, but it was almost empty. The only thing to occupy the space was a capsule containing a lilac-colored liquid. The words ‘Prime Sample 1’ were etched into the glass, alongside the snake-headed symbol that they’d grown so accustomed to seeing. Vineon gasped.
“No way… that’s the master sample for the first biological weapon we ever created, who-knows-how-many centuries ago. I’ve heard it’s the template for most of the later creations.”
“Huh, what’s this?” Kerila wondered, picking up a slip of paper on another shelf and quickly scanning through it. She blanched and gripped the paper tightly.
“Wait, what does this weapon do?” Grillon asked, examining the capsule curiously.
Kerila begun tearing at the edges of the paper, looking around nervously at the others. Friana noticed. “Hey, can I see that?” She asked with a puzzled smile.
“I’m not sure, honestly.” Vineon said, poking the capsule and squinting.
“It’s a fusion of redwood sap and Baena poison. Alone it doesn’t do much, but depending on the catalyst it can affect the mind and the body in a number of ways, as we’ve used to our advantage for nine hundred years. Incidentally, it also serves as my blood.”
The voice was deep and raspy, echoing strangely, as if from a distance.
The Keata turned around as one, nearly frozen: first by surprise, and then by horror.
“Welcome to my castle, by the way. My name is Clove.”
Truly a horrifying visage that greeted them. At first glance it was but another matoran, but oh how quickly that facade came away. The armor was brown and brittle, riddled with cracks and holes like a dead leaf. Beneath that, all that could be seen was a roiling mass of plantlife. His mask was clumsily made, a blank slate with a massive crack slashing through the middle, a hole roughly carved into the bottom like a too-wide smile, and a sickly bouquet of white roses spilling from empty eye sockets.
His fingers hung limply, clanking like rattles, while vines sprouted from the gaps in his hands like another ten fingers.
“C-C-Clove!” Vineon managed to squeak out.
“What, did you really expect that I wouldn’t know of your arrival? Did you really think my kingdom would be so easy to enter uninvited? I knew you were coming before you even set foot in Borrara. I made sure that you would reach this place, so that I could kill you here. Although, before I kill you… I suppose I can give you one gift.” He gestured at the document in Kerila’s hands.
“You came here wondering if there was any connection between myself and the Sons of the Eternal. Yes. I have been working closely with them for some time. I couldn’t turn mild tensions into an island-spanning war by myself, after all. They needed a long, drawn out conflict that would disturb the elemental forces on this island, and I needed something to distract the matoran. Two trunks, one giant axe.” The floral matoran spoke in a bored monotone, as if neither he nor his audience would hold any interest in his words.
“You see, that sample there, when released as a gas, can dull the minds of matoran and make them far more… bendable. I used it on the people of my nation, and after scarcely a generation, they were my playtoys, to mold as I saw fit. The other nations took more effort. By the time I began my assault on their minds, their traditions, not to mention Lhii’s infernal treaties, were so deeply ingrained inside them that they were quite resilient to my tricks. They needed something else to think about. It took the help of those frozen freaks from the north, and nearly five hundred years, to even start the war. And five years since, to erode the last of their trust in the old order, and their willingness to make peace. Blinded by bloodlust, I’ll have them under my control by tomorrow. The best part? All I have to do to repay my allies is start one last battle, then I can control the island as I see fit.”
“W-what do you mean?” Grillon asked, his fury evident.
“Well, according to my allies, this war hasn’t been quite vicious enough. As you know, when a matoran is killed, all the elemental energy inside them is released in a small burst. You know how the stars are multiplying in the sky? The Sons of the Eternal seem to think that’s the cause, and they only need one good bloodbath to create a ‘starfall’, whatever that is. So in one month, I’ll send the armies of all six nations to the apex of the Spine, and they’ll fight it out, until not a single soul remains alive. I’m sure a couple of hundred thousand dead will be enough to make them happy. But now, I’ve given you your gift.” Vines burst out from the floor and attacked the Toa. Vineon and Kerila gasped as their legs and arms were pinned to their sides. Grillon screamed in pain as vines ripped through his arms and stuck him against the ceiling. Friana fell to the ground as vines tore through her left leg, forming a painful set of cuffs. Yeela was stuck in a chokehold, and Maerkon had activated his armor, but he was still pinned to the wall.
“Now, DIE!”

Vineon was frozen. I need to do something, I need to do something! The other Toa were stuck or injured, Grillon in particular looked like he’d already gone unconscious, and the floor was currently stained with silvery blood. Vineon remembered his dream and his mind began spinning even faster. Oh crap! It’s becoming a reality! SOMEONE HELP ME!

“Now, where should I start?” Clove turned to and fro, his movements awkward and exaggerated, like he was a puppet to an amateur puppeteer. “The has-been warrior? The mad blacksmith? Or perhaps the Mirror Knight, who’s just so keen on rebellion. You haven’t been doing your job, dear. No, I think I know. I’ll start with my traitor.” He turned to Vineon. “I’ll enjoy tearing every single plant out of your body, you ungrateful wretch. I think I’ll take the remains, tear them in half, and put it on either side of my throne, so that no matter which way I look, I’ll be able to see your last agonized scream.”

“Don’t. You. Touch him.” A voice growled, barely recognizable. Grillon glared down at the flowery monstrosity, shaking with rage.

“Oh, shut up, you’re half dead. It wouldn’t be any fun killing you.” Clove waved his hand and another vine fired towards the Light Knight.

“I’m tired of you talking down to us!” Grillon yelled, and flames erupted around him, crisping his bonds in less than a second. He hit the ground running, glowing like a torch as light surged through him, healing his wounds. “Now get away from my friends, you sick freak!” Fire spilled off him in waves, coming dangerously close to the shelves of chemicals scattered throughout the lab. Clove hissed and shrank back, but quickly rallied.

“You don’t know my-” Whatever he was about to say was interrupted as Grillon gave a rage filled shout and attacked, moving faster than he ever had to launch a flurry of blows. Ten thousand punches in the space of a second would be enough to stop anyone… but Clove reached out his hand and blocked every single one.

“It’s rude to interrupt, you know.”

Grillon stumbled back. “H-how-?” He shook his head and launched into another attack.

“It’s pointless, you know.” Clove said, smirking as he grabbed Grillon and threw him against the wall. “I have power that you will only ever dream of.” Grillon pulled himself to his feet, and threw himself forward again.

“There’s a plant that grows far underground. It’s attracted to light, to the point where it can grow ten feet in a single day just to get a glimmer of it. Put a little of that in my hand, and you’ll never be able to touch me.”

He blocked Grillon’s latest flurry of blows, this time attacking back. A wooden spear sprouted from his hand and he drove it through the Fire Toa’s stomach before kicking him backwards.

“Grillon!” Kerila cried, struggling against her bonds.

The Light Knight struggled to his feet, the spear already nothing more than ash. There was a wild look in his eyes, a rage that made him almost unrecognizable.

“You think you can just play with people’s lives like that? You think it’s okay to bring about the deaths of thousands of innocents, to sacrifice your own people, just for power? What kind of monster are you?!”

Clove rolled his eyes. “Oh right, you’re the idealist, aren’t you? Listen, I don’t have time for this. Just attack me or die, alright?”

For a long moment, Grillon just stood there, glowing brightly as fire coursed through him, gathering every ounce of his energy. Clove slipped into a ready stance, holding out his hand in preparation. Once more Grillon ran forward in a flash of light, and Clove stretched out his hand… but Grillon wasn’t targeting him.

In a flash of light, the vines holding every other Toa were burned to a crisp, and their injuries were rapidly healing. Suddenly, Clove was surrounded.

“Heh, thanks. But next time, do that first, ‘kay?” Friana laughed, rubbing her still-healing leg.

“How ‘bout we just make sure there isn’t a next time?” Maerkon suggested, hefting his axe. “Get rid of a weed by ripping out its roots, right?”

Clove twisted and writhed angrily, the plants shaking and twisting so much that he looked like he was having a seizure.

“What do you know… I guess just accepting your fate would’ve been too easy, hm? I’ve been so helpful, you could at least die fast!”

“Grillon, stay back and focus on healing us.” Maerkon ordered, speaking quickly and confidently. “Kerila, stick with him and wait for us to give you an opening. Vineon, we’re going to keep pressuring him, keep him on defensive. Yeela, get every bladed weapon you have, and don’t let him catch us with the vines again. Friana, get Kerila her opening.” Water coalesced around Maerkon, forming armor as the Diamond Knight rushed for Clove, Vineon reluctantly following behind.

“Oh please. Even if you have no other choice, do you really think it’s a good idea to strategize in front of the enemy?” Clove laughed. “But very well, I’ll play your game. It’s been awhile since I really stretched my legs.” He held out his hands and wood broke through his palms, forming two swords. He lanced out, slicing through Vineon’s own attack and glancing off Maerkon’s armor. Clove danced backwards and away from the axe swing, but vines were already bursting from his chest and reaching for Vineon. Yeela’s blades came down, slicing through the first, but more vines were coming. Maerkon swung his axe again, destroying them. Vineon took the opportunity to dart forward and strike with a long, sharp thorn, just as Friana landed behind Clove and threw one of her daggers. And that was when Clove flipped the script. As Vineon attacked, Clove grabbed his arm and flung him at Friana. The Ironwood Knight screamed as the daggers hit his shoulder, falling backwards and colliding with the Air Toa. Clove snapped his fingers and the entire tree shook. The ceiling and the floor bent and changed, almost as if it was liquid, and suddenly one room was three, as two walls came down, with Vineon and Friana on one side, Grillon, Kerila, and Yeela on the other… and Clove and Maerkon in between.

“FRI!” Yeela ran forward and began pounding at the wall, all of her weapons joining in. Although only made of wood, it seemed strangely tough, and even her axes weren’t making a dent.

“Wait, let me try.” Grillon put his hand to the wall, trying to burn through it. While the outer layers sizzled and burned, falling off like ashes, it grew back faster than he could burn more.

“Grillon, help me out here!” Kerila called, creating an ice lens. Grillon ran to her side and sent a beam of light through the lens. The wall dissolved in a torrent of flames, to reveal a ghastly sight.

“Well? Ready to give up yet?” Clove asked, his hand curled around Maerkon’s neck in a vicious chokehold. The Diamond Knight’s armor was shredded and covered in dents, forced to his knees. A spear ran through his side, pinning him to the ground. His left arm was bent was clearly broken - bent in the wrong direction. His right hand could barely hold on to the axe.

“Maerkon!” Grillon and Kerila yelled, almost in unison.

“Give up now, unless you want me to break his neck like a twig.”

The three Toa looked at each other helplessly. Yeela let her weapons drop to the floor. “Good. Now then, idealist. Kneel before me.” Grillon glared angrily.


“I said KNEEL. Your defiance has been an unwelcome thorn in my side, I would have it crushed before you die.”

“I’ll never bow to you!” Clove tightened his grip threateningly. Grillon sighed in defeat and closed his eyes… which is why he only heard the crash as Friana and Vineon broke through the other side of the wall.

“Wha-!” Clove’s surprised shout was interrupted by Vineon cannonballing into him, throwing Maerkon to the side. The Poisoner stumbled backwards, arms wide to keep his balance. And Friana chose that moment to strike, lancing out with one of Yeela’s swords.


With two strikes, both of Clove’s arms fell off.

“GRILLON, NOW!” She yelled. Grillon ran forward full speed, focusing all his flames into his left fist, and swung out, fist connecting with face with a sound like shattering glass. Clove’s mask bent inwards as Grillon’s fist kept travelling forwards, till his head flew off and hit the wall at the other end of the room. A smell of burning wood filled the air as the grotesque cadaver fell apart, revealing that there really was nothing inside the armor but burning plants.

“D-did we just kill Clove?” Grillon asked, voice quivering as he knelt to tend to the unconscious Maerkon.

“Of course not.” Vineon scoffed. “That was just a puppet.”

The other four stared at him incredulously.

“Are you kidding me!?” Yeela shouted. “What are you talking about?”

“You don’t understand. Clove is… well, no one really knows exactly what he is. Few know his true form, and fewer still have even seen it, but he has matoran shells like these and fills them with a small portion of his essence to serve as extensions of his will, so that he can effectively lead the Poisoners.”

“A small portion-” Grillon looked at the ashes in disbelief. That thing had matched Grillon’s speed, battled six Toa, broken through Maerkon’s shield and nearly killed him (in less than a second!), and it was just a small portion?

“…we need to get out of here.”

Grillon got up from the floor of Vineon’s house, nearly exhausted, but he’d healed all of Maerkon’s life threatening injuries. The run from the tenth locus had been terrifying, as the alarm had been sounded and Poisoners were mobilizing by the time they’d reached the sixth. Luckily Friana and Yeela could deal with them. Now, the six stood in a circle, still numb from what they’d discovered.

“What’s our next move?” Maerkon asked, voice hollow.

“We need to get back to Ta-Meiyo,” Grillon said immediately. “If Clove really wants to lead everyone to their deaths, the best way to counter it would be to tell as many people as we can. They won’t go if they know what’s coming.”

“It’s not ‘if’. Clove has a weapon, you half-wit,” Vineon snapped. “You never assume someone’s bluffing when they have a knife to your throat.”

“Why just Ta-Meiyo, anyways?” Friana asked. “We need to warn everybody about this, not just the Tay.”

“And we will,” Grillon reassured, “But Ta-Meiyo is the closest. With my speed I might be able to get there within the ho-”

“No,” Kerila interjected. “You’re tired, you shouldn’t push yourself like this.”

“I’ll be fine.” The Fire Toa brushes her concern off without a thought. “Besides, this is more important than me.”

“What, you think you can just run home and accuse your allies of a conspiracy?” Kerila shot back.

“She has a point,” Maerkon agreed. “You’ll just create confusion without more witnesses. Someone needs to be able to back up your story.”

“I’m sorry guys, but you’re their enemies. You’re not exactly the best people to defend my case. Friana was right, you need to worry about your own people. Warn them.”

“Grillon, why did you bring us together?” Kerila stopped Grillon before he could answer. “Because we can do more together than we can alone. Splitting up now won’t help. We need to figure this out together.”


“I hate to admit it, Fire-spitter, but Snowflake here has a point.” Vineon cut in, gaining glares from both the Ice and Fire Toa, “If we all go, either we’re all crazy, or there’s something going on. Especially if I go. It’s not great, but it’s the best shot we have. And, for what it’s worth: if we all die for this, at least I’ll be dying with… uhh… people I trust.” The last part was mumbled, Vineon clearly embarrassed to say so.

“Th-thanks Vineon.” Grillon stammered, stunned by the statement. Something like that was the Vineon equivalent of a hug and a kiss. He quickly roused himself from the shock, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. For better or worse, we’re gonna end this: as a team.”

“Yeah yeah, very inspiring,” Vineon hissed. “Let’s get moving before reality sets in.” They left without another word.

Compared to their arrival in Borrara, they moved with a reckless abandon - trading stealth for speed. Still, they encountered no-one as they fled, the city seeming devoid of life for the minutes it took them to leave. After that it was a desperate run through the forest. Grillon ran at the front of the group, the others spread somewhere behind him. Urgency pressed at him, begged him to race ahead of his friends and warn the Tay of the impending doom. But he held back, keeping pace with the other Toa. He had brought them into this, so he would stand by them.

While time seemed to drag on painfully slow, in reality they made good time through the forest, fuelled by adrenaline and no small amount of fear. The sun began to touch the horizon as they reached the Charred Forest, Ta-Meiyo emerging in the distance. Steam from the Lake of Fire rose around it, burning orange in the dying sunlight. Grillon picked up speed, the others close behind him. They crossed the war-ravaged valley quickly, the walls of Ta-Meiyo growing before them. Anticipation filled Grillon. Here we go.

Finally, finally, they arrived at the gates. No guards waited for them, and the grand entry stood open. Waiting for them. Pushing aside his misgivings, Grillon forged on, slowing as he made his way through the city. They encountered no-one. Not a single matoran.

“Grillon…” Kerila whispered.

“I know. Something’s wrong.” They continued to make their way to the city center, where Nuhrii would be. He needed to talk to Nuhrii. And, for once in that idiot politician’s life, he needed to listen.

Grillon was the first to enter the square. It didn’t take long to figure out where the matoran were; most of the city seemed to be packed into the plaza, as if waiting for something. Whispers and shouts spread like ripples across the crowd, all focused around the Toa of Fire. He had returned. They were expecting him. The sea of people around him parted, creating a clear path to the middle of the square - and to Nuhrii.

“Oh, Grillon,” the Turaga called to the now stationary Toa. “I had hoped the rumors were false. I had thought you too cowardly to dare something as treasonous as this. I was wrong about you, I suppose. Though, in another light, I shouldn’t be surprised that you’ve disappointed me once again. Guards!” On his command some of the city guard marched down the aisle. Vineon hissed and Yeela roared, matoran backing away from the murder in their eyes. Glittering water began to coalesce over Maerkon, Kerila preparing daggers of ice behind him. But it was Friana who noticed Grillon: shoulders slumped, head bowed, posture screaming acceptance.

“Guys,” she said softly. “We’re not here to fight.” So the Toa stood down, did nothing as the guards surrounded them. Two guardsmen grabbed Grillon’s arms, pulling him towards Nuhrii. They were gentle with him, and he did nothing to resist. These were former friends, classmates. They had grown up together. But they didn’t look at him. Couldn’t look at him. They knew nothing of what he had been up to. Of his dreams of peace and the threat looming over the island. What they, what all of the Tay saw, was Grillon working with their enemies. With Toa who had ripped countless friends and family from them in this mess of a war. The Toa before them wasn’t a hero, not any longer. He was a traitor.

Finally, Grillon arrived at the heart of the plaza. He spotted Sukiru off to one side, but the warrior avoided his eyes. Namiken stood at forefront of the crowd, eyes filled with disappointment and pain. And across from Grillon, Nuhrii stood, a table bearing only a set of ceremonial borukatta laid out between them. The Turaga drummed his fingers on the table before him.

“What do you think you gain from this, Grillon? Sneaking into Galis the other day? Conspiring with the other Toa? Attempting to assassinate Clove? Did you forget what side you were on? Are you mad?”

“I’m trying to help,” Grillon pleaded quietly. “Clove… Clove is something terrible. And he has plans for this island; plans that benefit only himself. You need to listen to me, Nuhrii. Lives are at stake.”

“Have you forgotten the lives already sacrificed in this war? Those who laid down their lives to defend this city and its people? Those slaughtered by your new cohorts? I seem to remember a particularly bloody border skirmish last week, wasn’t that wind demon there? And her sword-happy friend with her? I seem to remember hearing that the air murderess killed a matoran that was helping you. What about those lives, Grillon? Do they not matter to you anymore?” Grillon flinched, as if the words physically assaulted him. He had healed Melody, only for the young Borran to venture right back to her death. But her blood wasn’t just on Friana’s hands. It had literally spilled over his as she pushed his hands, his healing, away. He hadn’t been able to save her, not a second time. Not when it mattered.

“There is a point where the past must be ignored to preserve the future,” Grillon quoted. He couldn’t remember the name of the philosopher, one of many in his library. “We are on the brink of something terrible, Nuhrii. A bloodbath worse than this island has ever seen. Worse than you or I can imagine, can even comprehend. Please,” the Toa pleaded, “You just need to trust me.”

“No.” Nuhrii’s voice rang with finality. “You have proven yourself beyond trust, Grillon. You’re worse than a failure; you’re a traitor. A breaker of all oaths and drained of all honor. Even in the face of justice you claim justification, as if what you did was right. There is only one fate that remains for you.” Grillon wanted to scream, but couldn’t find the breath. They were wrong, they couldn’t do this. Everything he had done was to help and protect his people, no matter what they thought. But his oath still stood. No matter what they thought, he had not broken his oath.

Nuhrii removed the borukatta from the table and slowly approached Grillon, each step taken with ceremonial care. Around him the Tay began to chant, their voices low and dark, words of their ancestral language condemning their former hero. Their oathbreaker.

“Yabutta chikai, yabutta meiyo.”

“Yabutta chikai, yabutta meiyo.”

“Yabutta chikai, yabutta meiyo.”

Finally, Nuhrii stood in front of Grillon. “Grillon, Toa of Fire and protector of the Tay,” the Turaga spoke in the ceremonial tongue, “I pronounce you an oathbreaker. Upon joining the Li, you swore an oath to heal and aid the sick and helpless, taking an oathlock in recognition of the unyielding nature of such a promise. That oath stands broken, and its lock meaningless.” The chanting swelled to a mournful chorus as Nuhrii brought the borukatta to Grillon’s belt, severing the first lock with one clean stroke. Grillon closed his eyes, unable to watch as the lock clattered to the ground at his feet.

“Upon becoming a Toa, you swore an oath to protect the Tay at all costs,” Nuhrii called above the crowd, “Taking an oathlock in recognition of of the unyielding nature of such a promise. That oath stands broken, and its lock meaningless.” The chanting crescendoed to a deafening roar, making it impossible for Grillon to hear the lock being cut from his waist. But he could feel the weight free itself from his belt, and feel the stones at his feet tremble slightly as the second lock hit the ground. Then, all at once, the chanting stopped, leaving the plaza in deafening silence.

“I do not know what this last lock symbolizes,” Nuhrii said finally_, “So I shall leave it unbroken. But know that it means nothing, Grillon, for you are an oathbreaker, bereft of Honor or duty. Begone from this city, now and forevermore!”_ At once the Tay turned away from him, shunning the exiled Toa. He could barely feel the weight of the broken locks being returned to his belt. Grillon stumbled back down the aisle to the other Toa, barely able to breathe, barely able to think. The word ‘no’ echoed through his head, denying what had just happened, trying to somehow change it. Kerila met him halfway down the aisle, the others close behind.

“Grillon, I’m sorry-” she began, her eyes filled with pain, but Friana cut her off.

“No you aren’t, you lying ce!” the Toa of Air screamed. “If you were sorry we wouldn’t be here, and you know it!”

“Friana, calm down,” Maerkon said, stepping between the two. “She has nothing to do with this.”

“But I do!” Kerila admitted. “This is my fault, all of it! The Gwasdyn… I’ve been a part of them my whole life. After they heard about what happened in Borrara they wanted to know what was going to happen next, and I told them! I-I’ve been telling them this entire time, I’m a spy. I’m the traitor, Grillon. Not you.” She stared at Grillon, guilt leaking from her eyes, but he just looked past her. His eyes were blank, his mind unable to understand. In a moment, he was gone, running away from Ta-Meiyo, his “friends” - all of it. His dream was dead.

Long live the war.