This is a series of one-shot stories I've been working on for some time. The idea behind them is fairly loose: take the members of the Toa Inika/Mahri and tell a story of them when they were a Matoran.
If you feel so inclined, you can read the series on AO3: plug
I'll also post the stories individually in posts below.
I suppose it's worth noting that the series is incomplete. I do have yet to write a story for Hewkii and Matoro, but I plan on getting them out soon-ish!
Happy reading! Let me know what you think, if you're feeling generous.
Kongu's Tale: Calm Before
Le-Koro, ~10 months before Mata Nui's reawakening.
"Turaga Matau, Captain Kongu!" Boreas said, dismounting from his Gukko and breathing heavily. "They're here! An ever-large swarm of Nuhvok is headed this way, tearing up the deep-wood as they go!"
Matau and Kongu groaned as they stood with Orkahm and Tamaru, Kongu's lieutenants, in the Turaga's hut, planning on what to do in this state of emergency.
"How far away?" Kongu asked.
"I'd guess they'll arrive in about two hours at the latest," Boreas replied. "They seem to be foot-walking rather slowly..."
"Not enough time to loud-call for help," Matau said. "With Toa Lewa long-far from Le-Koro, we are left with few options. Kongu, do you think sending our wind-riders would help?"
"No," Kongu replied grimly. "The trees grow ever-thick toward the base; our Gukko wouldn't be able to fast-maneuver well in that area. We are, unforunately, tree-bound."
"Perhaps we should simply quick-flee," suggested Orkahm. "If we have no way to hard-defend the village, shouldn't we save ourselves?"
"Abandon Le-Koro!?" Kongu said. "I'd just as soon choose to become a slow-thinking Po-Matoran! We are the denizens of ever-lovely Le-Koro; we owe it to her and to the Great Spirit who blessed us with life here to at least try to hard-defend it! After all, what would Toa Lewa do if he were here?"
"He would strong-fight," Turaga Matau said, "and so shall we. Kongu, Orkahm, supply your soldiers with the old spears from the armory. Do whatever else you believe will help, and pray that this dark-time shall pass easily..."
"I've never even held one of these sharp-spears before..." Boreas said, taking the weapon from Kongu with care. Even in the dim light of the Le-Koro armory, it was easy for Kongu to see that Boreas was nervous.
"I haven't truly used them in hard-battle, but I've practiced a bit," Kongu said. He spend a few moments showing his fellow Le-Matoran the proper way to hold and handle the spear.
Boreas, after getting a feel for the capabilities of the weapons, said, "Oh, what use will these be against ever-hard Bohrok? Even when we have these, they are stronger and have more reach than we will." He dropped the spear and sat down on a small stone seat, mask in his hands.
"All true," Kongu replied, "but they don't have the ever-quick mind of a Le-Matoran! We may not be able to overpower them in battle, but we may be able to out-think them. Not to mention that the Nuhvok are not exactly as air-light on their feet as we are." Kongu picked up the fallen spear and held it out to Boreas. "Come. Le-Koro needs you, ever-brave Boreas."
Boreas looked up, thoughtful. He nodded, taking the spear from Kongu. "May the wind be ever under your wings," he said, quoting the old Gukko Force adage. With that, Boreas left, heading to join the other Matoran who were preparing to head to the ground where they would face the Nuhvok swarm.
Kongu left the armory as well, heading to speak to Turaga Matau once more before the battle began. He was glad that he'dbeen able to give Boreas new hope, but could have never admitted to his friend how right he was. I cannot let dark-despair take us, he thought. If it took hold, we would be defeated before the Bohrok even arrived. Hope will keep us fighting.
And if we keep fighting, we may just be able to win.
"Are you really right-sure we shouldn't just abandon the village?" Orkahm said, standing with the Kongu, Tamaru, and Matauonce more.
"I firm-stand by my decision," Kongu said. "It is our duty to defend Le-Koro, so we shall stay."
"And if we all die?" Orkahm said, growing visibly upset. "If every bright-happy Matoran life is cut short because you are too ever-proud to surrender? Will you be satisfied?"
"Fine!" Kongu retorted. "You want to quick-leave? There's a Gukko bird with your name on it over in the pens. Go ahead, wind-fly away. At least I will not be recorded on the Wall of History as a coward."
"Enough!" Turaga Matua said. "I trust Kongu. If he says we can hold against the Bohrok on our own, then I believe we can. Now, the Nuhvok will be upon us soon. Head down-tree, and stand with your brothers! For Le-Ko-!" The elder's words were cut of as a huge boom sounded nearby. He and the Matoran with him looked out of the hut. They watched in horror as one of trees that formed Le-Koro toppled over, sending Rahi birds flying and loose leaves fluttering in the air.
"They're here already!" Orkahm said, rushing out. He stood close the edge of the tree's platform, looking down.
"Orkahm, be careful!" Kongu shouted. "Don't stand too close to the edge!"
"I can't far-see the others," Orkahm said. "Do you think--?" Another loud boom, and the tree they stood on began to shake. The tremors were enough to steal Orkahm's balance and send him over the edge with a chilling scream. There were no vines or Rahi to stop his fall.
"We have to get out of here," Tamaru said, heading for the Gukko pens. "We three could still make it out!"
"Right..." Kongu said, feeling conflicted. A part of him wanted to head down as quickly as he could to try to help his brothers. But after seeing how quickly and forcefully the Nuhvok had attacked, how much use could he possibly have been? "Hurry, Turaga, before the tree goes way-down!"
"I'm going as fleet-fast as I can!" Matau replied, walking their way. "Go saddle the Gukko-bird!"
Tamaru complied, saddling the nearest Gukko. The Rahi was clearly nervous, and probably would have been long gone if not for the sturdy rope tied around its neck. "Gukko bird saddled and ready for high-flying!" Tamaru called as he mounted the Rahi.
Kongu ran up next to the bird, looking back. "Turaga, we must leave now!" The tree shook violently again and began to tilt even faster. Turaga Matau lost his footing during the tremor and began to slide down the inclined tree surface. He swung quickly, digging into the tree with the sharp teeth of his Kau Kau staff.
Kongu barely had to take time to think as he mounted the Gukko, untied it, and quickly flew over to where the Turaga lay. He swung the bird sideways, bringing Tamaru close to the elder. "Grab hold, Turaga!" Kongu cried. He watched in near despair as Matau attempted to reach out and grasp Tamaru's hand. They had just made contact when a final quake rocked the tree, shaking free the hanging Turaga and sending him into the forest. Kongu cried out, and maneuvered his mount to headstraight down, trying to catch up. Wind, floating leaves, and falling branches struck his mask as he descended rapidly. He ignored Tamaru's frightened screams behind him as he watched Matau below. Just when he thought he was getting closeenough to try to save his Turaga, the branches grew too thick, the leaves in the air obscuring vision. The Gukko collided with several branches, its flight disturbed. There was no way down for such a creature, and to follow would mean to face the Bohrok alone. Kongu groaned, but perked up as he heard a voice call from down below.
"Kongu!" It was Matau's voice, growing distant yet still somehow clear. "I have faith in you!" And the voice was gone.
Faith... The prime Principle of Le-Koro. Kongu felt it weighing down on him now as never before. He said he trusted me to get us through this. Now look at us...
He knew that, down below, the Matoran of his village were likely all controlled by krana, their minds taken over by the alien things. They were not dead, of that he was sure. And that meant that they could be saved.
And Kongu would have to be the one to do it. He was the one who got them into this mess, and he would try his hardest to remedy his mistakes.
Nuparu's Tale: Defense of Onu-Koro
Nuparu suspects that some Matoran may be trapped when Onua brings a cave ceiling down on the Rahkshi in Onu-Koro. He teams up with Onepu and Taipu to save them, but the mission takes a turn for the worse.
Onu-Koro, ~9 months before Mata Nui's reawakening
Nuparu's head jerked up as he woke to the sound of his hammer falling off of his worktable. He stared blearily at the half-constructed mining tool he had been working on in front of him, trying to force through the sleepy haze in his mind. What made the hammer fall...?
A loud boom sounded around him, shaking more items on his table. Right, he thought, standing as he became fully awake. The world is falling apart.
Nuparu ran out of his hut to find droves of Onu-Matoran running past his residence. He grabbed one by the arm as he came by. "What's happening?" he asked. "What's causing all the noise and shakes?"
"Rahkshi!" the Matoran answered, pointing down the tunnel he must have just come out of. "In the cavern!"
Nuparu released the Matoran, who resumed his quick pace to get to anywhere-but-here. Nuparu ran against the tide, some part of him needing to see what was really happening with the Rahkshi. Were they harassing defenseless Matoran? Was Onua here? Was Onua okay?
He stepped into the light of the massive room and took in the sight before him. He had not seen such destruction since the bohrok days. The earthen floor lay torn open; Onua's handiwork, he was sure. Nuparu spotted Onua himself, prone on the floor...
That wasn't normal...
Nuparu ran to the fallen Toa of earth. "Onua!" he called. The hero weakly rolled onto his side, trying to raise himself on his hands. "What happened?"
"Those..." Onua said, weakness showing in his voice as well as his body. "Those blasted beasts got in. The black one... stolemy strength..."
"Is there anything I can do for you?" Nuparu asked worriedly.
"Not to worry," he said, placing his hands firmly on the ground. Lines of blueish energy seeped up from the earth and into Onua's fingers. He already seemed stronger.
Nuparu scanned the area further and spotted the black Rahkshi, facing down Toa Pohatu, who stood at a good distance. He must have seen what the thing did to Onua and knew to stay well away. Further inspection showed that Toa Tahu was here, facing down the white Rahkshi, while the red one wandered the village unopposed, searching for... something.
"Anything I can do to help against them?" Nuparu asked, kneeling beside Onua, who had risen to his knees.
Onua chuckled. "The brave spirits of Matoran never cease to amaze me," he said. "Do not worry about these creatures, Nuparu. All of the Toa Nuva will be gathered soon, and surely we can deal with three measly Rahkshi." He ran off, then, fully regenerated now, to join Pohatu and the others.
Nuparu sighed, both in frustration and relief, and started running back the way he came, toward relative safety. As he was about to head into the connecting tunnel, he looked back once more, just in time to see Onua release a burst of elemental energy into the cave ceiling. The whole room shook, and earth rained from above. Nuparu's eyes flicked down, then, towards the huts below. The Rahkshi were there. They would be crushed! A brilliant move on Onua's part, this was.
But... there was something else in the cave.
There were still Matoran in there.
Nuparu resisted the urge to run back in immediately, knowing that if they were caught by the falling earth, he would be as well. There was nothing he could do for them...
Oh, who was he kidding. That was quitter's talk! And if anyone knew Nuparu wasn't a quitter, it was Nuparu.
He kept running through the tunnel and beyond, straight towards Turaga Whenua's hut, and pounded on the door.
A moment later, the door swung inward, revealing a purple-masked villager wielding a handheld drill. "Back, creature!" he shouted.
"Calm down, Onepu," Nuparu said, stepping in and brushing Onepu's drill aside. "There are worse creatures than me afoot." He spotted Whenua on the opposite side of the hut, looking somewhat relieved.
"Such chaos," Whenua muttered. "And there is naught that we can do..."
"That's what I came to talk to you about, Turaga," Nuparu said. "I—"
"Nuparu," Whenua said, looking to him with sternness in his deep green eyes. "It is too dangerous for us to face the Rahkshi. We must let the Toa do their duty and face them."
"It's not about that," Nuparu said. "Onua collapsed the ceiling of the cavern to trap the Rahkshi, and it worked. What I fear, though, is that Matoran were still in there and may have gotten pinned as well. We need to get in there and help them."
"That's crazy!" Onepu interjected. "What could we possibly do? Those rocks must be enormous! We can get the Toa to helponce they're ready."
"We can't wait that long!" Nuparu said forcefully, slamming a fist into the hut's wall. "If someone is trapped in there, they might not have much time, if any. Turaga, we need to mobilize the boxors, and check for any trapped Matoran." Onepu seemed to see the wisdom in this, and relaxed.
Whenua stood silently in thought for a moment, then nodded. "Take who you will, and do what you can. But... do be careful. I fear what the Rahkshi are capable of, and what they may do to you or our Toa..."
Nuparu nodded hesitantly. "Onepu, will you come with me?"
"Me?" Onepu asked incredulously. "Surely there's someone else more qualified."
"You were there when I made the first one," Nuparu said, extending a fist as he had seen the Toa do so often. "Will you ride with me for what might be the time they fall apart?"
Onepu's shoulders slumped in resignation, but he smiled. "Might as well," he said, solidly bumping Nuparu's fist. "If I'm going to defend my home and people, might as well be in a big robot... thing."
"That's the spirit!" Nuparu said. "Let's go!" The pair of them exited the hut, moving toward the equipment storage area. They came upon the heavy metal door that marked the entrance, finding it already partially opened. They looked at each other inconfusion, then moved in cautiously. A figure was inside, already trying to find his way into one of the boxor.
"Taipu!" Nuparu said, admiring the other Onu-Matoran's initiative. "Just the Matoran I wanted to see."
"Nuparu!" Taipu said. "I... I think I put my head where my hand is supposed to go, and now I'm stuck."
Nuparu inspected the situation, and found that Taipu's mask was indeed firmly lodged between one of the control handles and the plating. He pried him out, saying, "No time for games, Taipu. We've got Matoran to save!"
"Right, yes," Taipu said, correctly orienting himself in the boxor as the others did the same in their own. Nuparu maneuvered his in front of the others, leading the way out and shoving the door open further effortlessly. The trio stomped out, avoiding fleeing Matoran and heading for the cavern one more time.
The three Matoran broke into the room at a run, or at least what passed as a run when you were piloting a boxor. Nuparu saw battle out of the corner of his eye. Further inspection revealed that Toa Tahu was firing bursts of fire at Toa Gali! What wouldcause him to do that?! Then he remembered what Whenua had said about what the Rahkshi might do to the Toa... The whiteRahkshi can cause anger, he recalled. Perhaps that was the answer.
But there was no time to worry about the Toa. "Start digging through the fallen earth!" he called to his companions. "Look for anyone pinned underneath!" The three split up, using the powerful claws of the boxor to dig easily.
Nuparu suddenly heard a gasp to his left. He turned and saw a small figure poking out from a pile of rubble. I knew it! he thought, though the realization held no true joy. He was glad he had mobilized a response to this, but wished he hadn't needed to.
"Don't worry," he said reassuringly. "I'll get you out of there." He carefully manipulated the boxor's claws to lift the biggest chunks of earth away. In moments, the Matoran was only covered in small bits of earth.
"I..." he said. "Thank you." He stood shakily before running towards the exit. Nuparu looked and saw that his friends were doing the same for several other Matoran around the cave.
"Be careful," he said. "The three rahkshi are under here somewhere. Try not to unearth—"
A scream from Taipu cut him off. He turned and saw Taipu stepping back from where he had lifted a large chunk of stone. Therubble in front of him stirred and Nuparu could hear a vicious hissing sound as something stood.
"Rahkshi!" he called. "Watch out!" He turned to fully face the white-armored creature. It pointed its staff at him and released a blast of power. He tried to move to his left to get out of the way of the blast, but the machine wasn't designed to move quicklythat way. Then something crashed into his boxor from the side, knocking him out of the way and onto the ground.
Nuparu righted his boxor, examining his savior. "Thanks, Onepu," he said.
"Don't mention it," his friend said. "Though, you could stand to make the sideways movement on these things a little faster. You know, so I don't have to save you in the future."
"Already noted," Nuparu said. "Now, let's see what we can do about these Rahshi."
"What?!" Onepu said, barely dodging a blast of power from the red Rahkshi. "You want to fight them?!"
"For as long as we can," Nuparu said, moving behind a large piece of fallen stone for cover.
"I thought you were crazy to come in here to save Matoran," Onepu said as he joined Nuparu, "but actually trying to fight the things off? Why not just run away?"
"Because of that," Nuparu said, gesturing towards the Toa in the distance. Tahu was still firing intense waves of fire at Gali, and he could see the other Toa closing in on the conflict. Nuparu thought he could feel the heat from where he stood.
"Why would he do that?" Onepu said.
"I think the Rahkshi got to one of them. Can't tell who from this distance, but something out of the ordinary is happening here. The Toa will be distracted taking care of whoever is acting strangely, while the Rahkshi will be free to roam."
"Unless we do something about it," Onepu said. "I see. You're right, once again. Infuriating, that is."
"Sorry," Nuparu said with a wry grin. "Somebody around here has to keep you humble."
A scream came from nearby. The two Matoran peaked from behind their rock to find Taipu in his boxor, pinned beneath themight of the black Rahkshi. He screamed in terror as the thing attempted to rip strength from him. All held their breath, expecting Taipu to go limp as Onua had, if not something worse.
Taipu's scream turned to laughter. Nothing was happening! It seemd the thing was trying to pull energy from the boxor, but that clearly wasn't working. Perhaps it can only pull from organic beings? Nuparu thought.
Taipu pulled a mechanical arm back and jabbed it into the Rahkshi's stomach, sending it flying backward, the slimy creature in its head giving a savage hiss.
Nuparu and Onepu cheered Taipu's brilliant offensive, then Nuparu noticed the other two Rahkshi closing in on him. "We have to go help!" he said, climbing around the rock, Onepu close behind. Nuparu picked up a decently sized piece of stone from the ground and hurled it at the Rahkshi, striking the red one in the head. It turned to look at him, hate in its burning red eyes.
"Right," he said, trying to come up with a plan. "Split up!" Onepu followed the order, running to his left. That left Taipu, still on his back, to his right. He ran to his fallen friend while Onepu tried to keep the Rahkshi busy with more thrown rocks.
Taipu screamed again as he saw Nuparu approach. "Oh, Nuparu, it's just you," he said, relaxing a bit. "Mind helping me up? Darned thing won't work with me…"
"No problem," Nuparu said, grasping the shoulders of Taipu's boxor and lifting it up. "Now, we're going to fight these things off for as long as we can. The Toa are a little busy, and I don't want these things running free in Onu-Koro."
"Of course," Taipu said. "We can handle them."
"By Mata Nui, I hope so," Nuparu muttered. He saw that the black Rahkshi had returned, looking as strong as ever, and stood with its comrades. "Keep spread out," he called, moving away from Taipu. "We just need to keep them distracted for a bit!"
The three Matoran gave it their all; they hurled boulders, delivered powerful blows when a Rahkshi got too close, and kept the Rahkshi from moving into other parts of Onu-Koro.
A cry to Nuparu's left. The black Rahkshi had gotten close to Onepu and, instead of using its power drain ability, had simply knocked him to the ground with a powerful swing of its staff. The thing towered over Onepu's fallen boxor, ready to deliver a swift thrust downward.
Nuparu moved as quickly as he could, running toward Onepu while also picking up a fallen boulder.
"Nuparu, watch out!"
Nuparu threw his rock, but turned to see what was the matter too late. The red Rahkshi had sent a blast of energy hurtling towards him. It had been perfectly aimed to hit him as he moved, and he couldn't slow down now.
He could only pray that this wouldn't destroy him, or turn him against his friends. Nuparu braced for impact.
It never came. He looked to his right, and saw Taipu, convulsing on the ground. Nuparu slowed, moving to check on him. Taipu lay in his cockpit, eyes wide and flitting about, breathing heavily. He saw Nuparu and screamed. Unlike before, he did not stop. He seemed frantically be trying to get up, but when that didn't work, he hopped out of the boxor and ran toward the tunnel behind them.
Okay then, Nuparu thought, looking to see that Onepu was okay. The black Rahkshi lay some distance off, looking dazed. Just us two now. I need to think… How to hold them off? He looked at Taipu's abandoned boxor.
Yes… I can rewire the power source, run it straight into itself…
"Onepu!" he called. Onepu had rolled his boxor over and stood back up. "I need you over here!"
"What now?" Onepu said, trotting over as quickly as he could without being hit by blasts from the Rahkshi. He noticed the empty boxor. "Where's Taipu?"
"Rahkshi got him," Nuparu explained, hopping out of his own boxor and into Taipu's. "The… the blast was meant for me, but he took it. Seemed to fill him with fear, and he just ran off."
"Huh," Onepu said nonchalantly. "What do you need me for?"
"Keep me covered while I work," Nuparu said, "then help me toss this thing when I'm done."
"Toss the—" Onepu stammered as he tossed boulders toward the Rahkshi. "Are you crazy?! Those things take forever to build!"
"I know, but if just us two keep fighting, I don't think we'll last. I didn't bring us out here to die, and this thing will help accomplish that. Done!" Nuparu climbed back into his boxor. "Help me lift it!"
They each grabbed an arm of the empty boxor. "Okay," Nuparu breathed. "This thing's gonna blow in about ten seconds."
"Wha—?!" Onepue began.
"No questions," Nuparu said. He began to swing the boxor back and forth, building momentum. "Ready, and… go!" They released the boxor, letting it soar through the air. The Rahkshi stood, dumbstruck, as the mech fell down in front of them. They stared at it, confused, then—
The boxor exploded, disappearing in a cloud of dust and fire. The two Matoran couldn't see a thing.
"What happened here?" a voice said. Nuparu turned and found Toa Kopaka standing not too far off, accompanied by all the other Toa, except for Tahu and Gali.
"We… we were fighting the Rahkshi," Nuparu said. "We kind of detonated a boxor in front of them."
Toa Lewa chuckled. "Some mind-smart little villagers we have here!" he said with a grin.
"Don't put your guard down, brothers," Pohatu said, facing the settling cloud of debris. "I think our foes are not quite defeated yet."
The Toa of stone was correct. The Rahkshi appeared behind the smoke, though two were leaning on their staffs. The red one stood at the head of them. Seeing the gathered Toa and the two Matoran still ready, it shook its head, and walked away, its brethren following suit. The three creatures gave short leaps into the air, folding their legs beneath them, then took off flying up one of the chimneys that led out of Onu-Koro to the surface.
"Should we chase them?" Onua asked, looking to his brothers.
"No," Kopaka said. "We need to regroup. They'll lay low for a while anyway."
Nuparu stared after the Rahkshi. They have to be stopped, though, he thought. Or they'll raze this island, trying to find whatever it is they're looking for. But if they come back, we'll be ready. I'll fight again and again, as long as I have to, to defend my home.
Nuparu entered Taipu's hut. The Matoran sat on the edge of his bed, wrapped in a blanket, staring at the wall. He seemed… disengaged.
"Taipu?" he said. "You okay?"
"I ran, Nuparu," Taipu said. "I got scared, and ran. Like a coward."
"What? No! Taipu, you did the bravest thing I've ever seen out there!"
"You must have been hanging around some really big cowards then."
"I wouldn't call saving a friend cowardly," Nuparu said, patting Taipu on the back. "That blast was meant for me. But you took it anyway. You saved me."
Taipu looked at Nuparu finally, his green eyes gaining focus. "I… I saved you?"
"I would go as far as to say that you saved Onu-Koro!" Nuparu said. "You saved me, I was able to use your boxor to weakenthe Rahkshi, and then the Toa showed up. It all worked out for the better."
"But if I hadn't ran… I could've helped…"
"Taipu, it wasn't your fault for running. I can only imagine what it would feel like to be struck with that creature's power. Whatever you did, it wasn't you. You're a hero, Taipu."
"A hero…" Taipu muttered. "I'd forgotten how good it felt to be a hero."
"Come on," Nuparu said, moving to the door. "They're going to have a celebration. I'm sure they'll want the hero of Onu-Koro to be there."
The two left the hut. "You go on," Nuparu said. "I need to take care of a couple of things first."
"All right," Taipu said. "See you there!"
As he ran off to join the celebration, Nuparu circled around Taipu's hut to find Onepu, standing by the window.
"Way to go," Onepu said. "You've inflated his ego."
"He needed to hear it," Nuparu said. "He was getting depressed."
Onepu chuckled. "It was all worth it, wasn't it? Terrifying, but worth it."
"Matoran are alive now that wouldn't be if you hadn't brought us out there."
"Just doing my duty. I'm glad to help them, but…"
"What is it?"
Nuparu sighed. "Making another boxor to replace that one is going to be a pain."
Jaller's Tale: Captain of the Guard
The island of Mata Nui, ~1,001 years before Mata Nui's reawakening.
Where in Mata Nui's name are we?
Jala sat alone on a felled tree staring out at the nearby beach and the ocean that lapped at it. A cool wind blew in from the ocean, and the liquid that filled it was blue, which struck him as odd. The only ocean he'd ever seen, the one back at home surrounding Metru Nui, had been a deep silver. This thought led him back to his original query: where was this new place? Why was what appeared to be the entire Matoran population of Metru Nui on this island? Who had brought them here? Perhaps that Turaga who had given him his new mask would know…
Jala's old friend, Takua, came running, water dripping from his armor. "What's wrong, Jala?" he said. "Afraid to go swim with the rest of us?"
"Are you kidding?" Jala replied. "I'd rather surf on lava!"
"Come on. Hahli's there."
Jala hesitated. "S-so?"
"Just get off your high… log, and have some fun for once. We've been busy building temporary huts all day, and when we finally get a break, you want to spend it sitting down?"
"Sure. It helps me, ah, recover energy more quickly."
Takua shook his head. "Jala, we aren't on Metru Nui anymore. There are no vahki to give you a slap on the wrist if you're slacking. Trust me, I've checked."
Jala's mind wandered. Metru Nui… The name sounded familiar. My old home! he remembered. How could I have forgotten something like that? He shook off the thoughts. "I know that, Takua. It's just that… well, it doesn't feel right to me. I feel like I should be doing something important, not splashing in that weird blue ocean."
Takua sighed. "I see you're just as much a stick in the mud as always. Guess I can't make you come over if you don't want to, but if you ever do decide to, you're always welcome. Or maybe you'd rather go sit with the Po-Matoran?" He gestured toward the brown armored villagers, all gathered together farther down the beach and noticeably farther from the water as well. Jala chuckled as he saw one Ga-Matoran—Maku was her name, if he remembered correctly—attempted to pull out Huki, an old acquaintance of Jala's. They'd often shared tools to help each other with their respective duties. Sometimes, Huki needed incredibly delicate shapings in his sculptures, and he'd found that the easiest way to accomplish them was by using a heat-staff, which Jala would provide. In turn, Jala would borrow one of Huki's hammers or chisels to his own detail work on…
On what? Jala found that he could not recall what it was he used to work on… back in…
"Thanks, Takua," said Jala. "You go have your fun. I think I need to talk with those new Turaga. Do you know who they are?"
"No clue," Takua said, starting to walk away. "You know, you're right," he called back. "The color of the water is definitely weird."
"What is it you wanted to ask me, Jala?" the red Turaga said, turning to face him. This was yet another thing struck Jala as odd: this Turaga, who was a complete stranger to Jala, knew his name.
"Turaga, I—" Jala floundered. He knew there was a specific question he'd wanted to ask earlier. Something important, regarding the past… He searched his mind to no avail. "I… was wanting to ask you who exactly you and your companions are."
The Turaga chuckled. "It's me, Jala. Vakama."
Something extremely distant seemed to stir in Jala's mind, but he ignored it. He cocked his head. "I'm sorry. Should I… know you?"
Vakama looked shocked, almost… sorrowful, but only for a moment. "Nevermind that now. I am Vakama, and my fellows are Matau, Nuju, Whenua, Nokama, and Onewa," he said, pointing at each fellow Turaga in turn. "We will do our best to lead you here on this, our new island home, which we've agreed should be named Mata Nui, in honor of the Great Spirit."
Jala nodded. "I see. An honor to meet all of you," he said, bowing his head in respect. The Turaga nodded back.
Turaga Nuju suddenly broke out in a series of strange-sounding whistles and clicks. He seemed to be trying to communicate a message…
"Ah, what did he say?" Jala asked.
The other Turaga laughed gently. "We have no idea," Whenua said. "It's something he picked up from an old friend, but he has yet to teach anyone else how to speak it as well."
Can this day get any crazier? Jala thought. He cleared his throat. "Well, Turaga, I've been having some concerns lately, primarily about—"
"Hey!" Turaga Matau suddenly shouted. "Get away my airships!" He ran as quickly as he could over to where some Onu-Matoran had begun dismantling one of the beached airships that Jala assumed had carried the Matoran here.
"Those ones probably have the right idea," Whenua mused. "The airships would certainly be a good source of building supplies, wouldn't you say, Onewa?"
"Certainly," the Turaga of stone replied. "We'll find no better immediate well of resources as those. It would be a waste to just leave them sitting there forever."
"You were saying, Jala?" Vakama said.
"Yes, Turaga," Jala said, praying that he wouldn't be interrupted again. "I have some concerns regarding our security."
"Ah, yes. I have had some thoughts on this matter as well. Is there anything specifically that you've noticed?"
Jala took a deep breath. "I believe I've seen a Kane-Ra in the area."
Vakama's eyes widened. "Oh… That may pose a problem."
"May?" Whenua said. "If we're camped in the Kane-Ra's territory, you can bet your mask it will try to… remove us."
"Exactly," Jala said. "I was wondering if you'd have any ideas on how to secure the camp, or if, perhaps, we should move…"
"Or both," Nokama suggested. "Tearing down what we have built will take some time, but would be best if a Kane-Ra is around. We'll still need some defenses to keep us safe in case it decides to attack while we're in the process of moving."
"I agree," Vakama said, nodding. "Jala, recruit some other Matoran and inform them of the situation. Use whatever materials you can gather, including anything you want from the airships—even if Matau yells at you—to prepare a suitable defense." Herested a hand on Jala's shoulder. "Our welfare may depend on your success."
Jala blanched, then saluted. "Of course, Turaga," he said, struggling to keep from stuttering. "You can count on me."
"You do know we're facing a Kane-Ra bull, right, Jala?" Aft asked.
Jala finished pulling off a sheet of metal off the outside of an airship. "I do," he replied. "And I have a plan on how to deal with it."
"I don't see how something like this will slay such a great beast," Aft said, holding up his own sheet of metal.
"It won't, but I don't intend to slay it. We only need to delay it long enough for us to get out of the way."
"So… a trap, then?"
"Using sheets of metal, long pointy sticks, and…"
"Shovels. We found some in one the airship's storage garages, and we'll use them to dig a giant hole."
Aft shook his head. "I can't say I see what you're doing, but… you seem like the best one to take care of this. That Turaga chose well, I think."
Jala extended a closed fist toward his friend. "Thank you, for being willing to follow me."
Aft bumped Jala's fist with his own. "Of course. But if you get us all gored, I may be a little upset with you."
"The creature-beast approaches!" the Le-Matoran scout, Kongu, shouted.
"Right," Jala said. "Everyone ready?" He looked to his gathered squad of Ta-Matoran. Each held a long spear whose tip had been dipped in pitch and set aflame. They appeared nervous, but determined. Jala heard heavy rustling in the trees beyond the beach.
"Have courage, brothers!" he shouted.
The large red bull burst through the brush, sending a group of Nui-Rama into the air as it went. Jala and his Ta-Matoran backed up, keeping their fire spears thrust out toward the Kane-Ra, slowing its charge. It roared and feigned charges at several, but always stopped shy of the flames.
"Close around it and move toward the pit," Jala commanded, struggling to be heard over loud buzzing of the unsettled swarm of Nui-Rama. "Keep backing it up until it falls in!" They began the slow process of keeping the bull contained, giving it just enough space to think itself free, toward the place where the true trap lay.
Aft gave a desperate cry as he was lifted from the ground by his shoulders, an orange Nui-Rama gripping him in its claws. The Kane-Ra, sensing a point of weakness, charged the opening, running through despite the fire spears of nearby Matoran.
"Help!" Aft shouted from above. Jala looked up just in time to see his friend receive a brutal sting in the back from the Nui-Rama.
Jala shuddered at the sight of Aft going limp in the Rahi's claws. No time to freeze, he thought. Lives are at stake. Move!
"Nuhrii!" he called to another Ta-Matoran. "Take the squad and try to herd the Kane-Ra again. I'm going after Aft." Nuhrii saluted and ran to catch the bull, commanding the remainder of the guards as he went.
Jala searched the air. It was full of Nui-Rama, still buzzing nervously after being disturbed. He soon sighted on the one that held Aft, and it appeared to be trying to get away, its progress impeded by its own fellow Rahi. Jala changed his grip on his spear and threw it up into the swarm, but it was knocked aside by the other Nui-Rama. Cursing, he ran forward, underneath the swarm. It was difficult to keep pace with the Nui-Rama above—the shifting sand underfoot on didn't provide a firm surface for running—as well as keeping track of it. When the creature eventually cleared the swarm, Jala took time to search his surroundings for a means of getting to it. He spotted a round piece of driftwood and a vine that looked rather useful…
He grabbed the items without slowing down. This wood felt familiar in his hand. Like… like a disc.
You can't have him! he thought as he swung the disc up at the Nui-Rama. It clipped the Rahi's wing, disturbing its already burdened flight. It dropped fast, nearly crashing in to the sand. Jala ran quickly, catching up to it. Gathering what little strength he had left in his legs, he jumped up onto the Rahi, swinging the vine he'd grabbed around the creature's neck. Mata Nui, what am I thinking!? he thought as the Rahi bucked wildly against him. The Nui-Rama let go of Aft, now trying to reach up and remove the Matoran on top of it. It's arms were just short enough that if Jala moved carefully, he could avoid being grabbed. That didn't stop it from trying, which distracted it enough for Jala to exert some control over the direction of its flight. He tugged with the vine, yanking toward where the Kane-Ra had gone.
Jala's eyes widened as he saw what had occurred. Several tents and makeshift huts on the fringes of the camp had been destroyed by the bull. He was thankful to see that no Matoran seemed to be hurt. He could see Nuhrii and the others making some progress as the beast took time to fully dismantle a small campsite that Jala himself had set up. It rammed its head into a brown tent, tearing it up from the ground. A gust of wind blew in its face then, plastering the cloth to its snout. The Kane-Ra roared in anger, trying to remove the thing that obstructed its vision. The Ta-Matoran guards charged then, poking the beast with their spears.
Jala soon reached the bull himself, still on top of the Nui-Rama. One shot at this… He dropped off the Nui-Rama and landedon the bull's back. He grabbed hold of its horns and headed it toward the hole they had dug earlier. The bull responded to his sharp tugs and ran toward the pit, still blinded.
The beast lost its footing over the edge and tumbled down. Jala leapt off, barely grabbing the edge of the hole himself. He looked down to see the Kane-Ra sprawled out at the bottom. The pit wasn't too deep, only about 15 feet. Then a shadow passed over him.
"Need a hand, Jala?" a voice said from above.
He chuckled. "Wouldn't hurt, Hahli." He grabbed her extended hand, hoping she didn't notice the way his heartlight sped up, and was pulled out.
Once he was safely above ground again, Hahli called to her fellow Ga-Matoran. They ran forward and tossed a large net down over the Kane-Ra, giving it a new obstacle to struggle with.
"Nice touch," Jala said, nodding. "Once it gets through that and the tent on its head, it should notice itself in the mirrors we set up down there. The idea was that it would be distracted at the thought of another of its kind in the pit with it."
"Good thinking," Hahli said. "Is it going to be… stuck down there?"
"It'll be able to get out eventually, but we should be gone by then." He took a look over the rest of the camp, noticing that most of the equipment and shelters had been removed. "Thanks again, Hahli."
She smiled. "I'm always happy to help out."
"I have a feeling we'll need all the help we can get in the coming days…"
Jala watched as Turaga Nokama finished tying a bandage around Aft's wounded middle. "You'll make a fully recovery in no time," she said. "Just don't get picked up by any more Rahi."
The wounded Ta-Matoran nodded and lay back on his makeshift bed. "Thank you, Turaga Nokama," he said quietly. "And you, Jala, for saving me back there."
"Just doing my duty," Jala replied.
"Duty indeed," said Turaga Vakama as he entered the small tent. "That reminds me of something I wanted to speak to youabout, Jala. Step outside with me, so we don't bother you fellow Matoran." He placed a hand on Jala's shoulder as they exited the tent.
"Your display of tactical wisdom and heroic action today impressed me," the Turaga continued. "When we have established society here on Mata Nui, someone will be needed to keep order and protect what we have. I had been thinking on how to solve this problem, and thought to myself, why not Jala and his fellow Ta-Matoran? We've seen what you can do. So tell me, Jala. Would you be willing to protect this land, and to take command of your brothers to that end?"
Jala stopped walking. What he'd done today had stressed him like nothing he'd ever done before. Of course, he couldn't remember a whole lot of things he had done in the past, yet he knew it to be true. The thought of taking command of others and working to protect everyone in the long-term was… daunting. "I…" he began. "Thank you, but I'm not sure I'm the one for the job, Turaga."
"Most difficult tasks are uncomfortable when we first begin them," Vakama said. "Believe me, I've experienced it. But it is those tasks which are often the most important. I have seen something in you today: a gift for leadership, a heart full of courage, and a desire to protect. We need you and your mind, Jala. Over time, you will gain confidence and ability. You can learn and adapt. These are your greatest strengths. I believe in you, and your ability to succeed."
"I see," said Jala, falling into deep thought. Was it true? Of course, he had done the things the Turaga mentioned. But a knack for leadership? He certainly didn't feel like much of a leader. Yet… this Turaga said he saw it. Saw potential for more. If I'm to have a place in this new land, where better than to be defending my people? "All right. I'll do it."
"Excellent," Vakama said with a smile. "If you ever need me, I'll be there to give you advice. I know you'll do well. I know just what to call you, too. You shall be our Captain of the Guard."
Hahli's Tale: Until the End
(Split into two parts due to character restrictions.)
Ga-Wahi, during the Dark Time.
Hahli shoved desperately at the crowd of gathered Matoran that stood at the entrance to the mining shaft in Ga-Wahi. She had been waiting for Toa Onua to resurface for nearly two days now, anxious for him to return with news of her lost friend, Kuni. The Ga-Matoran had gone missing three days past on a trip to visit Le-Wahi. She had been last seen near this spot, and it was assumed that she had mistaken this mine for a tunnel leading to her destination. Onua had been told of the issue, and he ventured below the surface of Mata Nui, swearing not to return until he had located and rescued Kuni. Hahli had just gotten word that he was nearing the surface once again.
"Move!" Hahli said, miffed that these Matoran from other parts of the island were barring her from witnessing the return of her friend. She finally burst to the front of the crowd, leaving grumbling villagers in her wake. She saw Toa Gali standing not too far off. "Toa Gali! What news?"
Gali gave her a surprised look behind her gleaming golden mask, but said, "Nothing beyond the fact that my brother is nearing the exit. He should be here any moment."
"And he has Kuni?" Hahil inquired.
"I believe so," the Toa of water said with a smile. "The message he sent seemed to indicate that he did find her."
Hahli breathed a sigh of relief. Her friend was safe, and she could relax. In mere moments, she would be reunited, and life would go back to normal. She could stop worrying...
The crowd began to murmur as a black figure emerged from the earthen tunnel. Toa Onua carried another motionless, blue figure in his powerful arms.
Hahli rushed to meet him. "Kuni!" she cried. "Is she all right?"
Onua shook his head. "I..." he hesitated. "I am not sure, little one. We must get her to the Turaga immediately. Something is wrong, I think."
"What?" Hahli said, her worry growing. "What's wrong?"
"She has been groaning the whole way back, ever since I found her unconscious underground. I don't know what ails her exactly, but there is certainly something... dark in her presence."
Gali approached the two of them. "I'll take it from here, brother. Rest from your task." She moved to take Kuni from his arms. When he recoiled slightly, she urged, "You must rest, Onua. You have been at this for nearly three days. Please, let me."
Onua's shoulders slumped. "I... You are right, sister." He gently exchanged his precious cargo to Gali's arms. "I suppose I feel as though I am failing her somehow by not seeing her all the way to safety."
"You promised to return her to the surface, Onua," Gali said. "In that, you have succeeded, and we are all grateful. I will be sure to tell you of her recovery."
Onua nodded, and moved aside to take his rest.
"Hahli?" Gali said, looking to the Ga-Matoran. "Let us return swiftly to Ga-Koro."
"Of course," Hahli said. She ran to keep up with the Toa of water, the pair of them moving through the crowd with ease as it parted before them. It took a full sprint for her to keep up with Gali's gentle jog.
Within the hour, they had reached Ga-Koro and were approaching Nokama's hut. "Turaga Nokama!" Gali called from outside. "We have someone who requires you're attention!"
A moment later, the green door of the hut swung open and Nokama stepped out into the sun. "What is it, Toa of water?" she asked, leaning on her trident. "Is something wrong?"
"It is Kuni, Turaga," Gali answered, kneeling down and cradling the Matoran's head in her arms. "She is the one who was lost a few days ago. Onua returned to the surface with her not an hour ago, but something is wrong."
"How so?" Nokama asked, moving to look at Kuni's near motionless form.
"She has not woken since Onua found her, and she moans in her sleep," Gali explained. "We fear something dark has come upon her."
Nokama drew close, examining Kuni closely. "I see..." she mused. "Bring her inside. I must take a closer look." The trio stepped inside Nokama's hut and Gali gently let Kuni down on one of the extra beds in the room. The unconscious Ga-Matoran groaned and twisted on the bed. Hahli had never felt so uncomfortable as she did now, seeing her friend so clearly in pain. "If what I suspect is true, Kuni may be in a very grave condition indeed," Nokama said. "But to see for sure, I must remove her mask."
"Are you sure?" Hahli asked. "Wouldn't that just make her more weak?"
"Yes," Nokama said apologetically, "but it is the only way to prove my suspicions." Hahli nodded, trusting her Turaga. Nokama wrapped her fingers around the edges of Kuni's Kanohi Pakari and gently peeled it up from her head. Underneath lay Kuni's face, a mix of organic material and armor... and it is was stained a deep black. It started at the center and fanned outwards, even dipping into her eyes. Nokama's eyes closed at the sight, and she gave a sad moan.
"What... what is this, Turaga?" Gali said.
"I fear she is touched by shadow," Nokama sad, replacing Kuni's mask. "Makuta's darkness has corrupted her. We thought we had rid the island of the creatures that are capable of doing this..."
"Turaga, doesn't the shadow usually appear in the mask?" Gali asked.
"It does," Nokama answered, "but under the right circumstances, it can seep beyond the mask and into the body, making its effects permanent."
"But she can be healed, right?" Hahli said. "There's a cure? What can I do for her?"
"I'm sorry, Hahli," Nokama said, leaning heavily on her trident. "I can soothe her, perhaps bring back her mind for a while. But eventually, she will be lost. Makuta's shadow will corrupt her, just as it did the Rahi."
No. That was impossible... Hahli couldn't imagine that happening to another Matoran. Rahi were simple beasts, easily manipulated. Surely a being as strong as Kuni would not fall so easily. But if Turaga Nokama, the most experienced healer on the island, said nothing could be done...
"Take her to her hut," Nokama said. "Make her comfortable. I will visit her after I gather some supplies."
As Gali picked up Kuni and exited the hut and Nokama moved to begin preparing her healing items, Hahli would not move. Her fists clenched and her eyes closed. "I can't just give up on her!" she said, louder than he had intended. Nokama's shoulder dipped and she turned to face Hahli. "Not like you. I can try, I can look for a way to save her!"
"Hahli..." Nokama said soothingly. "I am very sorry about all this. I want the best for Kuni, but I have so rarely seen this condition. My experience and knowledge is limited, and the only thing I know to do is to make her passage easy."
"Is there anything I can look for, anyone I can talk to, something to do to make it better?" Hahli said, on the verge of tears.
Nokama laid a hand on the Matoran's shoulder. "Be there for her. She needs you now, more than ever. Really, you should be proud of her. When a Rahi is overtaken by shadow, its mind is turned almost instantly. Even mighty Toa Lewa found it difficult to resist the corruption. But Kuni... Kuni fights. Had her mind already been lost, she would not be so docile. Yes, she is in pain... but she is not lost. It is her way of fighting the Makuta."
Hahli gave something between a small laugh and a sob, and wiped at her eyes. "I see. Well... I suppose I will go help prepare the hut." With a grim heart, she took her leave.
Hahli rapped on the door to Kuni's hut. "Come in," came Nokama's voice from inside.
"How is—" Hahli's words broke off as she looked to her friend and saw her eyes open and alive. She ran to her and embraced to her. "You're awake!"
"Careful, Hahli," Nokama chided gently, smiling on them. "Kuni is much stronger, but she still needs her rest."
"It's good to see you too, Hahli," Kuni said with a weak smile as Hahli backed away.
Hahli grinned broadly and wiped at her eyes. It was so strange... To look at Kuni now, one could hardly tell of her... illness. It lay buried, hidden beneath her Kanohi. "I was so worried," Hahli said. "I... I wasn't sure you'd wake up. I thought you might be gone..."
Kuni gave a wry grin. "Can't get rid of me that easily," she said.
Nokama turned to the bedside table and tucked a few of her healing items in her leaf bag. "I will leave you two to talk," she said. "Don't be too long, Hahli."
Hahli took a seat on a bamboo chair beside the bed as Nokama left. "What happened to you?" Hahli asked. "Down below?"
"I... I can't remember a lot of it," Kuni said. "Or maybe it just feels short. I took a wrong turn and slipped down a steep, smooth surface. There was no light at the bottom... Thankfully, I'd thought to bring a lightstone with me. I lit it, but it seemed feeble somehow. The darkness of the cavern I'd come to was... oppressive. Deep."
"Is that where you were when Onua found you?" Hahli asked.
Kuni laughed and shook her head. "I'm not so smart as to stay in one place. I explored. There were a few other tunnels that branched off of the place I was in. I wanted to find a way out, to free myself. Of course, that didn't work. I only got more lost. And then... then I saw a creature."
Hahli's stomach tightened. "A... a creature?"
"Not one I'd ever seen before," Kuni explained. "Small, slugglish. Purple and black, I think."
"Doesn't sound familiar."
"It was weird... and disgusting. Left a gross trail of slime everywhere it moved. I remember I went to look more closely at it, trying to figure out what it was, what it was like, then... something hit me." Kuni visibly shivered at the memory. "It wasn't like getting punched or something. It didn't really have impact on my body, but I felt it... in my mind."
Kuni paused, letting the information set. After a moment, Hahli asked, "What then?"
"I don't know," Kuni shrugged. "That's the last thing I remember before waking up to Nokama tending to me a few minutes ago. She explained everything that happened since I got lost."
"What a strange tale," Hahli said, her eyes falling to the floor.
"You know, it was funny..." Kuni chuckled. "While I was lost, there was one thought I kept coming back too: 'I'm going to miss Hahli's kohlii game.'"
"Aw, you don't need to worry about that. You know I'm not very good."
Kuni gave her that grin again. "Oh, I know that. But I know you can be. I want to be there for you, see you play. You'll be great one day, I know it. Maybe even a champion."
Hahli chuckled. "That'll be the day. And you know what I just thought of? This is just like that time when I was sick a couple hundred years ago, and you took care of me."
"Yeah... except now, I'm the one stuck in a bed. I liked the previous arrangement better. Come to think of it... why am I here? I don't feel that bad. Tired, but not exactly... ill."
She doesn't know.
"Nokama hasn't said anything?" Hahli said, trying to keep her voice from cracking with resurgent sadness.
"Nothing," Kuni said with a shake of her head. "Only that I need to rest, stay in bed. Nokama is usually so forward with me, but she hasn't said anything about my condition. Do you know why they're keeping me here?"
Hahli was silent, debating with herself. If I tell her, wouldn't she be crushed? The knowledge that she is corrupted with Makuta's shadow... I don't think I could bearing knowing if I was in her position. On the other hand, to let her go on without knowing what will happen to her, for me to keep it from her... it doesn't feel right.
"I... I do," Hahli said, struggling with the words.
"Well, what is it?" Kuni asked, seemingly oblivioius to the conflict in her friend.
"The Turaga said that... that you've been infected.."
"Infected? With what, a poison?"
"I wish it were so simple," Hahli said. "Nokama said... you have been touched by Makuta's darkness."
Kuni was silent for a long while. She barely breathed, not looking at Hahli. At length, she spoke again. "So... is it like the Rahi we have fought with all these years?"
"Yes," Hahli said, choking back a sob. "So Nokama has said."
"Why can't I feel it? Why doesn't my mask look different?" Kuni sat up straighter in bed, looking at her reflection in a mirror on her wall.
"It's deeper than that. The corruption sank through your mask, into your body. It... it's permanent now."
Kuni's eyes closed and she exhaled heavily. "So I am lost, then."
"Don't say that," Hahli said. "Nokama said you were strong, that the only reason you were still with us was that you were fighting the darkness. Maybe you can make it, you can beat this..."
Kuni shook her head. "I think... I think I kind of already knew. When I was asleep, I remember having... strange dreams. Dark dreams. Creatures in shadow, voices in the night. Even now, if I think about it, I think I can feel something. Something pushing at the back of my mind..." Her hands came to her head, cradling it. "I... I'm scared, Hahli."
Hahli stood and moved to her friend. "I am too. I..." She grabbed one of her friend's hands. "I wish there was something I could do. If there's anything you need, anything you think will make it better, I'll do it, I'll get it for you."
Kuni gave a sad laugh. "Thank you. I don't know that there's anything I can do to make it better. Just... promise me you'll take me to your game."
Hahli smiled and gave Kuni's hand a squeeze. "Sure," she said with a smile. "We'll get you there."
"All right," Kuni said, letting go of Hahli and lying back. "I'm getting tired again... All your drama is wearing me out."
"Fine, I'll get out of here," Hahli said. "Rest up, and get better."
"I'll do my best," Kuni said. Hahli moved to exit the tent, but Kuni said, "Thank you again, by the way. For telling me. I'm glad that, even if this shadow takes me, I knew about it. I go with the dignity of... facing my enemy, I suppose. Thanks to you, Hahli."
Hahli nodded. "Anything for you."
The days went by, and Kuni's condition worsened. It was not a surprise to Hahli, but it hurt all the same. Kuni continued to be bedridden, and Turaga Nokama kept paying her daily visits with simple healing treatments, meant only to provide comfort. Hahli continued to feel afraid, anxious, angry, and helpless. One of her best friends on Mata Nui was dying, or perhaps worse, having her mind being stolen by the Makuta. And there was not a single thing she could do about it, or even think to try.
Hahli was awakened one night by a horrible screaming, a desperate cry from another hut. She rushed from her bed out into the cool Ga-Wahi night, the sea breeze brushing her mask. The screams did not stop, but she saw no signs of emergency. Her tired mind took a moment to connect things.
She ran as fast as she could to Kuni's hut, and screams grew louder. Other Matoran were beginning to rise as well, peeking out of their doors and windows to see what was the matter. Some asked her if she knew anything, but Hahli just kept running.
Finally, she burst through the door of Kuni's hut to find her friend writhing on her bed, hands on mask, screaming her lungs out. Hahli had never heard such a terrible sound in her life. She started to move to try to help Kuni, but then she spoke.
"The voices!" Kuni cried. "Oh, the voices...! He is here, in here in here!" Her hands pounded on her mask. "Makeitstopmakeitstopmakestop!"
Hahli ran then; there was nothing she could think to do but find help. "Nokama!" she yelled. "Toa Gali! Please help!"
Footsteps behind her signaled an arrival, and she turned to find the Toa of water approaching. "What is it, little one?" she asked. "Who shouts?"
"It's Kuni," Hahli said breathlessly. "She's... she's screaming, speaking horrible things, and thrashing in her bed."
"Take me to her," Gali said, grim determination on her mask. Hahli ran, leading her back to her friend's hut. The pair entered again and Gali knelt beside Kuni. Kuni did not stop her thrashing in the slightest; she didn't seem to be aware that either of them were there. Gali summoned a large oval of water from thin air, large enough to envelop Kuni's entire body. She gently lowered it onto her, leaving room around her face to breathe. Light gleamed as Gali poured pure elemental energy into Kuni in a desperate attempt to stave off the darkness, to calm her mind. Slowly, Kuni did calm. She still twitched within Gali's bed of water, but the screaming had ceased.
"Th-thank you, Toa Gali," Hahli stammered. "I... I didn't know what to do for her."
"It is all right," Gali said, looking at her over her shoulder. "I am glad to help, no matter the hour or the situation." Her eyes turned downward. "I only wish I could do more for her."
So do I, Hahli thought. _And still I wonder, can it get worse than this?
They decided to keep Kuni strapped to her bed; this way, if she had another fit like last time, she would not thrash about and harm herself. She lay calmly in her bed most of the time, simply sleeping. Nokama still tended to her, and Hahli still visited her every day. Kuni seemed to have less stamina each time, ending their talks sooner with every visit. Hahli's feelings of anxiety deepened, until things came to a head on the tenth day after Kuni's return.
Hahli had been helping Marka construct a new fishing boat when she heard a commotion from within the village. Matoran were gathering, and Hahli could hear crashes. The rustle of conversation turned to shouts.
Hahli set the rope coil she had been workig with around her shoulder and ran into the village, pushing through the crowd in time to see that Kuni's hut was indeed the center of attention. Turaga Nokama suddenly came crashing through the door, rolling on the ground. Hahli rushed to her side. "Are you all right, Turaga?" she asked, helping the elder to stand.
"Do not worry about me," Nokama said, voice strained. "Worry about her." Hahli followed the Turaga's eyes into the hut, where a lone figure just inside the doorway.
Hahli stood slowly. "Kuni?" she said.
The figure gave a wicked grin that Hahil could barely see. "Kuni is gone," it said. The being that was once Kuni flew out of the hut, running straight for Hahli. She dodged the blow just in time, rolling out of the way and instinctually pulling a disk from her pack as she rose. The crowd of gathered Matoran began to scream and disperse. The village's warning horns sounded.
"Kuni, stop!" Hahli shouted. "Get a hold of yourself!" Is her mind lost? Has it finally happened?
Kuni stood now at the edge of the floating platform, staring off at the waters of Naho Bay. She looked back at Hahli, and she hardly recognized her friend. Kuni's eyes were full of hatred and... was that fear?
Without saying a word, Kuni ran away from Hahli, headed for the fleeing Matoran. Hahli gave chase. Kuni caught up quickly with the runners, seeming to run unnaturally fast. She tackled the first Matoran she came in contact with and wrestled her to the ground. Her victim screamed, begging for her to stop, for someone to help. She continued to struggle and whimpered as Kuni's fingers roughly grasped the edges of her Kanohi.
Hahli readied her disk. "Kuni, stop this!" But Kuni did not stop. Kuni continued to pull at the downed villager's mask, but the villager struggled to keep it on. If that came off, she would be completely helpless...
This is not my friend, _Hahli thought as she drew her arm back to throw her disk. _Don't think of her as Kuni. She is the enemy.
Hahli flung her arm forward, letting the disk fly with all her strength. As Kuni raised her arm to strike at the villager's head, the disk struck home, knocking Kuni's own mask askew. She reeled from the blow, falling to the ground and cradling her face.
Thinking quickly, Hahli grabbed the rope from around her body and ran at the fallen Kuni. She took one end of the rope and started wrapping it around her friend, securing her arms and legs, before finally pulling it tight and knotting it. She stepped back, watching Kuni writhe on the ground, unable to move a limb. She suddenly stopped, looking to Hahli. The anger in her eyes slowly dissolved, only to be replaced with what seemed to be... smugness.
Kuni laughed, a deep and unnatural sound. "I told you," she said. "Kuni is gone. Now, there are only shadows."
Hahli saw the words come from Kuni, but they were clearly not of her.
"I don't believe you," Hahli said, breathing heavily. "She fights you. This is just... temporary."
"I admit, she did put up quite a struggle," the shadow said. "It does not usually take this long for me to gain control. It was really only sealed moments ago, but my control was not strong enough to direct her fully. She knew my heart, though, and attacked her fellows. Not what I would have had her do, but it was entertaining enough." Hahli gaped in horror, and the Makuta laughed.
That laugh would haunt her for hours to come.
Hahli lay on her bed, staring at the ceiling. It had been a day since the incident with Kuni, who had now been placed in an improvised cage, a cell to keep her contained. Her body remained tied, and she sat in silence, staring at any who passed. It was unnerving, and some said they wanted her out of the village.
Is that the answer? Hahli wondered. _To simply toss her out? _But wasn't that the fate they had been trying to save Kuni from in the first place?
A knock came at the door. Hahli jerked in surprise, then sluggishly rose and moved to open it to reveal Marka.
"Hey, Hahli," Marka said. "How're you holding up?"
Hahli shrugged. "Fine," she answered.
Marka cleared her throat. "I was wondering if you would to come down to the dock, to help me finish that boat we were working on? Everyone else is busy."
Work? Yes, work. That was what Matoran did during the day. But...
"I don't think I feel up to it right now," Hahli said. "Thanks for offering, though."
Marka seemed to deflate. "Oh, all right. Um, I'll see you later then."
"Bye," Hahli said. She closed the door, and returned to her bed.
Several more visitors came as the day went by, each with some offer for her.
Nixie invited her to gaze at the sky.
"No thank you."
"You need to do something, Hahli. Kuni wouldn't just want you to sit around."
Kai offered a leisurely boat ride.
"Thanks, but I have things to do."
"Mmm, all right then. I really am sorry, Hahli."
Maku asked if she would help her practice kohlii.
"I don't really feel like it right now."
"You don't think I feel it too? She wasn't just your friend, Hahli. We all _feel _it. At least I'm trying to do something with myself."
One by one they came, and each was turned down. Hahli continued to lay and stare.
With the final knock, her pent up emotions burst forth. She stormed to the door, and opened it saying, "What do you—?!" She stopped short upon seeing her visitor. "Jala? Why... what brings you here?"
"Turaga Nokama summoned the Ta-Koro guard," the Ta-Matoran answered. "She just wants some of us to keep an eye on your friend for a bit, make sure things are safe here."
Hahli nodded. "I see. Well, I hope your stay goes well. Now, I, um... I have things to do." She began to close the door, but Jala caught it.
"No you don't," he said, gently reopening the door. "I've heard the others talking. You haven't done anything. You just sit in your room all day. You don't get out, you don't say much."
"I'm just tired, Jala," Hahli said. "Now please, just go on."
"They're worried about you, Hahli," Jala said. He laid a hand on hers. "I'm worried. I know you're losing someone dear to you, and... I'm sorry. I want to help you."
"I don't want to talk about it," Hahli said, anger rising again. _Even towards Jala? _He was one of her best friends. This wasn't normal...
Jala backed away and nodded. "I understand. If you need anything, I'll be around. And... I know it's odd, but I want you to have this." He reached into his pack and pulled out a small retractable knife, the kind he often used himself, and offered it to Hahli.
"What is—?" she began, then realized his intentions. "Jala, no. I can't..."
"It may not be safe, Hahli. I know it's hard, but please... we don't know what might happen. We've lost one of you to him; don't let us lose two."
Hahli's sighed in resignation. Without a word, she took the knife, and closed the door.
Hahli lay awake on her bed that night, eyes open, but unseeing. The endless swirl of thoughts still churned in her mind, never ceasing, never letting her get any rest. The knocks had stopped coming after Jala's visit. For that, she was glad. No more distractions...
Something crashed outside her hut.
Hahli's eyes glanced around nervously, landing on the knife Jala had given her. It lay on her bedside table, glinting in the moonlight that came in through her window. No, _she thought. _It's probably nothing. Just the wind, maybe a Rahi. If it comes in here, I can protect myself.
A dull groan followed by a snap came next. Hahli sluggishly moved out of bed and moved to her door. She opened it slowly. What—?
Something slammed against the door, knocking Hahli back. She sprawled on the ground, catching herself with her hands. The thick leaf floor bounced with the impact. A figure slipped calmly inside the door and closed it.
"It's kind of pathetic, really," the thing said.
"You put me in a cage, but you think I'm powerless?" It laughed. "You forget what I can do. One punch from one of my tarakava, and it was simple to get out. So kind of you all to leave the cage so near the water."
"What do you want?" Hahli said, rising carefully to her feet.
"Not much," Makuta said through Kuni. "Mostly you Matoran to stop meddling. Why can't you just stay where you are, where you belong? What is there for you below ground..."
"That was a mistake!" Hahli said. "Kuni never meant to go there, let alone find you. It was a harmless mistake."
Makuta chuckled. "Even so, why should I pass up such a golden opportunity to spread chaos? Perhaps end an existence... or two."
It came for Hahli then, hands reaching for her neck. She caught them with her own, struggling to grapple with her attacker. "Kuni, stop!" she cried in desperation.
More chuckles. It pulled back, breaking Hahli's grip, then came rushing back in a crouch. It tackled Hahli's midriff, and kept running. Such strength! It ran with Hahli over its shoulder and slammed into the wall. Hahli lay slumped against the wall of her hut, disoriented from the impact.
The thing stood over her. "Part of me regrets this, Hahli," it said. "Needless loss of life and all that. But just imagine the kind of statement this will make! Matoran lost to shadow, kills her old friend. Imagine the horror, the fear... Yes, that would keep you all docile, wouldn't it?" A fist came down on Hahli's head. She grunted in pain and threw up her hands to ward off further blows.
"Help..." she said weakly. She tried to move away, to reach the door, to escape.
"Is that all you have left?" Makuta said, grabbing Hahli by the throat and lifting her up. Hahli could see the eyes in the moonlight now. Green. Kuni's eyes. But they were filled with hate once more, with malice. Such emotions never dared to reach Kuni's eyes.
She is gone.
"Go on, little Matoran," Makuta said through Kuni's mouth. "Cry for help, see if anyone comes. Or at least try." The grip tightened, and Hahli found herself gasping for air, hands clawing at the one that held her, seeking release.
And she did try. Pitiful attempts at forming words were all that she managed. Hoarse squeaks that would have been inaudible outside of the hut.
Is this how it ends? she thought. Slain by the hand of my friend, an instrument of fear for the Makuta...
Mata Nui, how can this be?
Her eyes flitted madly about the room, searching for something, anything to get her out of this. Moonlight was still streaming in through the window.
It glimmered on something near.
Hahli reached out a hand and grasped the handle.
Not like this...
She hit the button and extended the blade. Her lungs begged for air.
Before Makuta could realize what was happening, Hahli shoved the blade into her attacker's chest. The eyes went wide in pain and shock, and Hahli could not help but see her friend's pain in them. Then a primal yell, louder than anything she had heard before, escaped its mouth, forcing Hahli to cover her ears as she was released. The scream was terrifying, but Hahli thought she could hear another sound, a softer voice within its depths.
Makuta staggered back, staring at the knife in its chest. Hahli thought she could see something dark and wispy leaking from the wound.
Makuta ripped the knife free. It growled, then screamed again, this time in rage as it lurched toward Hahli. Its energy seemed to give way halfway through the motion, though, and it stumbled toward her, arms falling low. Hahli caught the falling form, still wary.
The trail of darkness vanished from Kuni's body. The body lay still for a moment, and Hahli was unsure of what to do, what to feel. She felt Kuni's head stir gently on her shoulder. Her head lifted just enough so that their eyes could meet. Kuni's eyes were empty of the rage that filled them only moments before. This was... her. The Makuta's presence was gone.
"Kuni," Hahli said. Had her friend come back, only to die in her arms?! "Kuni, no, I'm so—"
"No," Kuni said weakly, eyes drooping. "Do not be sorry. Thank you."
Kuni's eyes closed.
Hahli held her limp body close as the door burst open and Matoran peeked in, curious to see what the noise had been all about. Hushed murmurs filled the air as they saw Hahli cradling the now-lifeless body of her best friend.
Hahli sat on the beach, several kio away from Ga-Koro. She stopped weaving her ropes for a moment to look out at the sea, at the waves rolling in. The tide was coming in.
She heard footsteps from behind, and looked to find Jala approaching.
"The others said you wanted to be alone," he said, "but I had to come see you. I had to be sure... sure you were okay."
"So what if I am or not?" Hahli said, returning to her weaving. "What would you do for me?"
Jala was silent for a moment. "I don't know," he sighed.
Hahli stood and faced him. "That's right," she said, tears threatening to rise again. "You can't help me. No one can. She's gone. And I killed her..."
Hahli broke down then, falling forward. Jala caught her, and he held her, and it all came out. Stories of before, of the centuries Hahli had spent being friends with Kuni, the things they did together. Then the full tale of how this had all come to be; Kuni going missing, then found again, only to be irreversibly lost.
"I'm sorry," Jala said when it was all finished. "I'm so sorry. But you can't stop living. You don't have to forget, you don't ever have to stop missing her. You just have to keep living. She was glad for what you did. She told you herself! What you did for her was... it was the only way for her. Even so... I can't tell you how much I wish it hadn't come to this."
Hahli said nothing; she only stood, sobbing. Then she said, "If only I had been stronger. I could have saved her..."
"Hahli..." Jala said, taking her chin and bringing her eyes to his. "You did _save her. She was beyond healing, but not beyond saving. And you saved her... from a fate _worse than death. You freed her, and protected yourself at the same time. You never stopped being a true friend for her, Hahli. You never left her side. Not really. At least remember that."
Hahli seemed to relax in Jala's arms. Her sobbing slowed. "Then why does it still hurt so much...?" she whispered.
Jala gently pulled away and looked her in the eye. "You know, they're having the remembrance ceremony tonight. The entire village will be there, even Matoran from other villages. We all feel the loss. And even though we've lost someone dear to us, we all know that we don't want to be driven back because of it. You said that Makuta meant for this to drive us back in fear? Well, tonight we'll show him. Show him that what he used to try and make us fearful will instead make us stronger and braver than ever before. We'll never stop fighting, because of people like Kuni. We won't stop fighting, and we won't stop loving each other. We remember and honor her if we keep fighting. If we keep... living." He reached down and took her hand. "Come on. Come back to the village with me. Let's remember her. Together."
Hahli nodded, and walked with Jala along the beach toward Ga-Koro. They spent the night with the rest of the island not in mourning, but in celebration of a life well lived. Tales were told of Kuni's life, her adventures on the island, and the things she did for her fellow Matoran.
All knew that she had been strong indeed, and Hahli most of all.
You will always be in my heart, Kuni. Until the very end.
Well, these are unquestionably high in quality, particularily in the dialogue, which is hyper-realistic and believable, perfectly capturing the voices of the characters. If I were you, I would write them in the first person to heighten the action, and characterized some of the more minor characters a bit more; that said, the stories are great. You might want to consider putting the story summaries at the end of each tale, so people avoid accidentally reading them before the story itself.
@Azani Thank you very much for your response! I'm glad you enjoyed the stories. I will definitely consider writing the remaining stories in first person; to be honest, I never really thought of doing it that way, but the next ones... it may just happen.
I also noted your final suggestion and just removed the summaries from the stories. I had included since they were attached to other places the stories are posted kind of by habit.
Thanks man; by the way, I'm strongly looking forward to the Matoro story. Good luck!