The first slivers of sunlight appeared on the horizon over the Komisi. Garta savored the sight, not least because the fog for which the bay was named usually obscured it. He was the only Matoran up at this hour to witness it; glancing up and down the network of wooden walkways that made up the Garo district, he picked up no activity from his fellow Ga-Matoran. Most of them would come shambling out of their huts in an hour or so. Garta’d been up for about as long already, checking his kit and preparing his little boat for departure. He loved fishing; it was a time-honored occupation for a Ga-Matoran, and though it wasn’t as lucrative or essential to Matoran life as it used to be, he still took the enterprise seriously. Every line, every net, the sail, and the winch were meticulously inspected for damage. Though the equipment was far from new, meticulous maintenance kept it in fine condition. Concluding that everything on board was ready for another day’s work, Garta rowed out onto the bay, then raised the sail and set off in the direction of sunrise and the first item on his checklist: checking the Keras traps.
Garta hardly remembered what the Old World’s Keras crabs had tasted like, but as with most of Misira Nui’s wildlife, the more organic crustaceans found here were generally considered a fine, if bland-tasting substitute. He’d marked his spot for catching them with a small buoy, from which cables led down to each of his four traps. The job of checking them normally required two Matoran, the standard method being to tie each trap’s line to the winch on board and crank the winch to raise the traps to the surface one after the other; one Matoran cranked while the other checked the traps. Lacking a partner for the endeavor, Garta’d devised his own method: he’d purposely placed his traps in relatively shallow water so he could swim down to check them on the sea floor, saving himself the hassle of hauling up a cage unless there was something of value in it. After dropping anchor and securing the buoy to the side of his boat, he dove overboard and located the line leading down to the first trap. He swam down, following the line. The water grew darker with depth and limited his vision to what the glow of the lightstone embedded in his mask could reach; usually he couldn’t see much of the inside of a trap until he was right up against it. This time was different, however; the trap became visible much sooner than usual, the bars of its cage-like structure silhouetted by some kind of light… light coming from inside it? By the time he reached the sea floor, Garta didn’t need his own light to see what he’d caught; a large, healthy looking Keras, clear signal to swim back immediately and haul this cage to the surface. Yet Garta’s eyes were not on the crab, but on what it held in one of its pincers. A white, crystalline, faintly glowing rod, the likes of which he’d never seen before. Transfixed for a moment, Garta suddenly realized he was running out of air and quickly turned to head for the surface. The trap and its contents would follow him there shortly.
Back on board, Garta detached the trap’s line from the buoy, hooked it onto the winch fixed to the mast of his boat, shifted some weights to allow the small vessel to more easily cope with the soon-to-be lopsided load, and started hauling the trap up to the surface. It was hard and tedious work, but thankfully he didn’t have to do it too often; most days he’d only find something of value in one of the four traps, and it wasn’t uncommon for all of them to be empty, the cost of not placing the traps in more fertile, deeper grounds. Sometimes he’d catch a lot of the much smaller Hahnah crabs, which he could safely pluck out by hand. Keras were a very different matter; monsters by comparison, a big one could weigh twice as much as the trap itself, making them all the more difficult to bring up to the surface. Much expended effort later, Garta had raised the trap up high enough for its top bars to clear the water and latch onto two hooks on the side of his boat. There it would stay, keeping the crab mostly submerged, alive and fresh until his return to shore. At this point, Garta’d ordinarily move on to check if any other cages had to be winched up, but first he turned again to what this crab was holding. Unfortunately, the crab was in no mood to cooperate, waving its large pincers in as much of a defensive display as the limited room in the cage allowed.
“It’s your little treasure, isn’t it?” Garta quietly remarked. He well understood that, though as good as dead to rights, the crab could still cost him a hand if he just reached into the cage. There was a solution to that, though; by dropping a rope through the cage inside of the crab’s free arm, he managed to tie its open left pincer to one side of the cage. With the crab suitably restrained, Garta reached in. Grabbing its right pincer to hold it steady, he inspected the object it held. Other than its white glow, it looked like any other crystal, much like a lightstone carved into a cylindrical shape, yet no lightstone ever subjected a Matoran to so palpable an attraction. Mesmerized, Garta put a finger on it. At the moment of contact, the rod lit up bright blue, causing him to quickly pull back. It returned to normal in response. Garta repeated the experiment, touching it several times, feeling no shock or anything else unpleasant that he might have been expecting; it just somehow glowed when he touched it. Whatever it was, it was of no use to the crab; he wanted it. Grabbing it tightly, he tried to dislodge it, only to find that it was stuck in the pincer. Small wonder the crab had held on to this object, even though it probably had no use for it; it could neither let it go, nor crush it as it was apparently trying to do. Even pulling with all his strength, Garta couldn’t get it out. Undeterred, he resorted to opening the top of the cage and reaching in with both hands; restrained through its other pincer, his catch was in no position to take advantage. Bracing his feet against the side of his boat, he put all his strength and weight into pulling the rod out. Suddenly it came loose, sending him tumbling backwards into his boat. He landed on his back and had to take a moment to come to his senses, but then quickly scrambled to close the trap again; now that its right pincer was free, the crab was already trying to cut the rope tying the other to the side of the cage.
“Clever, but not today, sunshine,” Garta mumbled. Satisfied that the cage was secure, he sat down on a thwart and picked up the rod, which had landed in the bottom of the boat. Its intense glow made it hard to inspect while being held, but still he couldn’t help the curiosity; just what was this thing, and why did he feel so drawn to it? He’d never seen anything like it, sure, and it certainly didn’t seem like any natural object to find lying around the bottom of the sea, but still it gripped his attention in an almost unnatural manner. It beckoned to be investigated. However, realizing that he had neither the time nor the resources to figure out much on his small fishing boat, Garta finally decided to put it away for now. A wooden box under the thwart would have to do; it’d be safe for the time being, and he had three more traps to check and some ruki fish to catch.
He found next two traps empty, but the fourth one contained a smaller, younger Keras. It might have fetched a small price on the market, but Garta decided to let this one go; he already had a good catch for the day, and perhaps the smaller crab could grow up to be a better catch for him another time. Left with another four hours easy before midday, he caught a decent supply of fish, too. By half past nine, he’d unloaded his catch back on shore and was setting up his stand on the waterfront. Having set off earlier than most of the fishermen left in the city, he was also one of the first back to have his stand up and running in a small market square on the border of the Golyi and Garo districts. His punctuality was always appreciated by his small but regular set of customers who typically showed up around noon. By the end of the afternoon, most of his catch had been exchanged for a decent number of widgets. The large Keras had fetched a higher price than anticipated; so much so that, if he wanted to, Garta wouldn’t have to go fishing again for a day or two. Normally, he’d spend the rest of the day fixing whatever had been found damaged in the morning in anticipation of the next day’s trip, but with no equipment in need of repair it promised to be an easy evening. Except… he hadn’t been able to focus on anything but that rod all day. It buggered him with questions that he had no answers to. What was it? Where did it come from? Why was it in the water? As he packed up his stand, he mulled over possible answers and ways of finding them. He could ask the Turaga, but she surely had no shortage of other business to attend to. There wasn’t really anyone else who he’d readily approach about something like this either, at least not in Gol Rui. Perhaps he’d find something in the library run by the few Ko-Matoran still in the city. He hadn’t visited it before, but then he’d never had a reason to; his own resourcefulness had provided most of what he needed for his job. A quick stop by there couldn’t hurt, though it would have to wait until a little later; for now, he quite literally had other fish to fry.
“Hey, uhm, how… how are you doing?” A hesitant wave and adorably nervous smile accompanied the greeting. Telzin couldn’t help but smile in return; clearly this boy was new to the Madumei party scene. A tall but lanky Bo-Matoran, he was probably barely out of his child-home. He sporadically looked down at his feet to avoid eye contact. Telzin had met Matoran like him a million times before. They were so much fun to tease.
“I’m doing just fine,” she replied, leaning closer and drawing out the last two words.
“Uhm… great,” came the nervous reply. “Would you… I mean, if you don’t mind, with me… like, have a drink?”
“A drink?!” she exclaimed far louder than she figured he was comfortable with, “I’d love to have a drink!” The enthusiastic reply caught the already fumbling Bo-Matoran off guard. He barely managed to open his mouth again before Telzin cut him off: “C’mon! This way!” She was already heading for the other side of the platform, where a bar had been set up. She’d had a few drinks already, but who wouldn’t turn down another one, especially if someone else was paying? Having reached the bar, she clambered onto one of the stools, leaned forward, and whistled to get the bartender’s attention.
“One moment,” the bartender coolly replied as he reached below the counter to deposit widgets from the last sale.
“Hey, my friend here’s got an order for ya!” Telzin loudly proclaimed while she pointed at the boy, who’d only just caught up. He was looking more out of his depth by the second, but she nodded insistently towards him all the same. “C’mon, say something,” she encouraged.
“Yes, I’d… uhm… I’d like two drinks, please,” he asked in a shaky voice.
“What kind?” the bartender inquired.
“Those!” Telzin wildy gestured in the direction of one of the tapped barrels behind the bar. “I always have that one!” Luckily for her companion, this bartender was well familiar with Telzin’s usual order, and without questioning further he pulled two mugs out from under the counter. Satisfied that she’d gotten her order across, Telzin turned to her new friend. “Widgets. You’re paying, right?” again she smiled and drew out the last word for emphasis. The boy dutifully reached down to a small pouch on his belt. The bartender returned with two mugs, each filled to the brim.
“Six widgets,” he said flatly. As the boy produced the payment, Telzin was already gulping down the content of one of the mugs: thick Bo-Matoran brew. By the time the transaction in front of her concluded, she’d all but finished it. She slammed the mug down on the counter.
“Fill’r again!” she demanded. The bartender rolled his eyes, but obliged. The Bo-Matoran pulled out a few more widgets, dropped them on the counter, then grabbed his mug and took a sip. His face contorted into an expression of distaste; he clearly wasn’t used to the strong flavor of his people’s drink. The bartender returned with the refilled mug which Telzin practically seized from his hands. She immediately took a swig while the bartender collected the extra widgets, but went a bit slower this time. The sight of the Bo-Matoran trying to down his mug against his distaste was highly amusing, but eventually she decided to put him out of his misery.
“C’mon, let’s dance!” she invited as she somewhat unsteadily made her way towards the center of the platform. He didn’t follow, but she barely noticed, already losing herself to the rhythm among numerous other dancers. It wouldn’t be long before she’d lose track of him altogether; parties such as these were an almost nightly occasion in the treetop network of platforms, walkways, and Le-Matoran homes known collectively as the Madumei district, and Telzin made sure to be there every time. So what if she never saw that Bo-Matoran again? Up here it was life in the fast line, and as far as she was concerned there was no need to slow down for those who couldn’t keep up. As if to confirm her point, the band started playing a faster, upbeat dance tune called “Up Here in Paradise.” This was what she suffered through the daily doldrums of work for. This was the life.
It would take hours for the festivities to die down, and Telzin would be one of the last to stagger home to her little hut, high up in the canopy of one of the titanic trees that were the hallmark of the Maduni region. Dozens of meters below, the rest of the city of Gol Rui would already be dark and quiet for the night. Well, dark and quiet except for the workaholics that kept the Tahai district running. Perhaps she would stop for a bit as she passed over them, looking down on the mesmerizing spectacle of Fe-Matoran working like ants to feed the monstrous forges with coal. Their heat could be felt even in up in the Madumei, a pleasant sensation in the otherwise cold nights, particularly in winter. Telzin would then reach her humble home, probably well past midnight, collapsing either onto the floor or one of the two pieces of furniture. Morning would surely find her hung over, possibly sore from sleeping anywhere that wasn’t on the bed, wishing that work could wait a little longer and quickly deciding that indeed it could. No doubt her boss would complain again, but what did it matter? Life was short and to be enjoyed to the fullest, and it was on nights like this one that she felt most alive.
“Excuse me?” The Ko-Matoran looked up from the scroll he’d been reading. If he was surprised to see a Ga-Matoran in the library, never mind at this late hour, he didn’t show it.
“Are you looking for something?” he asked.
“I am,” Garta replied curtly. “Anything you have on strange, glowing rods.” Rahn had been working in the library of Gol Rui for years, having started back in the day when it was still the Akutai Nui, and in all his years he’d never heard of a request quite like this one.
“You are serious?” he asked.
“Of course I am,” Garta replied somewhat indignantly. What did he mean, ‘serious?’ Granted, Garta would’ve had more credibility if he’d brought the rod here with him, but he wasn’t keen on walking through the city with what amounted to a beacon in his hands; no need to attract attention.
“I found this glowing rod about this long,” he mimed the rod’s length. “I’m not sure what it is, but I was wondering if you knew anything about what it could be.”
“Hm… you are sure that this is not a lightstone?” Rahn questioned with more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“Yes, I’m certain,” Garta insisted. “This thing only lit up when I touched it; you know of a type of lightstone that does that?”
“Alright,” Rahn gave in. “I can tell you there will not be anything recent on whatever you found; I certainly have not catalogued anything like it. Chances are that we will have to search through older documents. Legends, perhaps.”
“Legends?” Though he had faint memories of the Old World, Garta didn’t consider himself very knowledgeable about history. If he had to search through scrolls of ancient legends, he could be busy for a while. “That’s all you’ve got?”
“Most likely,” Rahn admitted. “I can certainly take a look myself if you are willing to come back tomorrow…”
“No, that’s fine,” Garta dismissed. “Show me what you have on these legends. I’m sure there’s a couple of scrolls I could look at.”
“Very well, this way,” Rahn invited as he exited the area behind the desk and led Garta through a narrow path between several ceiling-high scroll racks until they reached a sitting area situated among them. “These four contain scrolls about history from as long ago as the age of Mata Nui,” he explained as he gestured to four racks covering the wall to the side of the sitting area. “I have not reviewed them personally, but then I have not encountered anything like what you described in what I have reviewed, so this is the best that I can point you to.”
“Thanks,” Garta said without really meaning it. These racks were easily three meters tall, about as wide, and filled almost top to bottom with scrolls, any or none of which might have useful information. Combing through all of them for information would take days.
“If you would like to check them out, just bring them to the front,” Rahn said. Garta nodded, after which the Ko-Matoran headed back to the front desk. Daunted by the quantity of information in front of him, Garta spent a minute or two skimming the racks, pulling out some scrolls to see if any of them took his fancy. None did until he came up on one entitled “The Events of the Island of Mata Nui: an Overview,” transcribed as accurately as could be remembered from a scroll originally written by one Takua the Chronicler. Garta wasn’t familiar with the contents of the scroll specifically, but Misira Nui and the situation of the Matoran on it shortly after the Transport were quite frequently compared to that world… so why not start there? So he did, and over the next hour or so found himself introduced, or likely re-introduced, to the world of Mata Nui, its regions and some of its more notable residents. Though not offering much detail, the scroll did describe the major events that happened on the island: the coming of the Toa, their gathering of Masks and subsequent fight with one “Makuta,” the invasion of insect-like swarms of “Bohrok,” the Toa becoming Toa Nuva… All these things, it was noted, were described in more detail by Takua’s other chronicles, culminating in his account of his own quest to find a Toa of Light.
By the time he finished the overview, Garta’s interest was piqued. However, the hour was late and he felt it. Then again, thanks to today’s great catch, he wouldn’t have to go fishing tomorrow… as good a time as any to delve deeper. He could take Rahn up on his offer to take several scrolls with him, but which ones? More in-depth information about the events on the island of Mata Nui would at least be interesting, so any other scrolls by Takua the Chronicler on the subject had to come along. Beyond that, anything that seemed even vaguely familiar would have a reference point for him to start with; he had little enthusiasm for just diving into long-winded descriptions on places and events that he’d never heard about. A similar scroll to Takua’s by one Hahli the Chronicler about the great city of Metru Nui caught his eye; the City of Legends was referenced frequently in the Turaga’s descriptions of Gol Rui. That would come along too, along with one or two of its more detailed accompaniments. After spending about half an hour looking up and down one of the scroll racks for anything related to Mata or Metru Nui, Garta found himself with a stack of fifteen scrolls on the table; enough to keep him busy for a day. Shortly thereafter, he was carrying them home, along with half-hearted assurances by Rahn that the library staff would review more material for signs of what he had described to them. Drawn to learn about this mysterious object, Garta was now more determined than ever to find out just what he was dealing with.
I’m planning on posting a new chapter for this story every month.