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> Vakama's Secret, Revealed at last...
PeabodySam
post Aug 19 2009, 11:55 AM
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Welcome to Vakama’s Secret, sequel to The Story of Frosam. Before you read this, it is a good idea to finish reading the said Epic if you haven’t done so already.

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Vakama’s Secret


Chapter 1
Late Awakening


“You can never be certain when you fall asleep, if you’ll wake up early or if you’ll wake up later. But, I’ve discovered something that I’m sure happens to many Matoran I know. If you need to wake up early that morning, chances are more than likely that you’ll sleep late. Even Vakama knows this.”
- from The Chronicles of Takua

1,001 A.G.C.

The sun rose over the ocean. Rays of light brightened the vast body of water, giving it a yellowish tint. The darkness of night yielded to a parade of colors – red, yellow, orange, pink, and more. A new day had dawned.

All this could be seen through the eyes of a Turaga of Fire, standing on the soft sand of the Ta-Wahi beach. He leaned on his Firestaff as he took in all of the wonderful sight. Behind his Noble Kanohi Huna, his heavy eyelids fought to stay open. All night, he and the other five Turaga of Mata Nui, along with a Ko-Matoran named Matoro, were awake, arguing about whether or not the Toa Nuva were trustworthy enough to be told the tales of Metru Nui. The legends and adventures of six, untrained Toa Metru as they struggled to save the city.

Vakama continued to watch the sunrise, even though his mind was no longer focused on it. Thinking of Metru Nui had brought back many memories into Vakama’s mind. Happy memories… terrible memories… and some memories so dark, one could never even dream about it in their most horrid nightmare.

Vakama sighed and turned away from the sun. There are some memories and secrets so dark, they should’ve never been remembered.

The Turaga of Fire walked towards a massive structure. It was in the shape of a large dome, but with the top cut away and a large basin in the center. A large tower stood up on the far side of the building, and seats occupied most of the interior, and those seats were occupied by Ta-Matoran, Ga-Matoran, and Po-Matoran. The very center of the basin was a Kolhii Field, unique in the sense it had neither two goals nor four goals, but three goals, each one carved into the shape of a Toa head. Built by hand, stone-by-stone, it was impressive to think that it was only built in a few months time. It was the stadium that would house the anticipated Kolhii Championship today.

Vakama entered the stadium and made his way for the tower. Inside, he climbed a large, spiral set of stairs. Finally, he entered the Turaga’s box. Two other Turaga – Nokama, Turaga of Water, and Onewa, Turaga of Stone – were already there, having a conversation spoke in a tone of voice too low for Vakama to hear. Nokama was the first to notice Vakama. “Vakama!” she greeted. “It is great to see you again, and for once in a peaceful time too!”

Vakama chuckled. “Yes, it is nice to finally have peace.”

“I thought this island would never get it!” sighed Onewa. “First the Rahi, then the Bohrok, next the Bohrok-Kal, finally those blasted Dark Hunters! It’s about time!”

Vakama shrugged. “When will the match start?”

Onewa glanced over to a massive sundial set near the scoreboard of the Kolhii match. “Should start in just a few minutes,” he answered. “Frosam’s going to have to hurry up if he wants to get here before the game starts!”

*****

Turaga Whenua walked into a hut and found another Turaga of Earth lying on his bed, still asleep. Behind his Noble Kanohi Ruru, Whenua frowned. He then glanced to an invention of Nuparu’s, which could be found on a desk in the hut. It was basically a sundial that did not work using the sun, but rather by the usage of gears. It went by two names: “Sunless Sundial” or simply “Clock”.

Looking at the sunless sundial, Whenua sighed and shook his head. He walked over to the bed, rested his hand on the Turaga’s shoulder, and shook him awake. At first, there was no result. Slowly, the other Turaga opened one eye. “Yes?” he murmured sleepily.

“It’s me, Whenua,” smiled Whenua. “It’s time to wake up, Turaga Frosam.”

“What is it?” Turaga Frosam inquired. “You’re not waking me up to see the sunrise again, are you? I remember what happened last time.”

Whenua chuckled. “Sorry, it’s far too late in the morning for that. You better hurry up – you’re going to miss the game.”

“The game…” repeated Frosam absentmindedly, and his eyelid began to close again. Suddenly, both eyelids shot wide open. “The game!” he realized. He glanced at the sunless sundial. “Mata Nui, I’m going to be late!” He jumped off his bed and grabbed his badge of office, formerly Toa Tool, the Quake Staff. In appearance, it resembled a short staff with a hook at the end. He felt his Noble Kanohi Pakari, making sure whether or not it was on correctly.

“You’re already late,” Whenua reported.

“Thanks for waking me!” Frosam thanked, as he rushed out of the hut. He nearly crashed into Onepu.

“Frosam! Old friend!” chuckled the Onu-Matoran. “What’s the rush? You’re not going to some Turaga council where they’re going to execute you f you’re late, are you?”

“No time to explain!” Frosam replied hurriedly. “Gotta go! Bye!” He attempted to wave, but the simple action triggered a surge of pain, coursing through his body: his crippled arms to blame. The Turaga bent over, groaning.

“Are you okay?” frowned Onepu with concern, helping Frosam stand straight again.

“Yes, thank you,” nodded Frosam. He ran around the perimeter of his hut, and found whom he was looking for. A giant, black, insect-like Rahi lay asleep on the ground. Frosam rubbed the Rahi’s head, and it woke up. “Time to wake up, Ussanui,” Frosam whispered.

Ussanui was a Remos: an insect-like Rahi known for digging labyrinths of tunnels, which could be a potential hazard to Onu-Matoran miners. Prior to becoming a Toa Ulti several months back, Frosam had captured and tamed the Remos, and since then the two of them have been on many adventures together. Remos were excellent diggers, steeds, and trackers. It was a wonder that Frosam was among the first to actually ride one.

Ussanui chirped, stood up, and allowed Frosam to climb onto its spiny back. “Ta-Koro,” whispered Frosam into Ussanui’s ears. Ussanui nodded and took off, in the direction of Ta-Koro.

*****

Elsewhere, another being slowly opened his eyes. For a few months, he had been in a coma-like state, thanks to the actions of Frosam. The Turaga probably thought him dead, but he survived, just barely. Now, he has regained consciousness to find himself surrounded by rubble of what he presumed to be the Dark Hunter Tower. The spaces between the chunks of rubble were large enough just to let oxygen in.

He ached all over, and he was willing to assume that his armor was battered as well. Gathering what little strength he had, he dug his way upwards. He had to be careful that the rubble didn’t collapse in on top of him and kill him.

At last, after what felt like an hour, upon moving aside a large chunk of rubble, the sun’s light met his eyes. After being trapped in the darkness for a period of time, the being had to shield his eyes at first, but soon lowered his hand. He crawled out of the rubble and lay flat on the rubble. He breathed heavily, resting, regaining his strength.

When he stood up, he looked around and found himself standing on top of a large area completely covered with rubble. The cold weather and layer of snow on the rubble marked it as being Ko-Wahi. The shadow looming over the large pile of rubble, the snow, and the being himself belonged to a natural landmark of the island. Looking up at it, he recognized it as Mount Ihu, a name he had learned a couple centuries ago through a world atlas.

I’m alive, the being thought. That’s a pleasant surprise. He thought for a moment, then shook his head. Perhaps not such a pleasant surprise. I would expect that the Shadowed One would want me to track down and kill Frosam, and in doing so avenge the deaths of three other Dark Hunters. As if the deaths of Toa Ikaag, Toa Lahka, and countless Matoran during that terrible war weren’t enough!

The figure’s eyes narrowed. He sighed, then turned his head to look up to the sky. He then spoke; his first word was a whisper, but his voice increased in volume until he screamed his final words at the top of his lungs: “Go… to… Karzahni, SHADOWED ONE!”

******

“Another goal!” The voice of the Kolhii announcer rang through the stadium. “Ga-Koro and Po-Koro are now tied, and the score is 2-2-0! It looks like Hahli is proving her skills against the Captain of the Guard!” Cheering came from the mob of Ga-Matoran on one side of the stadium, while groans and grunts came from the Ta-Matoran crowd. The Po-Matoran respectively clapped, though a few did groan.

In the Toa’s Box, located above the Turaga’s Box, Pohatu Nuva glanced at Tahu Nuva’s frown and chuckled. He proceeded to make a simple joke about Jaller’s position as the Captain of the Guard. Tahu only glared at Pohatu, even as Gali gave a slight smirk.

Below, in the Turaga’s Box, the three Turaga heard this and did nothing but shake their heads in pity. “I know it’s just a joke,” muttered Onewa, “but still there they go again, quarreling over trivial matters!”

From the staircase behind them, they heard the heavy footsteps of someone running. They all turned to face the stairwell. The shape of a purple Noble Pakari rose above the stairs, quickly followed by the rest of Frosam’s body. He sprinted up the last few steps and came to a halt inside the Turaga’s Box. He leaned on his Quake Staff, panting, catching his breath. “You’re late, Frosam,” scolded Vakama.

When he recovered, the Turaga of Earth straightened up, smiled, and replied: “I know. What did I miss?”

“Po-Koro and Ga-Koro each have scored two goals,” replied Nokama. “Ta-Koro still has yet to score.”

“Really?” Frosam raised an eyebrow. He walked to the edge of the box, watching the game. “So they have. I guess then, it’s hard for a Chronicler to find the time to practice Kolhii. That’s all Hewkii and Hahli have been doing these past few months!”

He turned away from the game to look at the other Turaga. “I’d like to thank the three of you for inviting me,” nodded Frosam. “It’s not often one gets the ability to get the best seat in the stadium during a Kolhii Championship!”

“You’re welcome,” smiled Vakama. “For the time being, it’s the best thanks we can give for saving Mata Nui from those four Dark Hunters.”

*****

Midday became afternoon. Afternoon shifted to twilight. Twilight melted into evening. The match, now lit by various torches, still was going on, the score still 2-2-0. Po-Koro and Ga-Koro were each one goal away from victory, while Ta-Koro would need three goals in a row to win now: something that had was unheard of in Kolhii history. Frosam had already briefly fallen asleep during part of the game, but because nothing had happened while he was asleep, it didn’t matter. However, now he was wide-awake and anxiously waited for what would happen.

“Duck!” Frosam shouted, pointing to an incoming object. The four Turaga dropped to the ground, seconds before a Kolhii Ball whizzing through the air smashed into the back wall of the Turaga’s Box. It came loose and fell to the floor.

“I don’t think any of us have seen that move before!” commented the announcer.

Frosam picked up the Kolhii Ball and looked down onto the field at the player who had made a very strange move, the result being that deadly, flying object: Takua was flying flat on his mask on the field. He got up just in time to see Hahli with a second Kolhii Ball, Hewkii pursuing, running over to the goal guarded by Jaller. The Ga-Matoran swung her Kolhii staff, knocking the ball with it, and in doing so sending it flying into the goal before Jaller could stop it. “Goal!” the announcer shouted. “Goal – and tournament – goes to Ga-Koro!” The Ga-Matoran crowd cheered wildly; the Po-Matoran clapped in a sportsmanship-like manner; the Ta-Matoran groaned, shook their heads, or slammed their fists on their chairs.

In the Toa’s Box, Pohatu and Gali clanked fists. Pohatu turned to clank fists with Tahu, but the Toa Nuva of Fire turned away to Pohatu’s dismay.

In the Turaga’s Box, all four Turaga smiled and clapped. Once the cheering had stopped, Vakama rose from his seat. He looked down at the field, where all six Kolhii players were lined up, facing the Turaga and Toa Nuva. “Congratulations to Ga-Koro!” announced Vakama, raising his Firestaff. “And well played by all!” The six Matoran bowed.

Frosam wasn’t quite sure what happened next.

After they stood up again, there was some gold object by Jaller’s foot. Takua kicked it, and it began to glow brightly, shining its blindingly bright light onto the Captain of the Guard. He backed away, shielding his eyes. The other four Matoran murmured in shock. Whispers by the watching Matoran crowd were clearly audible, most of which was, “Look at that light!” or “Mata Nui!” or “What is that?”

The last question was exactly what Frosam inquired the Turaga of Fire. “What is that?” he queried. He looked at Vakama, and then raised his eyebrows in shock. “Vakama?”

The Turaga’s Box was a good distance away from the strange object of light. It wasn’t in the direction that which the light was shining in. It shouldn’t have been blinding to the Turaga or the Toa Nuva. Which made no sense why Vakama was shielding his eyes the exact same way as Jaller was, as if it was blinding to him.

Nokama laid her hand on Vakama’s shoulder. “Vakama,” she asked, “are you alright?” It seemed as if she knew exactly why Vakama was behaving so.

Vakama lowered his hand and turned his head to look at her. “Yes,” he nodded. “I’m alright.” But Frosam could tell that there was something dark and foreboding in his voice.



This post has been edited by PeabodySam: Sep 20 2009, 06:38 PM


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PeabodySam
post Aug 23 2009, 12:30 PM
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Chapter 2
Sons of Makuta


“It’s a bit odd that I never suspected… no, that I never knew that the Brotherhood of Makuta, sworn to protect Mata Nui and the Matoran, would go to the dark side of ambition. Sure, they only started getting ideas a good couple dozen millennia ago when they stopped those foolish Barraki, but even before that, they had those Rahkshi. Destructive and vile creatures in nature and appearance, they seemed like the perfect monsters of darkness even when the Makuta used to work for the light.”
- from The Journal of Meench Vyzumi

Turaga Frosam waited. He was anxious, the suspense too tense. He wasn’t the only one. Po-Matoran, Ta-Matoran, Ga-Matoran, Tahu Nuva, Gali Nuva, and Pohatu Nuva were also waiting. He wasn’t exactly sure whether or not to say Turaga Vakama and Turaga Onewa were waiting. The tension was building just too much for Frosam.

They were all waiting in the Ta-Kini, at the Ta-Suva, for Nokama to finish her work. For a good several minutes, Nokama had been holding the odd shiny object, which was revealed to actually be a Great Kanohi, using her Kanohi Rau to decipher the ancient Matoran dialect written on the back of the mask.

At last, the waiting came to an end. Nokama nodded, and walked towards the Matoran, Toa Nuva, and single Turaga Ulti. “This,” she announced, “is the Kanohi Avohkii, Mask of Light. It is said to be worn only… by a seventh Toa, the Toa of Light!” Gasps, whispers, and murmurs were coming from the mouths of the surprised Matoran. The Toa Nuva traded glances. Frosam merely raised an eyebrow.

Vakama stepped up. “Legends have foretold the coming of a seventh Toa,” he added, “who will bring light to the shadows, and awaken Mata Nui!”

Tahu Nuva couldn’t stand it anymore and ran over to the Turaga. “What are we waiting for?” he asked. “We should prepare for this Toa’s arrival! Where will it be? And where?”

Onewa laid a hand on the shoulder of the Toa of Fire. “Ah,” he informed, “this Toa will not simply appear, like you and the others did. You see, the seventh Toa must be found.”

Nokama held the Mask of Light up high. “The Avohkii chose who would find it…” she pondered aloud, “perhaps it shall also choose who shall lead it to its master.”

“Hold on,” Tahu said, taking the Kanohi from Nokama. “At the stadium, there was a sign! The mask threw all its light upon one Matoran.” He pointed at Jaller, whose eyes widened in shock. “He must be the herald of the seventh Toa!”

Jaller whispered something to Takua, who was standing next to him. Takua whispered something back, then announced: “Hail Jaller! All hail Jaller – herald of the seventh Toa!”

Jaller glared at Takua, and angrily whispered something to the Chronicler. “Captain of the Guard,” addressed Vakama, “approach!” With a shove from Takua, Jaller stepped up to the Turaga. “It seems to be that the mask has chosen you. Will you not seek the seventh Toa?”

“I will,” nodded Jaller. Behind him, Takua began to slowly walk away from the scene. Noting this, Jaller smiled, grabbed Takua by the arm, and added: “And… Takua here has volunteered to join me!”

“Perfect!” smiled Vakama. “While Jaller seeks out the Toa of Light, you will record it, and very soon we’ll have yet another chapter to our Wall of History!”

“Yes,” Takua replied, “it will be full of… Jaller’s great, err, deeds!”

After the crowds had dispersed, Frosam walked over to Vakama. “Seventh Toa!” he muttered. “More like tenth Toa! I already claimed the title ‘seventh Toa,’ you know!”

Vakama chuckled. “You have no idea, Frosam,” he smiled. “We titled this mysterious Toa a ‘seventh Toa’ only because we believe he shall be working more with the Toa Nuva, thus making him a seventh Toa of that team, whereas you, Ikaag, and Lahka all were part of a separate team.”

Frosam smiled, but his eyes showed sadness and pain. His memories with Ikaag and Lahka were great, happy memories – too great and happy, for it made him sad to remember that his brother and sister Toa Ulti were dead. The mere mention of their names brought back these happy memories, causing Frosam grief inside.

Vakama did notice the look in Frosam’s eyes. “Perhaps,” Vakama decided, “we should drop the subject.”

Frosam nodded slowly. “Yes,” he agreed quietly. He cleared his throat, shook his head, and any sign of what had just happened vanished from his eyes. “Anyways, I was thinking that, since after all it isn’t a short journey from here to Onu-Koro, perhaps Ussanui and I could spend the night here, then leave tomorrow.”

Vakama nodded. “It seems fine with me.” He began to walk away, but Nokama stopped him and whispered something into his ear. “Yes, yes,” assured Vakama, raising a hand, “I’m sure I’m fine.”

Frosam watched. What was that about?

He shrugged his shoulders, and departed. Tired, he was ready to retire to the hut he was going to stay in. Upon reaching the hut, he saw Ussanui outside, curled up into a round form. The Rahi’s breathing was slow and quiet, indicating the Remos to be asleep. Frosam smiled, patted Ussanui on the head, and entered the hut. He laid his Quake Staff on the side of a wall, jumped onto the soft bed, lie down, and pondered all that he had seen and learned today.

A Toa of Light… he thought, is that possible? A Toa capable of controlling the light? Then again, I suppose that if Toa Ulti could exist, a Toa of Light would be capable of existing. After all, a Toa Ulti is a Toa capable of controlling elements related to their element, and that seems pretty crazy, so a crazy thing like a Toa capable of controlling the element of light is definitely possible. Yep, it’s possible.

Frosam slowly closed his eyelids, his breathing slowed, and he slipped into unconsciousness.

*****

The next morning, when the first rays of the sun hit Ta-Koro, Frosam heard a scuttling noise outside his hut. Sleepily, he opened his eyes and looked outside. What he discovered was a large orange, gray, and brown Ussal moving towards the gate of Ta-Koro. Pewku.

Frosam did not go unnoticed. Pewku spotted him too, turned towards him, and began to lick the Turaga. Frosam laughed: “Okay, okay, okay, okay!” he stammered, flailing his arms. This proved to be a bad involuntary response, for his scars on his arms reacted to that movement with a surge of pain. “Ow!” Frosam shouted, along with several curses, and he fell backwards.

Pewku stopped licking him and looked at him awkwardly, as if she was worried about him. Without thinking, Frosam assured her, “Don’t worry, I’m okay.” Pewku backed away, cocked her head, turned around, and began to head for the gate. Frosam muttered something under his breath, and turned to look for Ussanui, of whom he left outside his hut.

He wasn’t there.

“Oh, Ussanui!” seethed Frosam, barely containing his temper. Here he was, all ready to leave for Onu-Koro, and Ussanui was nowhere to be found! Grumbling, he began to search for Ussanui.

It wasn’t until sundown when Frosam found Ussanui. The insect-like Rahi was found in a half-collapsed cave, with a lava river occupying most of it. The Remos was helping itself to a feast; the cave was absolutely filled with Kofo-Jaga, and Ussanui was having a grand time.

Frosam practically shouted his lungs out at Ussanui when he found this out, yelling curses that many Matoran wouldn’t bear to even think of. When Frosam was through, he saw Ussanui whimpering, and his tone changed from angry to soothing, trying to comfort Ussanui.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, as his hand stroked Ussanui’s back, “it’s just that I…” He sighed. “Ever since that day that… Ikaag and Lahka, when they died… I guess that horrible rage I had, it left an impact on me. Ever since then, I’ve been more irritable than I used to be.” He slowly climbed on Ussanui’s back, and patted the Rahi’s head. “Come on, let’s go home.” Ussanui nodded slightly, then began to walk in the direction of Ta-Koro.

It was a short journey to the village of fire. Frosam and Ussanui headed for the gates, to head out of the village. The two of them paused. The rock platforms that form a stone bridge leading in and out of the village had vanished beneath the Lake of Fire.

“Where’s that switch-thing?” he muttered. He turned and entered a nearby hut. Inside of which was a bronze machine, consisting mainly of gears and levers. A large lever, shaped almost like a hook, stuck out of one side. Frosam strode over to the machine and prepared to push the lever.

The sound of hurrying came from behind him, and a completely red-armored Ta-Matoran wearing a Kanohi Miru, namely Agni, burst into the hut, throwing himself between Frosam and the apparatus. Arms way out, he informed the Turaga: “Sorry, Turaga Frosam, but you can’t!”

“And why not?” asked Frosam.

“Toa Gali Nuva has arrived with news – danger is arriving! We need to keep the rock slabs in the Lake of Fire, to keep this danger out. We don’t want another incident like the Bohrok-Kal, now, do we?”

Frosam raised an eyebrow. “Sorry, you might want to fill in what this incident was. Remember, I was still a hermit while the Bohrok-Kal were on the loose.”

“Right,” nodded Agni. “Of course. While the stone slabs were up, the Tahnok-Kal managed to get into the village and robbed Tahu’s Nuva Symbol. You’re going to have to wait it out, if you’re planning to leave the village.” Agni paused a bit, then asked, “Hang on; I thought there was that Onu/Ta/Le-Koro highway…?”

“Closed, still hasn’t been confirmed whether or not it is stable, after the actions of the original Bohrok.”

“Well, I’m sure you can wait till the danger passes.”

“Fine,” shrugged Frosam, and he turned to leave the hut. Passing Ussanui, he reported, “Can’t go yet, Ussanui. We’re going to have to wait a bit. I’m sure we can manage.” Ussanui chirped softly, then followed Frosam to the center of the village, where the Turaga of Earth sat down on the basalt ground.

Only a few minutes of waiting, and there came several shouts from the village gate. A loud explosion was audible, and a form came flying through the air. It crashed into the center of the Koro, just a few bio from Frosam and Ussanui. Frosam gasped. It was Tahu Nuva, unconscious! “What in Mata Nui’s name…?” Frosam got up and ran over to Tahu’s fallen form, as did several nearby Ta-Matoran and Ga-Matoran. More shouting came from the gate’s direction.

Two figures walked towards the center of the village. Both were about the height of a Toa. Their backs and heads, however, were far more lizard-like. Both were mostly gray in color, but their heads, backs, hands, feet, and joints were green on one and brown on the other, and both their eyes blazed fiery red. Each handled a staff, and spines poked out of their backs. They looked around, apparently searching for something.

The green one spotted Frosam and the others. Its head opened up, revealing some sort of smaller, snakelike head inside, which screeched horribly. The tips of its staff began to glow a slight sickish green, and the creature charged towards them. The Ta-Matoran and Ga-Matoran around Frosam panicked and scattered. Ussanui gave a frightened chirp. The creature proceeded to plant one end of its staff into the ground. The ground around the staff began to turn the sickly green color. Poison! Frosam grabbed Tahu’s foot and dragged him away from the spreading poison. Then, he hopped on Ussanui’s back.

“Come on,” he whispered into Ussanui’s ears, “with my… arms, I can’t fight them. We have to get out of here!” Ussanui clicked, and began to run towards the Ta-Koro gate. A blast came overhead, just barely missing the Remos. A hut got struck, and it exploded.

Ussanui skidded to a halt, for a third of these creatures – one with blue armor and webbed spines – had appeared in front of them. It screeched angrily, and swung its own staff. It collided with Frosam, knocking the Turaga off of the Rahi. He hit the ground hard, hitting his arms in a bad way, triggering yet another painful reaction. He nearly blacked out, but kept his hold onto consciousness. A hand grabbed Frosam’s, and pulled Frosam back up. It was Hahli, the Ga-Matoran Kolhii Player. Standing next to her were several Ta-Matoran, Ga-Matoran, and the two Turaga, Vakama and Nokama. Frosam also saw that the blue creature had gotten past Ussanui and it, too, was presumably in the village center.

Hahli, after helping Frosam up, turned and headed for the hut with the strange apparatus. She entered the hut, and there came a great rumbling from the Lake of Fire. Frosam peeked out of the gate, and saw great rock slabs rising out from the lava. He hopped onto Ussanui as Hahli came out of the hut, and helped Vakama and Nokama onto the Rahi steed. Ussanui led the Ga-Matoran and Ta-Matoran over the rock slabs. Looking over his shoulder, Frosam saw that Tahu and Gali Nuva were also following them.

“What were those… things?” he asked Vakama.

“Rahkshi, Sons of Makuta,” replied Vakama gravely. “They were looking for something… something I believe to be the Mask of Light.”

“Mask of Light?” repeated Frosam. “But, they won’t find it here… Jaller and Takua left with it this morning.”

“They don’t know that,” Nokama sighed. “They will continue to search the village for it. Once they figure out that it’s not there… I hope that there still will be a village left.”

Once safely outside the village, the three Turaga and two Toa Nuva watched in grief as the famous village of fire, which had stood so long in the Lake of Fire, representing the hard and dangerous work of the Ta-Koro Guard, slowly sank into the lava lake that for so long had protected it from harm, now destined to be destroyed. Although Frosam barely saw the village during its time of glory, it felt as though a part of his heartlight ached, watching the terrible sight of Ta-Koro’s destruction.

The three Rahkshi could be barely seen among the smoke surrounding the Lake of Fire, flying away from the wreckage. As fearsome as they were, they weren’t nearly as frightening as the truth that they represented – the Makuta was still on the island, still threatening the Matoran. Some had hypothesized that Makuta was behind the Bohrok, but that rumor remained unconfirmed until now. As for the Dark Hunters…

Frosam stopped suddenly. Why didn’t he see it before? Why didn’t he predict Makuta was going to strike again? Skorpeo was well aware of Makuta still being on the island, and had said it in front of Frosam, Ikaag, and Lahka.

“Are you nuts?” hissed Skorpeo. “If we report it to the master, he’ll throw us to the Makuta! And you’ve seen what he can do!”

Frosam’s jaw clenched. He sighed, then hopped onto Ussanui. “I’m going to head for Onu-Koro,” he told Vakama. “Whenua and the others must be warned at once.”

“All alone, just you and Ussanui?” asked Vakama. “Even with the Rahkshi’s threat? Surely, you need protection - ”

“I’ll be fine!” insisted Frosam, and Ussanui began to walk away. “I promise!” He patted Ussanui’s back, and the Rahi picked up speed. Soon, Frosam and Ussanui were out of sight.

Vakama watched, his eyes narrowing slightly in concern.



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PeabodySam
post Aug 30 2009, 08:16 AM
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Chapter 3
Return of the Lord


“The Kane-Ra herd had disappeared. The dust had finally settled. Dume leapt down into the gorge and walked over to Tohu’s fallen form, laughing cruelly. The laughing ended when Dume had reached Tohu, replaced by shock.
Tohu’s armor was badly damaged; dented, pierced, and battered. But what made Dume stop laughing was Tohu’s heartlight. Despite all that damage, Tohu’s heartlight was still flashing. ‘You’re still alive!’ Dume gaped.”
- from Tohu’s Tale, as written in the fictional edition

Turaga Frosam turned to look over his shoulder at the Mangai one last time. It probably will be the last time, he thought, since without a Ta-Koro there, there would be no reason for me to come back.

He groaned and began to punch himself lightly on the head. Come on, be optimistic! As soon as these sons of Makuta are defeated, Ta-Koro will be rebuilt! It’s not going to be destroyed forever.

But try as he may to keep these pessimistic thoughts out of his head, he had a dark foreboding feeling about the fate of Ta-Koro. He sighed, and turned his head away from Ta-Koro for what he thought to be the last time. It was truly unfortunate to have to witness its destruction.

Ussanui and Frosam traveled all through the night. They had covered Ta-Wahi and were about to enter Ko-Wahi, from which they’ll take the Onu-Koro Highway and enter Onu-Koro. They stopped momentarily as to rest and to eat a few Bula fruits they had when they reached the borderline. While Ussanui slept soundly, Frosam kept wake, with too many thoughts in his mind. Not to mention he kept hearing what sounded like footprints of some large Rahi, perhaps a Kuma Nui or a particularly large Volcano Salamander, in some nearby bushes. Neither of which were particularly dangerous, but they would attack whatever they perceived to be a threat.

In addition, Frosam was a little uncomfortable after his encounter with the Rahkshi. He could still all too well remember their frightening appearance, the glow of their terrible red eyes, and the horrible screech they produced. From what Vakama had said, they were the sons of the Makuta… was it possible that he was meaning to say that Makuta “produced” Rahkshi? Could he produce more of them? And they were also seekers, searching for something that they all guessed to be the Mask of Light. Would they find Takua and Jaller?

These questions – and more – kept Frosam awake through the night. When the sun rose again, Frosam was forced to ride on Ussanui’s back, in order to not make the journey move slower by walking on foot.

Upon climbing onto Ussanui, Frosam thought he got a glimpse of a winged creature in the bushes where he heard noises coming from. Deciding to ignore it, chancing on that if you don’t bother it, then it won’t bother you, Frosam urged Ussanui on.

They traveled all afternoon. Frosam kept having the feeling that they were not alone, but they were being followed. Beneath Ussanui’s feet, the basalt of Ta-Wahi soon gave way to snow. Frosam looked up to see the great mountain of Ko-Wahi looming above them – Mt. Ihu. For many years, it had represented Ko-Koro and its people. But now, to Frosam, it only represented the former location of a terrible tower, where four equally terrible Dark Hunters had stayed in while they attempted to conquer Mata-Nui. Massive, highly defended, and dangerous, it only gave the Toa Ulti a fraction of how terrible the Dark Hunters could be.

That was on one side of the mountain. On the other side was the battlefield were a hundred or so Matoran lost their lives fighting these Dark Hunters and their robotic Nektann prototypes. Along with these Matoran, Toa Ikaag and Toa Lahka had too lost their lives. Both of these areas carried horrible memories for Frosam, memories that still haunted him.

Had Frosam a choice, he wouldn’t have come to this place. Unfortunately, he needed to pass the ruins of the Dark Hunter Tower to get to the Onu-Koro Highway.

But perhaps… perhaps there was a route that didn’t require passing the ruins of the Dark Hunter Tower?

Only a few hours of walking had gone by before the winds picked up and a small blizzard began. Cursing, Frosam reached into his pack and pulled out a Heatstone that he had obtained through Zemya, the Onu-Matoran merchant, before leaving on the journey. It provided warmth, but just barely enough. It wasn’t much later when Ussanui was too cold to even move. Frosam decided to set up camp. He built a hastily built hut out of nearby stones and blocks of ice, just large enough to have him, Ussanui, and the Heatstone inside at the same time.

They entered the hut, taking refuge from the blistering cold and the screaming winds. Ussanui curled beside the Heatstone, still shivering violently. The Rahi’s breath was clearly visible, almost giving the illusion that steam was billowing out of him. Frosam grabbed a cloak out from his bag to warm himself.

What was interesting about the island of Mata Nui was not only was it home to biomechanical Rahi, like the Ussal or the Muaka, but also home to several completely organic creatures, including a few species of birds. Some of these organic creatures possessed fibers on their body that almost felt like very soft string when touched. A couple merchants of the island sometimes hunt down these kinds of creatures, shave these fibers off the creature’s body, and weave it into a cloak. It lasted longer than ones made from plants, was warmer, and was softer.

This type of cloak was the one that Frosam possessed. He grabbed this cloak and wrapped it tightly around himself, shivering. In about an hour or so, Ussanui had fallen asleep. It would be another few hours before Frosam also fell asleep.

When he woke up, the blizzard had finally settled down. He shook Ussanui awake, and they continued their journey. Frosam, however, had not taken off his cloak, and still wore it. He noticed something was wrong.

The blizzard had covered up their tracks, as well as giving the entire area a fresh blanket of snow. Nothing looked recognizable, except the shadow of Mount Ihu in the distance. If he could make it to the mountain, he could take the Onu-Koro Highway… even if it meant having to pass the ruins of the Dark Hunter Tower.

Frosam sighed, and urged Ussanui to move in that direction.

It would be a couple hours, but it seemed like much longer to Frosam, before they reached the site of the wrecked Dark Hunter Tower. They couldn’t actually see the tower, of course, because over the past few months new blankets of snow had covered the site. What told them they were there, however, was that beneath their feet, they could feel large rocks under the snow, cast there unnaturally as though a massive titan had just dropped them there randomly.

There was little left to the tower, due to the fact the nearby Ko-Matoran had salvaged everything useful, besides being the burial spot for the three elemental monsters, as well as Skorpeo, Vicee, and Meench Vyzumi. Frosam’s hands became fists, and his jaws clenched together. Even the thought of that terrible Dark Hunter’s name was enough to bring back horrible memories. Meench Vyzumi. Although it had been months ago, Frosam remembered every moment of the battle well. They fought and chased each other around the tower, clashing staff-to-staff, sword-to-sword, or knife-to-knife, depending on what weapon of choice they were using. Frosam won the battle, but at the cost of his arms. Every day since then, it had been harder and harder to do certain tasks without feeling pain in his arms.

Frosam looked over the site, and sighed. “Your reign was terrible, Lord of Deceit,” he whispered, “but you have finally found your grave.”

“I’m terribly sorry, but it’s the contrary.”

Frosam’s eyes widened, in a mixture of shock and anger, as he heard this cold, raspy voice. He turned and faced a being that he hoped he would never lay eyes upon again: Meench Vyzumi. He was almost exactly as Frosam remembered – spider-like abdomen and legs, Toa-like torso and arms, and a spider-like head.

Of course, Vyzumi’s appearance was altered slightly. Cracks, some miniscule while others noticeable, could be found in his battered armor; cuts and bruises could be seen on various parts of the body; the gold-hued armor on his head and various parts of his body had dulled to a bronze; he seemed to be leaning his weight upon a spear that which he held, hinting that he might’ve been weak in the legs now; his eyes seemed to have a strange emotion in them… Frosam thought they were showing rage… or rather, he wanted to believe that, for they seemed to hold a more painful emotion than rage, almost sadness, or remorse …

“You!” whispered Frosam, with barely contained hatred. “You’re supposed to be dead! You didn’t shield yourself… you should be buried under all the snow and the rubble of the Dark Hunter Tower!”

Vyzumi gave a half-smile. “Yes, I do suppose that I should be… but miraculously, I survived. I have been in a coma for the past several months, but I have regained consciousness.” A short pause, and he added more quietly: “Unfortunately, for you. The Shadowed One would expect no less of me than to kill you right now.”

“If you weren’t dead before,” hissed Frosam, revealing his Quake Staff, “you will be!” He ran towards Vyzumi, who simply battered him aside with his spear. Frosam landed in the snow but quickly got up.

Ussanui charged, too. Vyzumi simply sidestepped and let the Rahi run right past him. Frosam took this moment to go for Vyzumi again, swinging his Quake Staff. The Dark Hunter parried with his spear, and then attacked. Frosam held the Quake Staff to block it, but when the blow was blocked, it triggered a painful reaction in his arms. Trying to ignore it, Frosam blocked another blow from Vyzumi. Another painful response. This time, Frosam’s legs buckled, and he fell to his knees, panting and in pain. Multiple reactions in his arms had usually not happened in the same hour, so it was an experience Frosam would hope never to relieve.

“So,” Vyzumi noted, his voice surprisingly calm, “it seems those scars I gave you… oh, yes, they have indeed crippled you. A sad way to go down, but let’s both face it – whether or not I want to, I am forced to have to kill you unless the Shadowed One thinks me dead.”

Frosam blinked. Vyzumi’s choice of words made it seem as though he didn’t want to kill Frosam, but was forced to unless for some reason the Shadowed One thought Vyzumi to be dead. He’s trying to deceive me again, decided Frosam. I won’t let him!

He got up and made a poor attempt to attack. Vyzumi blocked and immediately attacked. Frosam blocked, but dropped his Quake Staff from sheer pain of his arms. He fell to the snow, and didn’t think he had the strength to get up. Instead, he looked up to see Vyzumi to deliver the final blow. The Dark Hunter lifted his spear, and suddenly, he hesitated. Why is he hesitating? thought Frosam. Go ahead! Kill me! It would actually be a relief… to rid me of this painful life.

Vyzumi’s split second of hesitation had ended, and he began to lower the spear towards Frosam’s body.

The final blow never came. An invisible force had hit Vyzumi before the attack was completed. Knocked unconscious, Meench Vyzumi fell to the ground.

That’s when Frosam noticed footprints in the snow… that seemed to belong to nobody. A second later, Turaga Vakama seemingly materialized out of thin air. Out from behind several snowdrifts popped members of the Ta-Koro guard. Among them, Frosam recognized Agni, Weeljak, and Zeeroa. The Ta-Matoran quickly surrounded Vyzumi. They hand cuffed him, and placed pieces of metal over his eyes. They began to drag him away.

Vakama turned and helped Frosam to his feet. He smiled and pointed to his Noble Kanohi Huna.

“Ah, I see,” nodded Frosam. “Invisibility. A good trick.”

“I figured that you needed a bit of protection,” Vakama replied. “After the appearance of the Rahkshi, it’s best that nobody travels alone… even if their only companion is a Rahi. Loyal, yes, but a Rahi might not be of much help in a fight.”

Frosam watched Vyzumi being dragged away. “Will he be secure?”

Vakama nodded. “A shield won’t do much for him. When his hands are cuffed behind his back, a power blast would be unwise. Same thing with laser vision: if he tries to use that, the pieces of metal will melt… and it would be painful. We’re bringing him to a cell made using a substance similar to that used in the jail that he had in his cave in Po-Wahi… Protosteel, I think it is?”

“Good,” smiled Frosam for the first time since the Kolhii tournament. “We don’t want him to escape, now, do we?”

“Of course not,” Vakama agreed. “Now, I shall accompany you to Onu-Koro. The Ta-Matoran have been residing in other Koro, lately. We should also check on how Onu-Koro is doing.”

It wasn’t long before they reached the Onu-Koro Highway. The Onu-Koro Highway was a long tunnel that was used to connect Mount Ihu and Onu-Koro. The tunnel was also home to strange fern-like plants that gave off a blue glow, thus making it so that Lightstones weren’t needed in the tunnels.

Footprints in the snow nearby the Onu-Koro Highway revealed that two Matoran and perhaps an Ussal had already been here. Frosam and Vakama traded glances. It seemed likely to assume that Takua, Jaller, and Pewku had gone this way.

A bit of walking in the tunnels, and suddenly a tall, white and silver armored being stopped them in their path: Toa Kopaka Nuva. “You have to turn back,” the Toa of Ice told them.

“Why can’t we go to Onu-Koro?” asked Frosam. Ussanui gave a chirping sound.

“Three Rahkshi attacked,” Kopaka stated, “and Onua had to bring down the tunnels to get rid of them.”

Frosam glanced at Vakama, in worry. “Is everyone alright?” inquired Vakama.

“Most of the Onu-Matoran, along with your Turaga, got out safely,” Kopaka informed them. He said no more than that. There was no need to inform them that the Toa Nuva’s power might be diminished by one-third.

It was better - it seemed - to keep it a secret.



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PeabodySam
post Sep 6 2009, 10:54 AM
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Chapter 4
The Shadows that Shift


“There’s been some talk in the Koro, today. Apparently, Mleot heard one of those creatures guarding the village talking to another. They’ve received word from someone they called ‘Teridax,’ and are off to invade an island called Mata Nui. Whoever lives on this island of Mata Nui, I hope they know what they’re in for. The Shifting Shadows are terrible, terrible creatures.”
- from Collected Writings of Wodahs Nui

It had been a week. But in that time, so much had happened. Six Rahkshi had attacked Takua and Jaller while they were at Kini-Nui. The Toa Nuva arrived, and managed to defeat five of the Rahkshi. The sixth one, a red-gray armored one called Turahk, attempted to kill Takua, but failed when Jaller took the blow for himself. Takua donned the Kanohi Avohkii and became a Toa of Light! Now going by the name Takanuva, he confronted the Makuta, where a mock Kolhii match was held. Takanuva won the match, seemed to have killed Makuta, and rediscovered an ancient city located under Mata Nui, a city the other Turaga called Metru Nui.

Because Metru Nui was located in the center of an underground ocean referred to as the Silver Sea, the Matoran and Toa Nuva had been building boats in the past few days, preparing for the journey that was about to come.

During this time, Vakama and the other Turaga revealed to the Toa Nuva a secret they had kept for a thousand years – a thousand years ago, the Matoran who lived on Mata Nui lived in Metru Nui, and it was a great, prosperous, and beautiful city. Six of these Matoran became Toa Metru, who soon had to save the population from Makuta’s evil. These Toa Metru, after dealing with danger after danger, finally got the Matoran to an island refuge – Mata Nui – and became Turaga, the same six Turaga who had been chiefs of the six Koro for the past thousand years.

This came as no surprise to Frosam, already having gone through the Matoran-Toa-Turaga cycle.

The tale was ended, and the boats were almost finished. They would be leaving for Metru Nui soon.

*****

This is… most certainly annoying.

Of course, it’s nothing much to worry about. This heavy weight might have damaged my armor, and a bit of my substance leaked out, but not enough to cause much worry. Oh, yes, I’m still alive… or at least, as ‘alive’ as any other of my species can be.

I have sent for them… oh, yes, I have. They will come soon. More cunning than Rahkshi, more powerful than Visorak, they will not disappoint.

No, they will come. They will invade. They will give those fools a mere two weeks to hold up a white flag. After that, it’s endless destruction for those pitiful fools.

Those fools will think that my minions are merely Visorak in different armor and different power – tons of stupid Rahi who simply live to destroy. But these are neither Visorak nor Rahi, not stupid, and are capable of much worse things than total destruction.
They will free me from this state, for even my powers cannot lift this heavy weight. Oh, yes, they will free me.

Everything shall go according to the Plan, which involves the precise timing… those Matoran will go to Metru Nui exactly when it is time, when I say so, when I tell the Shifting Shadows to leave… for none have ever escaped the Shifting Shadows otherwise.


*****

The Toa Nuva and the Turaga gathered near Kini-Nui for what might seem to be the last time. “Are we ready to depart?” asked Tahu, stroking his chin with his index finger. Vakama’s tale had ended a few days ago, and the Toa of Fire was impatient to get to this ancient city of Metru Nui.

“Well,” Vakama began to reply, “the boats are ready, the supplies are packed, so I do think that we should be ready to leave within the hour - ”

Nokama ran over, pointing to the sky. “Vakama!” she panted. “Look up!” Vakama looked. Tahu looked. The other Toa Nuva and Turaga looked up.

A thick layer of storm clouds had suddenly covered up the sky, of which just a few minutes ago had been clear.

Vakama frowned as he looked at this. “Hmm,” he murmured, scratching his head, “then again, it may be unwise to leave by boat when a storm shall occur. It may increase the potential danger. Despite our using subterranean tunnels and rivers, a heavy rainstorm on the surface may create mudslides that may flow into the tunnels and… Well, we may have to wait until tomorrow before we leave.”

“Tomorrow?” repeated Lewa, a bit uneasy and shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “We’ve been ever-anxious about getting to the old-city, and we must push it off by another day?

“I know how you feel,” Vakama smiled, “but as I said it’s much safer to go when there is not a storm. Tomorrow, the storm should pass… and we can go to Metru Nui.” Not without a bit of grumbling, the Toa Nuva departed. The other Turaga also left, leaving only Nokama and Vakama. He glanced at the Turaga of Water, and suppressed a smile, before walking away.

But Nokama was no fool. She could see there was worry in the old Turaga of Fire’s eyes. He was praying that something wasn’t going to happen. Something much more dangerous than a mere storm. And I hope that all we get is a storm, Nokama thought. For what Vakama hopes not to happen is a very dark thing that the Toa Nuva are better off never encountering. She sighed, and shook her head. How will they react, I wonder… when they have been encountering this ‘thing’ ever since they arrived on this island?

*****

Far out into the Endless Ocean northwest Mata Nui was a sandbar, large enough that it actually emerged from the waves. The sandbar was actually a tunnel that led deep beneath the waves, but none could access the tunnel, for it was blocked. And it had remained blocked for thousands of years.

All seemed quiet and still, as was usual. If anyone was there to witness, they might have heard a faint noise, very faint and distant. They might have placed their ear to the millennia-old rock blocking the tunnel, and heard the noise more audibly. Small cracks spread through the rocks like an expanding spiderweb, and a split second later, the large rocks exploded. Fragments of these huge boulders were sent flying out into the ocean, causing a bit of unsettling amongst a school of Ruki. A creature stepped out from the newly carved opening, spread his enormous wings, and took to the air. Behind him, several hundred more of his kind did the same.

The invasion had begun.

*****

The clouds had thickened, to the point where all sunlight was blocked, throwing the island into an eerie darkness. Due to this, sundials were not in use, so the Matoran, Turaga, and Toa Nuva had to rely on Nuparu’s few Sunless Sundials in order to tell the time. According to the Sunless Sundials, it was almost twilight.

Not far from Kini-Nui, basically where everyone was waiting, Turaga Frosam had looked up to the sky, muttering under his breath that if the clouds continued to thicken, there was probably going to be a hurricane, and that would greatly delay the trip to Metru Nui.

Vakama walked next to Frosam, lying his hand on the Turaga’s shoulder. “I know how you feel, Frosam,” the wise Turaga of Fire assured, “but I promise you, we’ll leave for Metru Nui very soon.”

Frosam turned to look at Vakama. “Yes, but Vakama, there’s something strange about these clouds. I am not one with the weather, and I am not particularly good at studying clouds, but these seem almost… unnatural. I just feel like something bad is going to…” Frosam broke off in mid-sentence. He studied Vakama’s expression and knew that he was not listening, but instead watching something in the sky. He followed Vakama’s eyes and saw that he had noticed what appeared to be a small, darker cloud in the sky, which seemed to be traveling quickly at a relatively low altitude, blowing in from the northwest.

Vakama bit his lip in anxiety, and turned around to face Turaga Nuju and his translating companion, Matoro. “Matoro,” Vakama asked, “can you study that cloud over there? You see it?”

Matoro glanced at Vakama, then looked to where the Turaga was pointing. Being a Matoran, he could not use the powers of the Kanohi, but the eyepiece attachment added to an Akaku could be used even by a Matoran. His Akaku’s lens piece zoomed in on the cloud. Matoro suddenly drew back in fear. “That… that… that’s no cloud!”

“Excuse me?” asked Frosam, raising an eyebrow. The other Turaga and the Toa Nuva had turned to stare at Matoro.

“Those… those are… bats, or something… or perhaps winged serpents,” Matoro continued. “I cannot make out exactly what they are, but…”

Nokama gave a worried glance at Vakama, who looked as though he had just accidentally snapped the Vahi in half. The Turaga of Fire spoke after a moment, but his voice was so low and so grave, it could barely be heard:

“They’re coming.”

“Who’s coming?” asked Tahu, storming over with his arms crossed.

Vakama did not reply. “To the boats, now!” he shouted. The Toa Nuva ran towards Kini-Nui. The Turaga were not as fortunate, being unable to walk as fast. The Toa needed to stop and attempt to help their Turaga by letting them ride on their backs. Nobody had room for Frosam, so he had to whistle and call over Ussanui to give him a ride. Everyone raced towards Kini-Nui.

But they were not fast enough.

Within minutes, the shadow of the swarm of creatures had fallen upon the group of fleeing Toa and Turaga, just as they reached Kini-Nui, where most of the Matoran population waited. The first of them landed in front of Ussanui, and with a frightened screech, the Rahi came to a halt. Frosam pushed Ussanui’s head, to make it easier to see what was in front of them. What he saw shocked him so much, he nearly fell off Ussanui.

The creature before Frosam was not a specimen Frosam had ever seen before, but its form was frighteningly familiar. It was like a massive serpent with a pair of limbs; limbs that seem to be both legs and arms at the same time. Two pairs of wings sprouted from its spine, frightening and bat-like, as well as rows of sharp spines. His armor was black, with hints of blue and purple. Most horrifying of all, the creature’s eyes burned with conquest and hunger.

The creature analyzed Frosam and Ussanui. His mouth curled into a grotesque imitation of a smile, and he made rough noises which vaguely sounded like a chuckle. “Prepare yourself,” the creature spoke, “the nightmare’s begun… and you cannot wake up!”

All around them, more of these creatures landed. Each one laughed, and some moved to attack. Some Matoran backed away, others moved to defend the Turaga, while still others stood beside the Toa Nuva, ready to fight. The battle began, and soon the Toa Nuva were combating the creatures, but to no avail.

One of these creatures, whose armor was gray with hints of various shades of green, confronted Vakama, and the Ta-Matoran fighters gathered around the Turaga. One of the Ta-Matoran, identifiable as Weeljak, stepped forward, wielding his spear. “Back, now! You shall not come closer! If you want our Turaga, you shall have to go through us first!”

The gray-green creature smiled and replied: “Very well.” He did nothing for a moment, but then abruptly spread out all four wings and opened his mouth, revealing rows of deadly sharp teeth, and let out a roar, so intense it was nearly an ear-piercing screech. Weeljak’s brave expression faded and he ran away screaming, the other Ta-Matoran trailing behind, leaving only Vakama standing there.

His expression was stern and serious, and he held onto his Firestaff not as though it were a cane, but as though it were a sword. The gray-green creature chuckled. “You’re next, Turaga!” he laughed. “Might as well run now, it makes things easier for the both of us.”

Vakama spat on the creature’s foot. “Run, from you? I’d sooner run from an annoying Brakas than to run from you, Murtak!

The creature, whose name seemed to be Murtak, rose his head in a bit of surprise. Then once again, Murtak’s expression became that of a dark smile, though now there was more darkness in the smile. “Well, well, well… what is this? This is intriguing. Barok!” he called.

The black-blue creature near Frosam and Ussanui, whose name must’ve been Barok, turned away and looked at Murtak and Vakama. He smiled too, and replied, “Wow, this is an interesting surprise!” He walked over and stood beside Murtak.

Murtak stared at Vakama. “Well, then,” he said at last, “if it isn’t Vakama! Such a… pleasant reunion!”

Vakama’s expression had not changed. “So, you remember me, don’t you?”

Barok laughed. “Of course we remember you! Last we saw you, you were on Metru Nui, all alone and fleeing from us.”

Vakama’s expression darkened. “I’m done with running.”

Before this conversation continued any further, Toa Tahu jumped in their midst, and fought again the creatures with his ignited Magma Swords. The Magma Swords never landed a hard blow on their target, always missing or being deflected by a claw.

Meanwhile, afraid of triggering another painful reaction in his arms, Frosam could not fight. All he could do was look around in fear, and whisper into Ussanui’s ear: “What are they? What do they want?”

Hold it! Stop the fighting, I said stop the fighting! Now!

Everyone, whether they were a Matoran, Toa, or one of these creatures, stopped fighting and looked up. Descending from the skies was yet another creature, with black and silver armor. However, this one seemed different, almost looking stronger, more muscular, and covered with battle scars, as well as looking a bit more handsome than the rest of the creatures, who were ugly or monstrous. A few creatures backed away, forming a circle for this creature to land in the center of. He looked left and right, his eyes scanning the watching Matoran, Toa, and Turaga. His eyes were cold and calculating, the kind that would belong to a Barraki or a war veteran.

All was silent for a moment. Then the creature announced, “I need to speak to a representative of this island. Who shall be this representative?”

Almost immediately, Tahu shoved aside a few creatures and stood in the circle with the creature, his eyes looking bravely into those of the other’s. “I shall,” he replied. “My name is Toa Tahu Nuva, and you have no right to be on this island!”

The other smiled. “No right, you say?” he asked. “I am Denethok, ruler of the Shifting Shadows, who now stand amongst you this night. We have been summoned to this island, and now the island is ours.”

Tahu’s eyes narrowed and he raised a Magma Sword to point at Denethok. “Not while I have anything to say about it! Get off this island, now, or else I’ll kick your ashes off!”

Denethok raised one claw and lowered the Magma Sword. “You lack the guts, Tahu. Sure, you may think you’re brave and strong and all, but can you really stand up to a Shifting Shadow, before the fear and the weakness settle in? Perhaps if you’d give me a moment, I could explain the situation you and your people are in.”

Tahu snarled, and his Magma Swords began to burn. That’s when Onua spoke up. “Tahu,” he called, “let him speak.” Tahu shot a glare at the Toa of Earth, then reluctantly put away his Toa Tools.

Denethok nodded. “Thank you,” he said, though whether it was directed to Tahu or Onua was unknown. He spoke louder, so that every Matoran, Toa, and Turaga in the area could hear. “We, the Shifting Shadows, have arrived, and now the island is ours. We will, however, give helpless foes a chance to surrender. We shall have a peace agreement, which will last for two weeks’ time. When that time is over, we shall meet again. If you surrender, I guarantee that there will be… less pain involved. But, if you fail to give up the island, we shall have to take it by force. And you cannot imagine how many Matoran can die and suffer before that is through. You will die, for you cannot defy the rule of the Makuta. But, as I said, if you surrender - ”

“The rule of the Makuta?” repeated Tahu; the anger in his voice could not be concealed. “The Makuta does not rule this island! If you work for the Makuta, you must be mistaken – he is dead!”

“Dead?” smiled Denethok. He made a low laugh. “No, it is you who are mistaken. As I was going to say: But, if you surrender, there’s going to be a more peaceful handing over of this island, and I’m sure Makuta would grant you a bit more mercy.”

“Go ahead!” spoke Lewa. “Quick-take the island for all we care! We’re not going to be on Mata Nui much longer anyways, so what does it matter to us?”

Denethok turned to look at the Toa Nuva of Air. “Ah, that is a good point you bring up, Toa. You see, even during the two-week Peace Treaty, all ways to leave the island – including this temple, Kini-Nui – shall be blocked off. The Makuta personally requests your presence on this island, or else this island is not of much use to us. But, of course, if needed, we can kill you.” The Shifting Shadow turned his massive body to look at Tahu. “Now, do we agree on this? A two-week Peace Treaty, during which no Shifting Shadow can harm any of you for as long as none of you harm us, then a decision whether or not to hand over the island?”

Tahu looked slightly uneasy. This was the first time in his role of being a leader that he did not know what to decide. His eyes scanned the crowd of Matoran, Turaga, and Toa Nuva, seeking assistance.

Denethok shrugged. “I guess then I can make things a bit easier. Shake, if you agree.” He lifted one of his claws off the ground, and held it in front of Tahu. The Toa Nuva of Fire looked at it as though it were a Doom Viper. “What, it’s a handshake! Ever heard of them?” Still, Tahu could not bring himself to shake his hand with a claw as big as his torso, a claw that belonged to a dragon-like creature. “Oh, I see. Perhaps this could help you feel more comfortable, Tahu?”

To the shock of the watching Matoran, Turaga, and Toa Nuva, the serpent-like form of Denethok began to change. Two of his wings disappeared into his spine, while the other two began to form arms and hands. His leg-arms became just legs, and his body changed from serpentine to humanoid. His face changed too, first becoming a face of a Toa, then a Kanohi Mask that Tahu could not identify formed over that face. Where a few seconds ago there stood a dragon-like creature, there now stood a tall humanoid warrior. Denethok reached out his new hand. “There you go, now does this make you feel more comfortable to shake?”

Tahu was more shocked now than ever, but now at least Denethok no longer looked like a serpent, so it made him the slightest bit more comfortable. Tahu reached out, grabbed Denethok’s hand, and shook it.

Behind Denethok’s mask, he smiled. Almost as soon as Tahu let go, Denethok changed back into his serpentine form. “Good choice. We’ll take up residence on this island for a little while, if you don’t mind. Two weeks from now, we’ll be back here, at Kini-Nui, to discuss whether you surrender… or perish.” Denethok spread his massive wings, and took flight. Most of the Shifting Shadow legion did the same. A few stood behind, in order to guard Kini-Nui.

Only a few Matoran were wounded during the attack, and they were being treated by several Ga-Matoran. The Toa Nuva gathered together, and so did the Turaga. Vakama, however, was an exception, for something in the past hour had made him more alienated from everyone else, and so he stood alone.

Frosam looked around, from his viewpoint on Ussanui’s back. What could all this mean? The Turaga of Earth also thought he remembered the name Shifting Shadows somewhere… “Of course,” he muttered. “Back in the outskirts of Ga-Wahi, when Skorpeo and Vicee were talking, Skorpeo mentioned them. I remember asking Vakama about them, and…” He stopped short. Maybe it was because he realized he was talking to himself, but it was more likely because he remembered a shocking revelation that occurred when Denethok introduced himself and his species as being the Shifting Shadows.

The creature… the one who saved Frosam from the Dark Hunter Tower…

Vakama had said that this creature had been betrayed by his fellow species, so he wiped out the rest of his species, but of course this could not be true if Frosam’s hunch was correct…

Lhii was a lie, Frosam thought to himself bitterly. Many details of our Turaga’s pasts were lies. Even some elements of our famous Legend of Mata Nui were lies. Soon, I shall find out if what Vakama told me was a lie, too.



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PeabodySam
post Sep 13 2009, 09:33 AM
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Chapter 5
Prisoner


“Of course, having my name translated literally as ‘Lord of Deceit’ in the native tongue of Nuoka’s species, I should know lying perfectly well. At times, lying is a crime one should not commit, lest they end up in more trouble than they can get out of. Other times, lying is perfectly necessary; for example, for if I didn’t lie, they’d all be dead. And who’d be left to take their place?”
- from The Journal of Meench Vyzumi

Turaga Frosam leaned on his Quake Staff, tired. It was, after all, close to midnight. He wiped the rain, slowly falling from the sky and managing to fall through the canopy of Le-Wahi tree leaves above, off his mask, and listened intently to what was to come.

He looked around and saw the other Toa Nuva, Takanuva, and Hahli also waiting. Frosam also noticed how Hahli seemed to be uncomfortable, as though she feared what she was about to chronicle. Myself? Frosam thought. I’m only hear to hear what the Turaga have to say, then I have to ask Vakama a question.

At last, the waiting was over. Standing in the center of the dimly lit ruins of an ancient Kini, Vakama turned to face the onlookers. Frosam could not help but notice how pained and fearful Vakama seemed. His expression was stern, but his eyes gave away his feelings.

Vakama cleared his voice. “As you know by now,” he began, “the island of Mata Nui is going to play host for the Shifting Shadows, horrible creatures affiliated with the Brotherhood of Makuta, who have the rare ability of shape-shifting. They can in fact take on any form for twenty-four-hour periods before switching back to their natural forms, which would be the serpent-like forms you have all seen. Their only exception would be they cannot take on the exact form of another being. They shall give us two weeks’ time to surrender or perish.”

Almost in recognition of what Vakama said, Frosam shivered, for he thought the rain had grown a bit colder.

“As many before me have said, it is better to die with honor than to live as a slave, and if we surrender, we shall be made worse than slaves. In these two weeks, we must prepare for the battle to come. Therefore, it is only right that you know as much about the enemy as possible. Because of that, I have one more tale about Metru Nui to tell, one that fits this cold, rainy night.”

Frosam scratched his eyes a moment, trying to stay awake, then leaned upon his Quake Staff to hear this tale. In the corner of his eye, he saw Takanuva whispering something to Hahli, who was getting ready to record the Turaga’s recollection.

Vakama stood up straight, and looked down upon the watching group. He cleared his voice again, and began: “In the time before the Toa-Dark Hunter War, but not too long after Lhikan’s fight with the Kanohi Dragon, there was an invasion. The creatures you now know as Shifting Shadows attacked Metru Nui. It seems they still use the same strategy as always, for the leader of the Shifting Shadows spoke to Turaga Dume, and offered a two-week peace agreement. Sure enough, two weeks went by, and Dume, after many discussions with Lhikan, Nidhiki, and the other Toa Mangai of Metru Nui, refused the leader’s offer. War broke out, and it was terrible – just terrible! It soon become unsafe for Matoran to leave their homes, for around every corner there was a Shifting Shadow, waiting to ambush. Nidhiki and the other Toa fought well, but their efforts were not good enough to fight away the creatures. Lhikan, however, fought exceptionally well for reasons not yet explained, for almost every Shifting Shadow he hit with his fires died instantly. But this was not enough.” Vakama paused, wiped the rain off his mask, and took a deep breath.

Frosam continued to watch Vakama’s eyes, and noticed how they hinted that he was trying to decide something, as though how to word his statements. What is he trying to do? Frosam thought. Haven’t we been lied to enough already, without him having to worry about wording his statements in a certain way?

Vakama’s hesitation was brief. “There is only one reason that Metru Nui continued to remain a glorious and prosperous city for the next 2,400 years. There was a bit of unsettling and clashing amongst the Shifting Shadows, as though there was a dispute over who was in charge. Lhikan had taken advantage of this unsettling to greatly wipe out the Shifting Shadows’ numbers. In fact, most of the Shifting Shadows that invaded earlier tonight are new ones, not from this invasion on Metru Nui. However, Denethok was present during the siege of Metru Nui, and to have survived that war makes him a cold, cunning war veteran. Eventually, when their numbers were low, the Shifting Shadows were forced to retreat, and were not heard from for quite a while.” Vakama said no more, confirming that his story was at an end. For a few seconds, the only sound that could be heard was the sound of falling rain, and Hahli’s carving tool recording the final words of the tale into a tablet.

Tahu spoke up. “So, exactly what was Lhikan’s secret? How was he able to kill a Shifting Shadow in one blow, while I could barely leave a scar on their hideous hides?”

Vakama glared at Tahu. “If you had been listening, I said these reasons are yet to be explained! If I knew why, do you honestly think I would not tell you?”

Tahu looked taken back, but cleared his voice and asked: “But, is there anyone who could possibly tell us?”

Frosam thought for a moment. If there was anyone who knew the answer, what were the chances of that someone being on this island?

*****

Not too far away, Meench Vyzumi sat half-asleep, with his head resting on one hand.

He had been trying to find a way out of his prison cell for hours before, until he concluded that the bars of his cell were made of Protosteel. That said, Vyzumi figured there was no way out unless someone outside could let him out.

Footsteps.

Vyzumi became alert almost immediately. He lifted his head off his hand, and looked around.

Yes, he had heard right. Footsteps. From between the bars of his confinement, he could vaguely see two beings, barely visible in the darkness, moving toward the cell. Their voices were undoubtedly recognizable, for Vyzumi had heard them before in the past.

“Come on, I tell you! We’ve got to see what’s in here!”

“Why did you even bring me here?”

“What are you, a cowardly Toa?”

“No, I’m a Shifting Shadow, you piece of scum!”

“Well, then, prove yourself worthy of the name! Stop being a cowardly Toa, or else that’s what the others are going to call you! ‘Toa Barok’. Doesn’t that sound… fitting for your weakling personality?”

“Shut up! You are a filthy piece of a Muaka’s breakfast!”

“I know. I’m so good at it, too!”

“So, what the Karzahni are you looking for down here anyways, scum?”

“Well, this area is secret. It’s a passageway only I could discover.”

“Technically, Sroorw discovered it.”

“Well, yeah, he discovered it, but I’m exploring it! Sroorw is too stupid to investigate this anyway, always off and about blowing something up.”

“Like he blew apart that Kini?”

“Yes, just like when he blew apart that Kini. So, I was thinking that the Matoran must’ve built this passageway, to try and hide something.”

“Hide something… bah! As though they could hide anything from me!”

“Weapons, armor, war creatures… all of these could be hiding down here, to… prolong the fighting. We must strike and destroy them before the war begins!”

“But, you have to admit, they do make the war a little more fun.”

“Fun? I suppose you find crushing tiny little Water Ants ‘fun’, too. You keep doing that; it’s those like me - who go around crushing larger and more important things - that will dominate the universe.”

“Right… it’s also those like you that will totally mess up and lose control of domination, to those like me!”

“Shut up, what do you know?”

“More than you do.”

They were in front of Vyzumi’s cell now. The spider-like being sat, placid and serious. Now, he could clearly see that two Shifting Shadows, namely the black-blue armored one named Barok and the gray-green hued one named Murtak, were the ones that stood outside the cell.

Barok looked inside the prison. “Hey!” he hissed, glancing angrily at Murtak. “This isn’t the armory!”

Murtak only seemed to smile. “Not the armory, but look what we did find. It’s our old pal… Meench Vyzumi!”

Barok was smiling now, too. He spat through the bars; the saliva landing on Vyzumi’s cheek. “Ah, yes, the one who abandoned the Brotherhood for smaller things, like the Dark Hunters.”

Vyzumi’s eyes did not waver. He simply wiped the spit off his face, and coldly replied: “I was never directly affiliated with the Brotherhood. Only once they adopted freaks like you into their legion did I become indirectly involved.”

“You could’ve had potential,” shrugged Murtak. “The Brotherhood’s leader has room for almost anyone in his plans. But no. You went down the wrong path. You became a Dark Hunter. And now, look at you. The brave warrior that fought strongly against us during the war between the Brotherhood and the Dark Hunters… now in a prison, all alone. Who locked you in there? The Matoran?” He laughed.

Vyzumi stood up, though his expression did not change, and his voice remained icy cold. “And what would they do to you, then? They could capture you in simple Sand Snipe traps.”

“You forget your place, Vyzumi,” hissed Barok. “And when somebody forgets their place… someone will get hurt.” His form changed quickly. He took on the form of some sort of squid-like Rahi, with hundreds of appendages, each ending in a long, wicked blade. Barok provokingly stuck one of these limbs into Vyzumi’s confinement.

“You’re right,” nodded Vyzumi. “Someone does get hurt.” With that, he grabbed the appendage with amazing speed, twisted it until Barok cried out in pain, then used his laser vision to cut the appendage off Barok’s hideous body.

Unable to stand the pain, Barok returned to his natural form. A small piece of his left wing happened to be missing, and the twisted limb that Vyzumi now held did not change form.

“Let’s go,” Murtak ordered Barok. “We’ll deal with this one later.” The two Shifting Shadows walked back through the tunnel in the direction that which they came, with Barok cursing under his breath.

Vyzumi waited until they were out of sight, then looked over the blade that stuck out of the appendage. He tapped it a few times, then groaned, and tossed it out of the cell. “What luck – it’s not made of Protosteel.”

*****

Frosam waited until everyone had departed. As usual, Vakama was the last to leave. Before the Turaga of Fire could step down from the Kini, Frosam stopped him. “Vakama, I need to have a word with you.”

Vakama turned to look at Frosam. “What is it? I’ve told you almost everything I know about the Shifting Shadows already.”

Frosam shook his head. “Not everything, Turaga. You see, a few months ago, I had seen a Shifting Shadow. You knew. You knew that it was a Shifting Shadow who saved me.”

Vakama stared hard at Frosam. “So, you have figured it out after all,” he nodded. “I knew you would. There is no longer a need to keep a secret that cannot be kept any longer.”

“A secret?” repeated Frosam, with a trace of anger in his voice. “What is the point of keeping secrets at all? Why is it that you, Nokama, Onewa, and the rest always keep secrets? Why can’t you once tell us the truth, and only the truth? What is the true story of the Shifting Shadow who rescued me from the Dark Hunter Tower?”

Vakama sighed, and sat down on the hard rock that made up the Kini. “Frosam, I’m sorry. Some things must be kept secret, in order to best protect others. For example, Metru Nui was all a secret, in order to protect Matoran from foolish efforts to reach the ancient city. If I had told you the creature’s story then, it would have been foolish.”

“In what way?” Frosam inquired.

“For one thing, it’s a confusing matter to think of an evil creature, such as a Shifting Shadow, who works for the light instead. For another, it would have revealed Metru Nui to you.”

“How so?”

Vakama smiled for the first time that night. He stood up and replied: “Nothing I said in the tale about the invasion of Metru Nui was a lie. Including the fact that I always mentioned ‘the leader’ of the Shifting Shadows… I never said that the leader I was talking about was Denethok.” Before Frosam could ask further, Vakama said, “Goodnight,” and began to walk away.

Grumbling, Frosam walked away too, and climbed onto Ussanui’s back. The Remos had been waiting not too far away from the meeting’s location, but far enough away as to not cause a disturbance. “Turaga can be so… difficult sometimes.”

But Frosam thought over what Vakama had said. It was a hint, a clue: designed to lead Frosam to the conclusion that the Shifting Shadow that saved him was a former leader of the Shifting Shadows. Then I’m betting that he’s eager for revenge, thought Frosam.

*****

Having great wingspans and tremendous strength, Shifting Shadows travel fastest when flying. It should come as no surprise, then, that only ten minutes after the encounter with Vyzumi, Barok and Murtak were far from Vyzumi’s cell. They descended down from the skies, landing in a volcanic region. Only hours ago, a massive fortress had been raised from the lava flow in this area, by the work of a hundred Shifting Shadows, half in the forms of Gravity Rahkshi, the other in the forms of Molecular Disruption Rahkshi. The group of Gravity Rahkshi had decreased the fortress’s gravity, causing it to rise out of the lava. The Molecular Disruption Rahkshi had rearranged the rock molecules near the foundations of the fortress, to better strengthen it against lava. The fortress was damaged and twisted, due to exposure from the lava, but it had been exactly what the Shifting Shadows wanted.

“That is absolutely the last time I’m following you anywhere!” grumbled Barok, as he followed Murtak into the fortress. He was still licking his damaged wing, trying to soothe the pain.

Trying not to laugh about the ironic timing of the statement, Murtak replied: “Yes, but the fact that Vyzumi is on this island could prove valuable information to Denethok. Also, did you ever tell Denethok that Vakama was on this island?”

Barok stopped in his tracks. “No, I never did.”

Murtak chuckled. “Good. Presenting twice as much information is never a bad thing.”

The two Shifting Shadows walked through the fortress, walking amongst hundreds of other Shifting Shadows. Eventually, they had reached the top of the tallest, most twisted, most frightening tower in the fortress… naturally, the place where Denethok would take up residence.

They entered. Denethok was turned away from them, looking out the window of the tower. “Find anything?” he asked, without looking at them.

Murtak spoke up first. “Meench Vyzumi is here, confined in a prison of protosteel bars.”

Denethok chuckled. “Vyzumi, huh? He may prove… useful, perhaps. Anything else?”

This time Barok managed to speak up. “I also found out who else is on this island. Prepare yourself; this might come as a bit of a shock.”

Denethok raised an eyebrow, and turned to face them. “Oh? And who is this?”

“Vakama.” Both Shifting Shadows had replied at the same time, then they both glared at each other. Barok was simply continuing what he was saying; Murtak always likes to be a leader, not a follower, so he tried to say it before Barok – the result was they both spoke in unison.

Denethok’s eyes widened, just a bit. “Vakama? So, it seems now he has moved from Metru Nui to Mata Nui.” He smiled. “I hope he welcomes our stay. It’s been so long since we last saw each other… we should arrange a meeting!”

*****

Once again, Vyzumi sat in his cell, half asleep with his head resting on one hand. But, it came as no surprise to him that once again he heard footsteps, so he was ready to be alert again.

This time, it was no Shifting Shadow. The being came alone, did not speak while walking, and was a tall, silver-armored warrior, wearing a Kanohi Volitak and wielding a massive staff as long as he was tall. He stopped outside Vyzumi’s cell, looked at the captive, and nodded. “I expected to find you here.” His voice was deep and powerful.

Vyzumi smiled. “Who knows you’re here?”

“Nobody that can’t be trusted, if that’s what you’re asking,” the being replied.

“Got any Protosteel in that staff of yours?” asked Vyzumi.

The being looked it over. “Sorry. Wish I did, but Protosteel is so hard to find these days.”

“Well, looks like I’m stuck in here for a little longer,” shrugged Vyzumi. “So, what are you here for, then?”

“Just figured you’d be interested in current events,” the being replied.

“Ah, good. I’ve been waiting for an update.”

“I can’t tell you as much as usual, but I can tell you about Ofinjur.”

“Ofinjur? What happened?”

“He’s… disappeared. All that we know is that there was a note in his quarters, which read: Aeimla has returned. I’ve gone to help her.

“Aeimla? Wasn’t she the one who…?”

“Yes, which makes it all the more confusing.”

“Hmm… I might want to find out more about this later. Anything else? What about the Shadowed One?”

“Oh, I think you’d like this one. The Shadowed One thinks you are possibly dead. As long as he thinks that, you are officially no longer part of the Dark Hunters.”

“He thinks I’m… dead?” A smile began to creep along Vyzumi’s mouth. “It’s finally happened! I’m… free! I don’t have to continue this mission!”

“In that case, your new mission is to help this island defend against the Shifting Shadows. However, we’re going to need to find someone else who can continue your previous mission. Our other spy cannot do this job on his own, and without you, we’ve lost a valuable spy.”

Vyzumi thought for a moment. “Hmm… what about Jemz? He shared quarters with me while I was in the Dark Hunters. He could possibly continue the mission.”

“That may be… difficult. Unlike you, he is still in fact a Dark Hunter.”

“I know Jemz is one of them, but remember – he’s got… a mental disability, and was cast out of his society simply because they considered him ‘stupid’. He didn’t know any better than to join. I think he might have a good heart inside; if you don’t choose him for this mission, at least make him affiliated in some way.”

The warrior nodded. “Very well. That’s all the information I can give you. For now: try to stay alive. It was hard for me to get here, with Shifting Shadows everywhere. Even with this.” He pointed to his Kanohi Volitak. The being turned and walked away from the cell.

Meench Vyzumi watched him walk away. Then, he began to think about what he had just found out. I’m no longer a Dark Hunter. Now, will I be able to better find trust in the one being who can free me?



This post has been edited by PeabodySam: Feb 4 2010, 04:30 PM


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PeabodySam
post Sep 20 2009, 06:36 PM
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Chapter 6
Vakama’s Secret


“The good news is that the Shifting Shadows have now greatly decreased in number, now that most of them have gone to this island of ‘Mata Nui.’ Every single invasion, they leave behind a few to guard our Koro, and every single invasion, their methods of guarding change. This time, they left fewer guards than usual. I must watch them tonight. Figure out their current method. Soon, now, we shall be free, and I hope to see Shifting Shadows dead on the ground.”
- from Collected Writings of Wodahs Nui

“Vakama is captured!”

These words brought immediate silence to the group of Turaga. Just a few moments ago, the Turaga were waiting at the ancient Le-Wahi Kini, attempting to hold a council, but one of their numbers had been missing. “Oh sure,” Onewa had spat, “Vakama remembers the Shifting Shadows the best of any of us! But when we try to hold a council to discuss how to defeat them, he doesn’t bother to come!” That’s when Turaga Frosam had burst in, shouting the words that brought silence upon the Turaga. The Turaga of Earth was panting and weary, leaning on his Quake Staff for support.

Nokama stepped towards Frosam. “What is it that you know, Frosam?”

Frosam held up his index finger, signaling to wait a moment. When his panting slowed to a normal pace, he straightened up and continued: “I was going to the Ta-Wahi Beach, because I heard that you were trying to hold a council and that Vakama had not yet been told. I saw him there and then… some gray-green armored Shifting Shadow swooped down from the sky, gave Vakama a blow to the head, then flew away with the unconscious Turaga!”

The other Turaga traded glances, worried expressions on their faces. Turaga Onewa’s eyes narrowed. He stepped forward, raised his Stone Hammer in the air, and proclaimed, “We must rescue our fire-spitting brother! Who’s with me?” Matau and Onewa then charged off into the jungle.

Nokama glanced at the others, shook her head in disappointment, and sighed: “We better go after them to make sure they don’t get into trouble.” She, Nuju, and Whenua walked in the direction that Matau and Onewa had gone.

Frosam, however, was left standing on the Kini, staring at the departing Turaga. “Wait, shouldn’t we be a bit more rational about this?” he asked, his arms outstretched, but his question went unheard, for the others had already departed. Grumbling under his breath, he let his arms fall to his side. As soon as they came in contact with his body, each arm felt a jolt of pain. Frosam winced, and when the pain subsided, he looked at his arms. “I’ve done that before, and it hasn’t hurt…” He knew why. His arms were becoming weaker and weaker. It would be only a matter of time before he would be unable to move his arms at all without feeling pain.

*****

Somewhere else entirely, Vakama awoke. He was lying against a pillar of volcanic rock, and his head ached badly. The last thing he remembered was that he was walking on the Ta-Wahi beach, when suddenly Murtak had swooped down from the skies and knocked him out.

He looked around at his surroundings. He heard the familiar sizzle of lava nearby, but that was the only thing familiar. All around him, he saw structures, twisted and frightening, made of volcanic rock. He was in what appeared to be some sort of fortress. Of course, he thought. It would be like those Shifting Shadows to build themselves a fortress during every invasion. And, of course, near lava. Lava and fire are the only sources of light they can stand, and they love its heat. Darkness and heat is what they thrive on.

He heard movement, and turned his head, instinctively activating his Huna. Approaching him was Murtak. “Turn that silly mask of yours off,” hissed Murtak. “I know you’re there, Vakama.”

Invisible, Vakama stood up. “What do you want?”

“Do forgive me for my methods of bringing you here,” chuckled Murtak, putting as much sarcasm as he could into the word ‘forgive’. “We don’t want to risk you running off and telling those Matoran of our location, and unfortunately we didn’t have a blindfold. Denethok wants to see you. He still remembers you from Metru Nui.”

What does he want? wondered Vakama. Nonetheless, he deactivated his Huna. Murtak smiled, moved close to him, and shoved Vakama in the direction of the tallest tower of the fortress. He shoved Vakama again, to which Vakama responded by shoving Murtak back, muttering, “Okay, okay! I get it!” He then started to make his way for the tower.

It was a long and dangerous staircase that Vakama had to climb, because about a third of the steps were destroyed, seeming to have been melted away.

When he finally reached the top step, he found himself in a chamber, occupied by a large throne; black, twisted, and frightening. In that throne was none other than Denethok.

“So, you’re Vakama?” Denethok smiled. “Last I saw of you was on our invasion to Metru Nui. And yet you’re still alive.”

“Surprised?” shrugged Vakama. “Maybe you should’ve made sure I was dead, if you were so worried.”

Denethok got down from the throne and moved towards Vakama, glaring at the frail Turaga. The two of them were eye-to-eye, and neither one flinched nor blinked. “What are you doing here?” hissed Denethok.

“I moved here, like everyone else,” replied Vakama. “In fact, I in fact helped move all the Matoran here, or did your precious Makuta of Metru Nui leave that part out?” Denethok spat on Vakama’s mask. Vakama did not move. Instead, he asked the next question: “So, I see that things are slightly different from the time I last saw you on Metru Nui. How did you become leader, and how is it going for you?”

“I was… elected, after the mutiny,” muttered Denethok. “I was very persuasive, or else I would never have been able to lead the mutiny in the first place.”

“So I see,” nodded Vakama. “And… why did you want to speak with me?”

“To warn you,” Denethok smiled, as he began to circle around Vakama. “We Shifting Shadows know that you are here. We’re constantly keeping an eye on you, and whenever I feel like it I just have to pass along the word and you’ll be dead. You were too much trouble during the Metru Nui invasion, and no doubt you’ll be trouble in this invasion as well. There may be more… meetings like this in the future.”

Vakama knew Denethok’s strategy. He was planning to intimidate Vakama, trying to make it more likely that Vakama would influence the other Turaga, Matoran, and Toa to just give up. The Shifting Shadows loved wars, but the idea of throwing an entire island of nine-hundred-or-so Matoran into immediate surrender, and granting their worst nightmares reality, was a temptation too great to resist. “Very well then,” nodded Vakama. He heard footsteps behind him.

“You may leave now,” Denethok nodded. “Murtak will escort you out. And, once more, he apologizes for the lack of blindfold.” Immediately, Vakama felt a powerful blow to the back of his head, and the world suddenly went dark.

*****

“Oh, for the love of Mata Nui!”

Vakama drowsily opened one eye. He was lying on the soft blanket of white sand covering most of the Ta-Wahi beach. He saw Onewa and Matau standing over him, and the former’s arms were crossed in a disgusted manner. “Here we are, terrified that the Shifting Shadows have gone against their agreement and captured you, and in truth you’re taking a nap on the beach!” spat the Turaga of Stone.

“What?” Vakama shook his head, trying to fully regain his consciousness.

“We were holding a council, don’t you remember? You hadn’t come, and Frosam bursts in and tells us that you were captured by the Shifting Shadows! Instead, you’re just having a beauty-sleep!” muttered Onewa.

Vakama stood up and glared at Onewa. “I was not just simply sleeping! I was captured and knocked out, then knocked out again and apparently they released me!”

At that moment, the other Turaga – Nuju, Nokama, Whenua, and even Frosam – walked over. “So, then,” Nokama asked, “where were you?

Vakama looked at each of their faces, sighed, and shook his head. “I really don’t know.”

*****

“Frosam, Nuju is asking a favor of you,” translated Matoro, while Nuju gave a rapid series of clicks and chirps.

Frosam leaned on his Quake Staff, raising an eyebrow. “What favor could he possibly ask of me?” he inquired.

Nuju gave a slightly slower series of chirps, whistles, and clicks. “Nuju and Nokama have discussed this already, and have come to an agreement,” continued Matoro, translating Nuju’s words. “Vakama has disappeared again. In only a few days, Vakama has disappeared mysteriously multiple times, presumably constantly being caught-and-released by the Shifting Shadows. However, he won’t tell us what is going on or why. In hopes of prolonging the war to come for as long as possible, we must keep out the two-week peace agreement, so we cannot afford to attack the Shifting Shadows. However, we can prepare, and you shall help.”

Nuju took out what appeared to be a large blade, with a part of a singed limb still attached. “Investigating the ruins of another ancient Le-Wahi Kini, not far from the one we’re at right now, a Ta-Matoran named Weeljak found this. It does not belong to any native species of Mata Nui, which leads us to suspect that it may be part of a Shifting Shadow. Granted, we may be very wrong, but with Ussanui’s tracking senses, we shall know very soon. You and Ussanui need to track down the owner of this… and if our hunch is correct, it may lead you right to the base of the Shifting Shadows.”

Frosam took the blade, nodding. “I shall do so. The more we know about our enemy, the better of a chance we have fighting them.” He turned and walked away from the ancient Le-Wahi Kini, heading towards Ussanui, waiting patiently beside a rotting Bula Tree. Ever so carefully, Frosam laid the severed limb in front of Ussanui and hopped on the Remos’s back. Anxiously, Ussanui sniffed the blade, and then cocked its head northward. Slowly at first, though gradually speeding up, the Rahi and its rider travelled north.

It was late afternoon when Ussanui found what it had been tracking.

In the Motara Desert of Po-Wahi, Frosam and Ussanui had located two Shifting Shadows walking away from the direction that which Po-Koro could be found. One had blue-black armor, recognizable as Barok, while the other had brown-red armor, whom Frosam did not recognize. They appeared to be having a conversation, but all Frosam was able to hear was, “So, now that we know where the desert village is, in two weeks we’ll be able to - ” Then, he was noticed. The two of them took flight, before landing in front of Ussanui. Frosam noticed how a part of Barok’s wing seemed to be missing since the initial invasion, and he began to hypothesize on who the severed limb belonged to.

“Hey, you!” shouted Barok. “What do you want?”

“Make it quick, Turaga,” snarled the brown-red one. “We don’t have much time for you geezers!”

“I don’t have much time for creeps like you either,” replied Frosam. “Plus, you aren’t as scary when your leader proclaims a two-week peace agreement.”

“Watch that mouth of yours,” hissed Barok darkly. “You’re alone in the desert, and you could just as easily be thought to have been killed by a… oh, a Nui-Jaga.” As he spoke the last words, his form shifted into that of a Nui-Jaga. Immediately, acting on instinct, Ussanui leapt forward, attacking with its drill claws. Barok recoiled and shifted back into his main form. “Geez, watch it with that Rahi of yours!”

The brown-red one laughed. “Silly Barok,” he smiled, “Nui-Jaga snacks are for Remos!”

Barok spat at the brown-red Shifting Shadow, then turned to look at Frosam. “Touché,” he muttered. “So what are you doing?”

“I was just about to ask you that question,” shrugged Frosam. “What are you up to? Why have you been kidnapping and releasing Vakama again and again? Where have you been taking him? After all, I thought you just said you had no time for Turaga.”

The two Shifting Shadows traded glances before bursting out laughing. “Oh, that is a good one!” laughed Barok. “Go, Sroorw! Go tell the Turaga what he should know!”

The brown-red one, whose name seemed to be Sroorw, looked at Frosam. “You don’t know Vakama’s secret?” he replied. “Oh he better tell you… it’ll be fun to watch the trust of everyone of whom he’s not told suddenly vanish when they hear it! There’s more to Vakama than you may think, Turaga!”

Frosam stared at them, unsure what to make of what he had just heard. Before he could ask more, the two Shifting Shadows took flight again, swiftly flying away from the Turaga and the Remos.

*****

The sun had fallen by the time Frosam had made it back to the Le-Wahi Kini. There, he found Vakama and Nokama standing alone, whispering to each other. They were not speaking loud enough to be audible, however. As soon as they noticed the Turaga of Earth’s presence, they stopped talking. Vakama forced a smile. “Yes?” he asked. “What is it?”

“Nuju’s plan didn’t exactly work,” Frosam replied. “Instead of bringing Ussanui and me to the Shifting Shadows’ secret fortress, it led us to just a couple of Shifting Shadows in the desert. I tried to ask them why you’ve been disappearing, and they only laughed and said there was more to you than we know, and that our trust in you may cease if you tell us. What are they… were they lying or something?”

Vakama’s forced smile had disappeared. He glanced at Nokama, whose expression was anxious. He sighed and shook his head. “I’m afraid I cannot tell you that, Frosam. At least, not now… and with only you listening. If – when I tell, I might as well tell it to everyone else.”

Frosam raised an eyebrow, but nodded. He hopped back onto Ussanui’s back, and they left the Kini.

As soon as they were gone, Vakama resumed his conversation with Nokama. “I don’t know, Nokama,” he whispered. “I’ve kept it a secret for so long… and with such a dangerous enemy on the island right now, I don’t know if I should tell the others my secret. It was hard enough trying to keep it secret from Frosam only a few months ago.”

Nokama smiled grimly, nodded, and put her hand on Vakama’s shoulder. “The knowledge of what you have been through may help save the lives of the Toa Nuva, the other Turaga, and the Matoran. They need to know. It would’ve been best if you had revealed this information earlier, but at this point, now is the best time.”

Vakama looked at Nokama, silent for a few moments. For over a thousand years, he had known and trusted Nokama with his life. She was wise, rational, and compassionate. If he had wanted to consult any of the Turaga about his predicament, it would’ve been her. And now that she had told him what she believed was right, he knew what had to be done. He nodded. “Yes, I suppose you’re right. Spread the word – at midnight, the Toa Nuva, the Chronicler, and the other Turaga shall meet in the tunnel underneath this Kini.”

*****

In a few hours, the Kini was populated by the Toa Nuva and the Turaga, plus Hahli, who was to chronicle what Vakama was about to say, and Matoro, who always stuck by Turaga Nuju’s side. Vakama had cleared the sand out of the Amaja Circle in the center of the Kini. Underneath the sand were several niches, some in the shape of ovals, and others in jagged formations. Takanuva caught on, and had taken the stones used to tell the Legend of Mata Nui – stones representing thirty Matoran, Mata Nui, six Toa Mata, Makuta, and four Rahi. He placed the stones in each corresponding niche, and the Amaja Circle opened to reveal a tunnel underneath. Takanuva smiled and glanced at Vakama. “Yeah, I figured out that trick a few months ago, when I stumbled upon this Kini.”

Vakama nodded, and led the group down into a tunnel, hidden underneath the Kini. Down here, it was extremely dark. Takanuva used a bit of his powers to light up the tunnel, but Vakama whispered, “No. Let it be dark, for it will best suit the tale I have to tell. You may provide only a bit of light.” With that, Takanuva lowered the amount of brightness in the glow he was providing.

Frosam looked around. This tunnel was carved out many years ago, but apparently was not known about by the public. Also, something seemed wrong, as though someone was here that should not be. “Why are we in here?” he asked. “Something just doesn’t seem right.”

“The Shifting Shadows don’t know about this tunnel, I presume,” Vakama replied. “Therefore, this is the best place to talk in peace.”

As soon as the group was settled in the cramped and dark tunnel, Vakama cleared his voice. He was standing away from the group, so he could be easily seen. The group fell silent, to hear what Vakama had to say. “Prepare yourselves,” the Turaga of Fire spoke. “What you are about to hear tonight may be the darkest secret that any Turaga can reveal. It is so dark, only those with enough courage or loyalty can hear it without thinking they have misheard it, or that they have wrongfully trusted me. It is one of some memories so dark, that it should never have been remembered.”

“Just hurry up and say what it is!” shouted Tahu Nuva, growing impatient.

Vakama nodded his head solemnly. “Alright. Gathered friends, there is something I must tell you… I’m a Shifting Shadow.”

Silence.

After a minute, Lewa, unsure what to think, began to laugh. “Good one, Turaga!” he smiled. “A very cheer-happy joke to lighten up dark-time, but is that all that you have brought us here for?”

Vakama did not smile nor laugh. “No. It is not a joke. It’s the truth.”

“Prove it!” Onewa demanded.

Vakama glanced at the Turaga of Stone. His reply was not a spoken one.

His legs joined and lengthened into a long tail. His arms strengthened and his hands became large claws. Twin pairs of wings extended from his shoulders. His Kanohi fused to his face and formed a dragon-like head. Where only a moment ago stood a Turaga of Fire, now stood a black-orange armored Shifting Shadow.

Suddenly, it hit Frosam – not only was Vakama a Shifting Shadow; he was also the one that saved Frosam from the Dark Hunter Tower!

“Remember that I said that no Shifting Shadow can shift into the exact form of another being,” Vakama continued. “Therefore, I cannot be another Shifting Shadow trying to pretend to be Vakama. I am truly Vakama, and I am also truly a Shifting Shadow.” He sighed, and continued. “It is time you know the last tale of Metru Nui – the tale of how I came to Metru Nui, and why I stayed behind.”

Unbeknownst to them, as Vakama begun his tale, someone else outside the group was listening as well…



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PeabodySam
post Sep 27 2009, 08:34 PM
Post #7



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Chapter 7
Mutiny


“I don’t remember what things used to be like. All I know is what Mleot has told me. When Vakama was the leader of the Shifting Shadows, he did not approve of Matoran torture, for some reason. Then, after the Metru Nui invasion, Denethok had taken over, and Vakama had disappeared. Matoran Torture resumed. After that was the Plague, which thankfully I missed. It was only after the Plague that I came here, just another ‘trophy’ of the Shifting Shadows’ conquests.”
- from Collected Writings of Wodahs Nui

2,400 B.G.C.

Denethok climbed up the staircase. It was a long and winding staircase, that stretched on for many stories. Normally, Denethok would not bother – he would usually just fly to the window of the chamber he was trying to reach, or shape-shift into a teleporting creature and teleport to his destination.

But their leader was a paranoid one. He was a strange one, that leader. He warded his tower so no teleporting creature nor flying creature could easily get inside – instead, they would have to climb the forty-story staircase. He wouldn’t even tell his name to anyone except the other Shifting Shadows. Not even Teridax. Whether or not these Shifting Shadows spread the word was up to them on whether or not they liked their necks, but somehow his name also was known by the Matoran of the Koro.

That was another thing. This leader cared about their captives. Denethok remembered well when he and Barok worked together and began the fad known as Matoran Torture. They would take one Matoran from that pathetic Koro and, in front of the audience of a thousand Shifting Shadows, proceed to whip the Matoran and torture him in other ways. All the Shifting Shadows loved to watch this… everyone but this leader. The leader soon put a ban on Matoran Torture. The leader also did everything he could to ensure that no more Matoran and Turaga were killed in invasions than necessary. The leader claimed: “We’re conquerors. To truly rule a land, you need something other than dirt and water to rule over. Keep up this torture, and eventually one of the Matoran will break and die. But that’s only one Matoran. But then another one will die, and another, and before you know it, we’re ruling over dirt and water.” Denethok suspected there was a better reason to this, but wondered if even the leader knew it.

Other Shifting Shadows rarely ventured up these stairs. There were rumors that the leader was so paranoid that he rigged the staircase with traps, but Denethok had climbed these stairs many times, and he was still whole from the experiences.

At last he climbed the top step, where he encountered a door. Not bothering to knock, he simply swung open the door. “You called, Vakama?”

The orange-black armored Shifting Shadow named Vakama sat near his window, perplexed and calm, yet he seemed a bit anxious about something. He lifted his head off of the hand it was resting on, and turned it towards Denethok. “Yes. Teridax contacted me, telepathically as always. We’re going on another invasion.”

Denethok raised an eyebrow. “Ah, good. Things were getting boring. Where are we headed, then?”

Vakama scratched his forehead and sighed. “We’re invading Metru Nui.”

Denethok blinked, visibly taken back by this. He knew how important the city was, and he knew how destructive and terrible a Shifting Shadow invasion could be. Doing this could seriously injure Mata Nui, and though Denethok never really saw the Great Spirit as being anything great, at least while Mata Nui was alive so was the Matoran Universe.
Vakama did not wait for a reply. “He says that the Toa Mangai must be eliminated, if the Plan is to continue.”

“And did Teridax care to tell you about this part of the Plan?” inquired Denethok.

Vakama exhaled audibly. “You know he never does, Denethok. All that he told me was that Lhikan, the Toa of Fire, must live. He also said that only a century ago, one of the Toa Mangai, named Tuyet, had defected, so now we’ve at least got one less body we need to dispose of. But Lhikan must live.”

“And why?” muttered Denethok, already guessing the answer.

“The Plan,” replied Vakama. “Other than that, I don’t know.” Vakama nodded. “You know what to do.”

Denethok turned away from Vakama, muttering, “Yes. I’ll go tell the others.”

Word spread easily from Denethok to the rest of the Shifting Shadows. Long ago, the Shifting Shadows had learned to listen to Denethok when he speaks; Sroorw still has a scar over his left wing from learning this.

Therefore, an hour later, when Vakama came down from his tower and stepped into the center of their fortress, they were all ready to leave. Shifting Shadows do not bring much, if anything, with them when they go on an invasion, so there wasn’t any worry about packing things. A hundred Shifting Shadows stayed behind to guard the Matoran Koro. They didn’t want any of their captives escaping.

Vakama looked around at the massive Shifting Shadow army surrounding him, and nodded. He spread his wings to their full impressive span, and took flight. Behind him, a thousand or so Shifting Shadows followed suit, leaving behind the island of Wodahs Nui.

*****

Their trip took only a week. Wodahs Nui is not particularly close to Metru Nui’s dome, but the speed that which Shifting Shadows fly at makes up for the large distance. It was nightfall by the time the Shifting Shadows reached their destination. The weather was dark and cloudy, almost as it were predicting the predicament that Metru Nui would be in.

They landed in a region that was mostly desert and dominated by structures and carvings, many of which were odd in design. Vakama looked around, and thought about where the island’s leader, named Turaga Dume, would be. “He would probably be in the center of the island,” Vakama decided. Years worth of experience taught him that the center of any island was probably one of the most important places.

Denethok rolled his eyes. “I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t we stop and ask for directions? That Toa over there, maybe he might know.”

Vakama scanned their surroundings, and spotted what Denethok was referring to. A Toa in emerald and silver armor, wearing a Kanohi Volitak and armed with a scythe. Vakama’s eyes narrowed, and he began to fly towards the Toa.

The Toa had spotted Vakama too, for he took his scythe and unleashed a howling wind that threatened to knock Vakama out of the air. Vakama maneuvered through the wind, and landed a few bio from the Toa. “What?” the Toa stammered. “But, how - ”

“I’ve dealt with more experienced of your kind before,” Vakama smiled. He remembered one in particular. He was the lone Toa of Wodahs Nui, and had killed nearly fifty Shifting Shadows before he was defeated and captured. “Also, you don’t want to make your first impression a bad one. We’re only just meeting. You and me… and my army.”

“I knew something was up when I saw those Dermis Turtles retreating into their shells,” murmured the Toa. “What is it you want? Make it quick – I’m not the patient one of my team.”

“I’d like to speak to your Turaga,” replied Vakama. “Dume… is that his name?”

“‘Speak to him’? I’m not falling for that Kane-Ra Dung!” hissed the Toa. “In the past, numerous Dark Hunters claimed they only wanted to ‘speak to him’…”

“I’m no Dark Hunter,” retorted Vakama. “In fact, I’m not affiliated with anyone except myself.” This was of course a lie, but Teridax had long ago told the Shifting Shadows to do everything in their power to prevent the knowledge that they were affiliated with the Brotherhood. This was to better ensure than nobody would suspect the Brotherhood’s betrayal. “So, if you don’t mind, I’d like you to take me to Dume. We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.”

The Toa’s response was one Vakama had been predicting. Immediately, the Toa seemed to vanish. But Vakama was ready. Already in the form of a Rode-wearer, he grabbed the invisible form of the Toa, then shifted into a Komau-wearing Toa. Mind-controlled, the Toa deactivated his Volitak, once again visible. “Now, then,” hissed Vakama, “take us to Dume.”

*****

The Coliseum was magnificent, Vakama had to admit. It was massive, though not quite as large as the Shifting Shadows Fortress on Wodahs Nui. A massive tower dominated the center of the building.

Getting inside was no problem. As soon as Vahki guards came into view, the entire group of Shifting Shadows all became either Matoran Tourists or inconspicuous Rahi, though Vakama had to maintain his Toa form to make sure the Toa of Air did not break out of his trance. Thus, the Vahki guards did not attack nor pursue, their mechanical minds not thinking about how odd that a bunch of Matoran Tourists came out of nowhere without notice, and how a group of small rats, lizards, and birds all were following the tourists.

The mind-controlled Toa of Air led the Shifting Shadows into the inner chambers of the Coliseum. At last, he brought them into a chamber with a large window. A Turaga of Fire stood alone by the window, looking out of it towards the city outside. Vakama nodded to the other Shifting Shadows, signaling them to let him alone enter the room. A few of them grumbled, but they remained in the hallway outside.

Turaga Dume noticed the Toa of Air entering his chamber. “Ah, Nidhiki,” he greeted. “What brings you here?”

Vakama, standing behind the Toa Mangai of Air, gave Nidhiki a blow to the head. As Nidhiki crumpled to the ground, Vakama shifted back into his true form. “I do,” he replied. “And I’m sorry about Nidhiki, but I had no choice. He was being too stubborn, and not nice enough to bring us to you.”

Dume glared at Vakama, trying to hold in his anger. “Shifting Shadows?” he spat. “I’ll have none of your scum in Metru Nui! You hear me? None of it!”

“So you’ve heard of us,” smiled Vakama.

“I’ve heard of what your kind has done in the past to countless other islands and cities!” yelled Dume. “It’s bad enough having pitiful attempts by Dark Hunters to seize control of the city, but to have you Shifting Shadows? Get out – get out – now!”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Vakama explained. “You see, we’re going to be here for quite some time. We’ll be staying in the city for as long as it takes until our purposes are achieved. You have two weeks of peace; that’s it. Use that time wisely, and inform your Matoran and Toa Mangai of your city’s fate. We’ll talk again after two weeks time, and then you’ll tell us whether you surrender or fight. Take note that fighting will result in the probable death of your city, your Matoran, and… your Toa.”

“And if I object to your staying?” Dume inquired.

“I could kill you right here right now, and so much for the two weeks of peace,” decided Vakama.

“You realize that if you try and kill me, you won’t succeed, for the Toa Mangai will come in time to stop you?” smiled Dume, remembering how every other attempted assassination by anyone had ended.

Vakama laughed bitterly. “How sure are you of that? Would you like to risk your life and give up any two-week peace treaty by testing your theory? Or would you go the safe way, allow us to stay, and have two weeks of peace before the big decision?”

Dume faltered. He glared at the Shifting Shadow leader and gritted his teeth. After a moment of silence, he decided, “Fine. You may stay, as long as you keep your word on the ‘two weeks of peace’.”

Vakama smiled. “That’s what I wanted to hear.” He then turned to exit the chamber.

*****

“It’s so stupid,” Denethok muttered as he and Vakama left the Coliseum, entering the outskirts of Le-Metru.

“What?” asked Vakama.

“What you do ever single invasion!” explained Denethok. “Offer them two weeks of peace, then ask if they surrender or fight! It’s ridiculous! Why not just do a full-scale attack when we first arrive, and get the invasion over with?”

“Because,” replied Vakama, “I’d hate for any of my victims to die ignorant.”

“What did you tell Dume, then?” asked Denethok.

“Not everything, if that’s what you’re asking,” informed Vakama. “I only told him the usual. I left out the bit about exactly why we’re here; to kill all the Toa Mangai except Lhikan. We wouldn’t want him sending a warning to the Toa about that.”

“So, as soon as all these Toa Mangai are killed, you just plan to leave?” inquired Denethok.

Vakama thought for a moment before replying: “Yes, that is my intention.”

“It just doesn’t seem right!” Denethok muttered. “We should at least be able to kill a third of the Matoran’s population, or maybe Turaga Dume, so we could make this mission seem more like an invasion than just a little assassinating.”

“As your leader,” Vakama ordered, looking Denethok in the eye, “I will not allow any more killing than necessary. If Dume or the Matoran get in the way of our killing Nidhiki and the others, only then we’ll kill them.” Then, the orange-black armored Shifting Shadow flew away.

Denethok watched him leave. “As my leader?” he repeated, smiling. “It won’t be long now, Vakama.”

*****

Vakama stood near the coast of Ga-Metru, looking out into the Silver Sea. The liquid protodermis was rough and thrashing; a Toa of Water would describe it as ‘angry’. It was about dusk. Dark clouds hung overhead, as they had been for the past three weeks.

Had it really been three weeks since we first came? Vakama thought. Three weeks in itself is not a long period of time, but in the past week so much had happened that it felt like an entire year.

He remembered well what had happened two weeks after Vakama’s offer.

Dume, flanked by several Toa Mangai, glared at Vakama, flanked by a dozen Shifting Shadows. “Well?” Vakama asked. “What is it that you have decided? Surrender, or doom?”

Dume’s eyes narrowed, and Vakama had to admit he was impressed; normally, Turaga looked fearful in the presence of one Shifting Shadow, let alone thirteen, and would immediately surrender. Yet, Turaga Dume was brave and defiant in the face of darkness. “Doom is a far better option,” the Turaga of Fire answered, “than what you would do to us if we surrender. We will fight!”

Vakama chuckled. “Wrong answer.” With that, the dozen Shifting Shadows flanking him leaped at the Toa flanking Dume. The Toa Mangai responded by blasting the Shifting Shadows with elemental energies, and yet that did not seem to stop them…


Behind Vakama, the city of Ga-Metru was damaged greatly, though not beyond recognition. Battles had raged all across the city. One could barely walk across the street without seeing a Toa or a Vahki in conflict with a Shifting Shadow. Occasionally, a Matoran, armed with a Kanoka Launcher, might even join the battle. But, something was not quite right about Lhikan, and Vakama began to suspect it in his first encounter with the Toa Mangai of Fire…

The squad of Keerakh had all been shredded to pieces, leaving only Naho, a Toa Mangai of Water, there to fight. “Get her!” Vakama commanded his group of Shifting Shadows. They took flight at charged towards the Toa.

Naho pelted the Shifting Shadows with blasts of water, but it did no good. It was according to plan, but then things suddenly changed. Lhikan ran towards the scene, and then formed a large fireball which hit the leading Shifting Shadows. Almost immediately, they fell dead, the Shifting Shadows behind them faltering. Vakama widened his eyes in shock; Shifting Shadows had been burned before many times by Toa of Fire, but they never just suddenly died instantly.

Lhikan looked just as surprised, for the fireball should’ve only been hot enough to singe their armor. He unleashed a stream of fire that hit another Shifting Shadow, who also died instantly. The rest of the Shifting Shadows acted immediately, shape-shifting into Rahkshi of Fire-Resistance. Vakama stared at what he had just seen, unsure of what to think of Lhikan.


In fact, now that Vakama was thinking about it, Lhikan was the only one who seemed to be fighting well against the Shifting Shadows. Vakama learned the following from recent battles: As long as Shifting Shadows were in their true forms, they would die the instant Lhikan’s fire touched them. Although normally the Toa Code prevented Toa from killing enemies, the Toa Mangai had already decided that there was no other way. Thus, Vakama had commanded his legions, if fighting near Lhikan, to shape-shift into a different form.

Other than that, the war seemed to be going well for the Shifting Shadows, though Denethok had been acting a bit strange lately…

Vakama heard noise behind him. He spun about, expecting to face a Toa or a Vahki squad. Instead, he saw most of his Shifting Shadow legions, with Denethok in the lead. “Denethok?” Vakama rose an eyebrow. “What are you doing?”

“The time has come, Vakama,” smiled Denethok. “I’ve already discussed this with the other Shifting Shadows and they all agree. We’re tired of your personality, tired of the methods that you use, tired of how you treat Matoran as equals, tired of your two-week peace agreements, and tired of how you do not allow us to properly invade and conquer an island… or a city. The time has come, Vakama… for a new leader!”

Vakama’s eyes narrowed as the black-silver Shifting Shadow walked closer to him. “We’re going to give you a choice,” Denethok continued. “You can surrender your place as leader… or we can kill you now.”

Vakama looked around. He was badly outnumbered a thousand to one. It would be impossible to beat them all, and even if he did, he would have lost his entire legion. He glared at Denethok. “This is not the end,” he hissed. He instantly shape-shifted into a Fader Bull and teleported away.

*****

He then found himself in the outskirts of Ga-Metru, close to the Coliseum. Sighing, he shifted back into his true form and lay down on the sidewalk. What am I going to do? he wondered. It would be impossible to make an alliance with the Toa and Dume at this point, and I doubt I’d be accepted anyplace else in the universe. I could try and blend into Matoran society… but then, I couldn’t be able to stay in a Matoran form for more than a day at a time -

Suddenly, Vakama’s mind was not in Metru Nui. Instead, he felt like he was sitting in front of one of those telescreens he saw in some parts of the city, but unable to look away or close his eyes. He saw…

Himself, as a Shifting Shadow, standing near a sundial. In his vision, Vakama shifted into a form of a Le-Matoran wearing a Matatu. Twenty-four hours passed on the sundial, and Le-Matoran Vakama had to shape-shift back into the Shifting Shadow form. Another day passed on the sundial, and this time Vakama became a Ta-Matoran with a Huna. A day passed on the sundial, but Vakama stayed in the Huna-wearing Ta-Matoran form. Another day passed, and another, but Vakama had not reverted back to his normal Shifting Shadow form once.

Just as suddenly as it began, it ended, and Vakama was once again finding himself lying on the sidewalk in the outskirts of Ga-Metru. What the Karzahni was that? he thought. A vision? Great, now I’m having hallucinations. I must’ve been flying too close to the Great Furnace yesterday…

Still, what he just saw made him curious. He looked to the sky and estimated it was probably 8:30 P.M. He took a deep breath, and shifted into the form that he had seen in his vision – a Ta-Matoran wearing a Huna. Now I just have to wait, he thought.

After a bit of walking, he found an abandoned Ga-Metru shelter that he decided he should stay in. Inside, he found many tablets on the floor. Deciding that it would better help pass the time, Vakama picked a few of them up and read them. Most of them were relating to the subject on the properties of different protodermis types. One of them was a map of Ga-Metru, and another was a carving of a Ga-Metru Kanoka whose digits read 279. He looked over the latter, wondering just what importance this one Kanoka had. Inscribed on the back of the tablet read: In Ga-Metru, go beyond the depths of any Toa before…

Vakama peeked outside. Due to the large dark clouds it was impossible to tell what the time was, though he guessed it was probably 1:00 A.M. That made it about four or five hours of being in this Ta-Matoran form. It would be a long day.

He groaned and laid down on the table. Sleep should probably take care of a few more hours. There was so much on his mind, at first he just tossed and turned on the table. But after about an hour, which felt like a decade, Vakama’s eyes finally closed and his breathing slowed slightly.

When he woke up again, he was still in his Ta-Matoran form, so he looked outside. The clouds had actually receded slightly, and Vakama wondered what that meant. Dark clouds usually are plentiful in areas that are occupied by large amounts of Shifting Shadows… if the clouds are receding, then that meant that… Toa Lhikan managed to get to kill maybe a few dozen Shifting Shadows last night.

Because the clouds had receded a bit, a few rays of sunlight could be seen. Based on their location and direction, Vakama guessed, it was probably around noon.

Vakama spent the rest of the twenty-four hours planning on what he should do if the experiment worked. By the time he came to a complete plan, he looked outside, saw that the clouds had receded even more, and that it was probably night now. Just to be sure, Vakama looked over the tablets again, making sure to read every single letter in every single word. That probably took six hours, Vakama guesstimated. It was more than twenty-four hours at this point, and yet Vakama was still in his Ta-Matoran form! It’s true, he thought. But why?

Not wanting to deny good fortune, Vakama snuck out of the hut. He made his way to a Ga-Metru Shipyard. Nobody was present, and the boats weren’t in perfect shape themselves. Perfect. Vakama unhooked one of the boats, the smallest of which, grabbed an oar, and rowed it towards the Great Barrier.

It was a long journey, by boat and oar. He did not intend to reach the Great Barrier, however; he only intended to get far away from Ga-Metru. He rowed his boat in a southerly direction, until he suspected he was probably somewhere off the coast of his destination, Ta-Metru. Of course, due to the hanging fog and the darkness of night, it was hard to tell.

Vakama took the chance, and rowed his boat west. Soon, he was able to make out the coastline of Ta-Metru. As he moved closer, he noticed a Toa watching his boat from the beach: Lhikan.

Vakama’s first reaction was to flinch, but then he remembered that he was in a Ta-Matoran form that he could stay in for just as long as his Shifting Shadow form, and there’d be no way for Lhikan to know. After all, with Vakama’s plans to live as a Ta-Matoran in Ta-Metru, Lhikan was a friend now… not a foe.

Vakama brought the boat ashore, where Lhikan was waiting. “Welcome to Metru Nui,” nodded the Toa of Fire. “I am Toa Lhikan.”

Vakama looked at the Toa, so powerful and awe-inspiring. “My name is Vakama,” he introduced himself. “I’ve been traveling for so long… I used to know, but I lost track…”

“Where are you from?” inquired Lhikan.

“I used to know its name…” Vakama replied quietly. “But it’s been so long since… they invaded, and destroyed it… the Shifting Shadows. I had escaped and hopped onto this boat, hoping to find a place where I could live peacefully…”

Lhikan smiled warmly. “You’re in luck, Vakama. Had you arrived yesterday, you would have once again found an island under attack by Shifting Shadows. Last night, however, I found all of the Shifting Shadows near the Ga-Metru coast, and launched an attack. Most of the Shifting Shadow army has been killed, and the remaining Shifting Shadows surrendered! They left Metru Nui, and have vowed never to return.”

Vakama listened, wide-eyed, to what Lhikan just said. The Shifting Shadows were defeated, most of them killed? He smiled. “Yes!” he whispered. “Finally, a place without Shifting Shadows! Thank you, Toa Lhikan!” He bowed in respect. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve traveled long and far to escape the Shifting Shadows, and I’ve finally found a great refuge. Would Metru Nui mind if its population had one extra Ta-Matoran?”

Lhikan smiled and patted Vakama on the shoulder. “Of course not! Come; in the mask-making foundries, there’s always a place an extra hand can be used.”



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PeabodySam
post Oct 5 2009, 08:31 PM
Post #8



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Chapter 8
Exodus


“It is now we must strike. Mleot has told me about the Shifting Shadows’ guarding method. Vabreh and I shall wait for the signal. It is almost too easy. I am definitely eager to think about killing them now… after what they did to Zark… after what they did to me…”
- from Collected Writings of Wodahs Nui

1,001 A.G.C.

When Vakama finished his tale, he inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, closing his eyes as he did so, waiting for the reaction of those listening. Were they intrigued? Were they glad that he was more than just a Turaga of Fire? Or were they angry with him, angry at his deceit, angry at what he really is?

He opened his eyes slowly, and looked around at the faces of the other Turaga, the Toa Nuva, the Chronicler, and the Toa of Light. Their expressions were shocked, surprised, unsure what to make of what they just found out. Even Whenua, the Turaga who always believed strongly in the past, seemed a bit shocked. Only Nokama seemed completely placid, smiling slightly.

“Good job, Vakama,” she congratulated, “you’ve finally told them.”

Everyone naturally turned their heads to look at the Turaga of Water. “You knew all along?” Onewa inquired.

Nokama looked at the faces of the other Turaga. Except for Whenua, they unanimously shared an agitated expression. She sighed, and nodded. “Yes. Ever since the Great War, I knew that Vakama was a Shifting Shadow. You see, there was one incident a couple centuries ago, during the Dark Time, a large amount of Tarakava – a few dozen, at least – were attacking Ga-Koro. Suddenly, this Takea appeared, apparently with full intent of driving the Tarakava away from Ga-Koro. It was successful, and the Tarakava were chased away. Curious as to why a Takea would try and save our village, I followed it after it left. The Takea didn’t know, and it shape-shifted back into Vakama. That how I found out. He… asked me not to tell you.”

“And why not?” spat Onewa.

“For similar reasons why we never told the Toa Nuva we were Toa Metru, until recently,” replied Vakama.

Tahu Nuva spoke next. “If you hadn’t just told it to us now, when would’ve you told us this little secret of yours, Vakama?” he asked.

“It would probably have remained a secret forever,” Vakama said grimly. “Were it up to me, I would never tell you this, for tonight I just risked losing all who trusted in me. But these are desperate times, Toa Tahu Nuva, so I had no choice but to tell you.” He sighed, and then asked, “I must ask… do you all gathered here tonight still think of me as a friend? Are you alright with the fact I’m a Shifting Shadow… and only just told you?”

The Toa Nuva and Turaga traded glances. Finally, it was Gali Nuva who replied. “While we are disappointed in you for not telling us earlier, we’ve trusted you all these years, and so there’s no reason not to trust you now.”

“Plus,” added Frosam, “you rescued me from the Dark Hunter Tower, so I do owe you one.”

Vakama smiled. Somehow, even on the face of a Shifting Shadow, the expression did look like a smile.

Whenua looked at Vakama. “But this is something I do not understand. If you are a Shifting Shadow, how come you became a Toa Metru like the rest of us, and later a Turaga?”

Vakama glanced at the ground. “I don’t know the answer, Whenua. To be honest, I have no clue. All I know is when, at the Great Temple, the Toa Energy touched us, my Matoran form almost… automatically became a Toa, and I actually felt like I had Toa Power, something I haven’t felt whenever I shape-shifted into a Toa in previous times. And when I gave up that Toa Power, I could feel it leaving me, and my Toa form became a Turaga. But, just as interesting, attempts to shape-shift into my previous Matoran and Toa forms have been futile. But why? I don’t know.”

It was Frosam who asked the last question: “Do you, being a Shifting Shadow, know how to defeat the Shifting Shadows? How was Lhikan able to do it?”

Vakama stared at Frosam. “I don’t know that, either. I don’t know any weakness to the Shifting Shadows, and I don’t know why Lhikan was able to beat them so easily. There’s probably someone who knows, but wherever he is, he is not on this island.”

“Are you so sure about that?”

This voice belonged to not Turaga, Toa Nuva, Chronicler, or Shifting Shadow. Everyone turned, as they realized there was someone else in the tunnel. Frowning, Vakama shifted back into his Turaga form, and led the group down the tunnel. They did not walk far before finding out who had spoken – there, placidly sitting behind bars of Protosteel, was none other than Meench Vyzumi.

Frosam scowled. “I knew something wasn’t right,” he muttered.

Vyzumi stood up. “I was listening to your story. Very moving. I also heard you got some confusing questions that you did not know the answer to. However… there is one more secret to share, tonight. One that was long ago, before even Vakama can remember. You all have been wondering, ever since the Shifting Shadows came to this island, how do we stop them? And yet, you never thought to ask me. The Shadowed One thinks I’m dead, so for your information, you can trust me even a bit, for I am no longer a Dark Hunter.”

“Make it quick!” Tahu glared at Vyzumi.

Vyzumi inhaled slowly, and continued to speak. “The Shifting Shadows have their origins. Most of the Shifting Shadows you see today, such as Denethok, Barok, and the others, were all created from scratch, a simple test tube of liquid protodermis and a bit of viruses. But you,” he pointed at Vakama, “are not like that. You remember why you became leader in the first place? Because you were the first created. And because of that, you’re not like the other Shifting Shadows. While Denethok and the others were created from liquid protodermis and several viruses, you were a Ta-Matoran in the beginning! Yes, a Ta-Matoran – wearing a Huna! You were taken out of your home to be a volunteer in the creation of a whole new kind of species. Chemicals and viruses were inserted into your body through a simple needle while you were unconscious, and when you woke up, you were no Ta-Matoran – you were a Shifting Shadow. Over time, you would forget your origins, but as you would discover, you could shape-shift back into your Ta-Matoran form, and stay in it as long as your Shifting Shadow form. It was this Ta-Matoran part of you that was exposed to Toa Power, and transformed into a Toa of Fire, then later into a Turaga of Fire. That is the answer to Whenua’s question.”

He sighed, and continued. “And as for your question, Frosam, I know exactly what was the reason Lhikan was able to kill Shifting Shadows in their natural forms. It is some sort of chemical reaction that is in his elemental powers.”

“And how do you know all this?” inquired Vakama, doubt in his eyes.

Vyzumi smiled. “Don’t you see? I created the Shifting Shadows, as well as made you into a Shifting Shadow!”

Everyone was silent for a moment. One thought dominated most of their minds: Is he telling the truth?

“I’m sure that if you let me out of here, I could help you find something that will cause the same chemical reaction. All you have to do is set me free, and we can defeat the Shifting Shadows!” concluded Vyzumi.

It was Frosam who spoke, his voice colder than the harshest of Ko-Wahi blizzards. “Just how can we believe you, Lord of Deceit?” he asked. “How can we be sure you’re not bluffing?”

“There’s no reason to lie or bluff about this,” was Vyzumi’s reply. “Why won’t any of you trust me when I’m actually telling the truth?”

“We all trusted you,” hissed Frosam. “But you lied. You killed Ikaag and Lahka. Your Nektann and fellow Dark Hunters killed many Matoran, wounding even more. You want trust? You have no trust on this island, and a liar, a thief, a murder, a Piraka like you deserves to die and rot in that miserable cell of yours, Meench Vyzumi!

Frosam’s words struck Vyzumi like a hammer. “Let’s go,” Frosam said to the rest of the group, and they left the tunnel, leaving Vyzumi behind in the jail cell.

Vyzumi sadly watched them go. He sighed and sat down once more. “How can I ever get them to see that I’m not the treacherous, murderous Dark Hunter they think I am?” he whispered to himself.

*****

Dusk on Wodahs Nui. Due to the large amount of dark clouds, nobody will see the sunset. In fact, nobody on Wodahs Nui has seen the sun for many thousands of years. The only thing to differentiate night and day would be that day is dark, night is pitch-black.

A Ga-Matoran stood near the wall that surrounded the perimeter of the village. She anxiously waited for what was going to happen once the signal was given. She looked over her bow, then glanced at each of her arrows. Deciding one wasn’t sharp enough, she picked up a rock and began to sharpen the arrowhead’s edges.

“Why do I have to work with you?” muttered the Jungle Matoran sitting next to her.

From behind her Kaukau, the Ga-Matoran narrowed her red-tinted eyes. “Your job is to hand me an arrow as soon as I shoot,” she instructed, not looking up from her work. “Got that? You’re just unlucky enough to be paired with me; now, deal with it, keep your mouth shut, and save your breath… while you still have it.” She put down the arrow and ran her finger up and down the bow’s twine, pulling it gently and releasing it.

The Matoran of Green sighed. “You waste your time sharpening arrowheads and practicing with your bow, and wear a skirt woven from dead plant fibers. You won’t trust your fellow Matoran, and have a passion for hating Shifting Shadows. Some even say your eyes are red. I can see why everyone thinks you’re insane.”

Lightning-quick, the Ga-Matoran stood up, holding her bow, and pressed it against the Jungle Matoran’s neck. She flipped over the bow, jumped to the other side of the Matoran of Green, pressed her foot, not visible underneath her brown skirt, against his back, and pulled on the bow. The Matoran of the Green was choked. “I told you,” she hissed, “to keep your mouth shut! If you want to live long enough to see me kill those Shifting Shadows, then do what I say!”

Just as the Matoran of Green was about to pass out from lack of oxygen, the Ga-Matoran took her bow away, and placed her foot back on the ground. Gasping for breath, he glared at her, rubbed his throat, and did not say another word.

A few more minutes passed under this tense silence, though it felt like an hour to the Jungle Matoran. Then, the Ga-Matoran grabbed her bow and one arrow, and began to climb the wall, using handholds that she had carved in the past week. When she had almost scaled the wall, she stopped and turned her head to wait.

Standing on the roof of a hut was a Ta-Matoran, with red body armor, black feet armor, and a black Kanohi Kualsi. He held out his left hand, to signal the Ga-Matoran to wait. The Ga-Matoran glanced at the Jungle Matoran, who hastily grabbed all the rest of the arrows and began to climb another set of handholds until he was even with her.

She anxiously watched the Ta-Matoran, whose hand was still held out. A few drops of water fell from the sky, even as loud, ominous thunder began to boom. While the Matoran of Green muttered under his breath, the Ga-Matoran simply ignored the weather and continued to watch the Ta-Matoran.

At last, he nodded. The Ga-Matoran then, with a burst of speed, scaled the last bit of the wall and launched an arrow. She did not need nor have time to aim, for if the signal was given on time, the Shifting Shadow would be right where she wanted. Sure enough, after shooting the arrow, she heard the Shifting Shadow scream in pain and surprise. She reached out to the Jungle Matoran, who began to fumble with the arrows. After a whole second of waiting, the Ga-Matoran gave up and instead grabbed an arrow herself, right out of the Matoran of Green’s hands. She shot again, grabbed another arrow, and shot again. The Shifting Shadow’s scream, as short as it was, came to an end. At last, she took the time to actually look at her target. Unmoving and silent, there lay a Shifting Shadow, one arrow in his back, two arrows sticking out of his forehead.

The Ga-Matoran and the Jungle Matoran climbed down from the wall. The Ta-Matoran with the Kualsi was there already. “We haven’t much time,” he told them. “Because that Shifting Shadow screamed, the other guards are bound to come and investigate.”

“You can thank the fumbler here,” the Ga-Matoran pointed to the Matoran of Green, “that I didn’t kill the Shifting Shadow quickly enough.” The Jungle Matoran shot the Ga-Matoran an annoyed glance, which was ignored. “Are the other Matoran ready? Because if we’re leaving, we have to leave now.”

“Of course they are,” frowned the Ta-Matoran. “What, you’d think I’d plan an exodus and not have the Matoran rallied up to leave?” As he said this, the villagers of the Koro – no less than five dozen, no more than a hundred – gathered behind him. Most of them were Ta-Matoran, Ga-Matoran, and Le-Matoran, though Matoran of other elements were scattered amongst them.

The Ta-Matoran walked up to the village gate, removed the slab that kept it locked, and opened the doors. Beyond lay a land once beautiful and green; now lifeless and dark. The storm began to increase in strength, the rain falling harder and the thunder booming louder. He walked out of the Koro for the first time in many millennia, scanning the area for any enemies. When he was sure the coast was clear, he nodded to the Matoran behind him, and led them out of the Koro.

“At last!” smiled the Jungle Matoran. “After being cooped up in that Koro for who knows how many years, I’m glad to get off this island!”

The Ga-Matoran with the skirt narrowed her eyes. “You’ve been the lucky one,” she replied. “You were brought here only a few millennia ago; most of the rest of us were trapped in that village for dozens of millennia. You have no idea what’s it’s been like.”

“Nor do I want to find out what it would’ve been like to spend dozens of millennia in the same village as an insane Ga-Matoran,” muttered the Matoran of Green, earning himself a dark glare from the Ga-Matoran.

“Plus, we’re not done on this island yet,” continued the Ga-Matoran. “We’ve got to kill all Shifting Shadows in our path. Like, for example, those ones over there!”

Five Shifting Shadows were crowded around the dead form of the first Shifting Shadow. Almost immediately, they noticed the group of Matoran, and one shouted. They began to fly towards the Matoran of Wodahs Nui, intent upon chasing them back into the Koro and killing at least a dozen.

The Ga-Matoran was ready. Shooting three arrows at a time, she shot two of the Shifting Shadows in the head and the other three in the chest. All five fell to the ground. The Ga-Matoran ran towards them, seeing that they were still alive. She launched five more arrows into their heads, killing the Shifting Shadows one at a time. When all was done, she smiled for the first time that night, the smile of a Muaka who has devoured its prey.

She returned to the group of Matoran. The Ta-Matoran was waiting for her. “Good,” he nodded to her. “If I’m correct, that takes care of all the Shifting Shadow guards. I’m almost surprised at the Shifting Shadows for leaving so few guards this time. This must have been a really important invasion for them to bring so many of their own.” He then spoke louder to make sure all the Matoran could hear. “Listen: we’re going to get off this island as quickly as possible, before the rest of the Shifting Shadows come back. Hopefully, one day we’ll return if the Shifting Shadows are ever defeated. Most of you will have to go find materials and begin to build boats. A small group of us shall go rescue Turaga Wodahs, while another group locates the Skakdi tribe.”

The Matoran began to talk amongst themselves, their eyes full of question and doubt. “Turaga Wodahs?” spoke one Le-Matoran. “Since when did Toa Wodahs become a Turaga?”

“I overheard a few Shifting Shadows talking,” replied the Ta-Matoran. “It was a few months before the Shifting Shadows left for their current invasion. They were talking about how Wodahs had mysteriously transformed into a Turaga. They were wondering why they did not find any Toa Stones or something lying around his cell, anything hinting that he might have transferred his Toa Power into it.” He paused briefly, then continued. “So, a small group of us, of whom I shall select, shall search and rescue Wodahs. Another group shall be sent to see if the Skakdi tribe still exists, and if they will ally with us. The rest of you build boats. Understand?” The Matoran of Wodahs Nui unanimously nodded their heads.

The Ga-Matoran crossed her arms. “May I inquire: Where would we begin our search for Wodahs, then?” she queried.

The Ta-Matoran turned his head to look at the ominous shape of a volcano, near the center of the island. It stood out from its neighboring volcanoes, being taller, larger, more imposing, and the fact the highest floor of a tower could be seen sticking out of its mouth. “The most obvious place, of course,” decided the Ta-Matoran. “Mount Nuita. The largest volcano of Ta-Wahi, and home to the Shifting Shadows’ fortress; or, as it was formerly known to us, Ta-Koro.”



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PeabodySam
post Oct 15 2009, 06:12 PM
Post #9



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Chapter 9
The Ally Revealed


“I was not very surprised upon learning that Meench Vyzumi turned out to be a Dark Hunter. I mean, seriously – a creature that looks like a fusion between a Toa and a Visorak: since when were those things supposed to be good? What I more likely would’ve been surprised by would’ve been if Meench Vyzumi turned out to be good after all.”
- from The Chronicles of Takua

Once more, it was dusk on Mata Nui. The Turaga gathered for another council at the Le-Wahi Kini.

“Time is,” spoke Vakama at the Turaga Council, “unfortunately not on our side. Although it is plainly obvious we will choose fight over surrender, over a week has passed since the Shifting Shadows’ arrival and we are no closer to figuring out what we shall do in battle, how to stop them like Lhikan did.”

He looked around at the faces of the other Turaga. Nokama, Nuju, Matoro, Whenua, Onewa, Matau, and even Frosam were attending this meeting. It did not escape Vakama’s eyes that, ever since the previous night when he had told his tale, everyone except for Nokama and Frosam treated him differently; their eyes betraying combinations of hopes and suspicions. Even though Vakama knew they still trusted him, just how much he did not know. Nokama had known for centuries, so nothing was different; Frosam knew that Vakama was the one who rescued him from the Dark Hunter Tower, so he trusted him with his life.

“Although the unanimous decision is currently ‘no’,” continued Vakama, “we must wait out the remainder of time, trying to prepare for what shall happen, trying to figure out what can stop the Shifting Shadows.” He paused, and shook his head. “If only Lhikan was here…”

Nuju gave a series of clicks and whistles. Matoro translated these sounds to be: “Lhikan is dead, so there is no use in trying to wish him back. We must look forward.”

Whenua smiled. “That sounds like our Turaga of Ice, but perhaps if we look into the past, we’ll find some clue or something that explains why Lhikan could so easily kill Shifting Shadows. Think. What do we know about Lhikan’s origins?”

Nokama shrugged. “That’s the problem – we don’t know much about Lhikan’s origins. He could’ve come from anywhere – the Tren Krom Peninsula, Stelt, the Southern Continent… All we really know about Lhikan’s past is that, four thousand years ago, he and his team of Toa Mangai arrived on Metru Nui to stop the Kanohi Dragon’s rampage.”

“But perhaps if we analyzed everything we knew about Lhikan and the Shifting Shadows…” suggested Whenua.

“And you don’t think that’s what we’ve been doing ever since the Shifting Shadows came here?” spat Onewa.

“Well,” interjected Matau, “perhaps it might help, since fire-spitter turns out to be a Shifting Shadow, and might know more about how to quick-defeat them.”

“I’ve already told you,” Vakama sighed. “I know nothing of the Shifting Shadows’ weakness, or how to defeat them so easily. Like most creatures, a well-aimed sharp weapon stuck in a certain part of the head will kill them quickly… but I doubt they would allow us to get so close as to get within range, or enough time to aim properly. If you don’t hit them properly, you end up with a screaming Shifting Shadow, and screams attract attention…”

“True,” nodded Frosam, speaking for the first time that meeting.

“A difference between the Matoran here,” Matau pointed out, “and the Matoran back on Metru Nui, is that on Metru Nui, if a Matoran casual-walked down the street and met something dark-dangerous, his first reaction would be to ever-flee screaming for a Toa or a Vahki. Here, on Mata Nui, our fellow Matoran have hard-trained to fight against these dark-dangers. Heck, even our translator - ” he gestured towards Matoro, “ – has trained to trap Rahi-beasts! A Chronicler’s Company of only seven Matoran could take down dozens of dark-infected Rahi-beasts, which are stronger and smarter than regular Rahi-beasts; combined with the Ta-Koro Guard, Ussalry, and Gukko Force, they kept hundreds – maybe thousands – of Rahi-beasts away from Kini-Nui! Most of those same Matoran defended their villages well against the Bohrok swarms, even stronger and smarter and more numerous than the Rahi! Now, if all the Matoran of Mata Nui gathered to form an army – a force of a thousand Matoran – and were led by the Toa Nuva, I’m sure that they could defeat the Shifting Shadows.”

“NO!” screamed Frosam, throwing his Quake Staff at the ground. It hit with a loud clang! Between that and Frosam’s sudden outburst, the other Turaga’s eyes widened in surprise. Frosam pointed an accusing finger at Matau. “DARN IT - how dare you even suggest – don’t you remember a darn thing about the Matoran-Dark Hunter War? That resulted in a massacre of Matoran, plus Toa Ikaag and Toa Lahka were killed! Out of a hundred Matoran and two Toa, only eight Matoran survived! By those standards, if we use your plan, there would be only eighty Matoran survivors, no living Toa Nuva… and the Shifting Shadows are probably worse than the Dark Hunters and Nektann, so the survivor count would probably be even less!”

Turaga Matau held up his hands. “I’m sorry,” he apologized quietly, “I didn’t mean to upset you…”

Frosam looked around at the other Turaga and one Shifting Shadow. He bent down to pick up his Quake Staff, scratched his head, and nodded. “Alright, then, continue.”

“Well, then,” Whenua spoke next, “perhaps there are old tablets or something describing the origins of the Shifting Shadows? Perhaps we’re lucky – we’ve lived here for a thousand years, and we don’t know all this island’s secrets – maybe one of these tablets exists on Mata Nui?”

“It would probably be in that Po-Wahi cave that Meench Vyzumi resided in a few months ago,” suggested Onewa. As soon as the words ‘Meench Vyzumi’ left his lips, Frosam paid even closer attention. “My fellow Po-Matoran keep meaning to clean that place out, but we never get around to doing it… problem is, as soon as someone mentions ‘Kolhii’, everything else is put off till later.”

“Why do you suggest there?” inquired Nokama.

Onewa shrugged. “Because down below our feet, Vyzumi is busy boasting about how he supposedly created the Shifting Shadows. If on the off-chance he’s telling the truth, he might have something in his cave. Frosam, I believe you mentioned Vyzumi had a journal?”

Vakama shook his head. “While what Vyzumi said last night would logically explain why I have two ‘main forms’, I think it’s just a whole new web of lies spun by the Lord of Deceit. It was probably just a big scheme to help him get out.”

“Late-knowing fool,” smirked Matau. “That’s the easiest cell in the world to quick-get out of, but, as we hoped, he’s so hard-concentrated on the fact it’s made of protosteel that he won’t look at how its design is flawed!”

Nuju spoke again in his peculiar manner. “Well, we did hide the design flaw,” Matoro interpreted. “After all, we didn’t want him to get out too easily.”

“But what if Vyzumi is telling the truth after all?” wondered Whenua.

“He isn’t,” spoke Frosam, his voice hard and cold. “I’m sure I can convince you that he’s just a liar.”

But can I convince myself that?, he thought to himself.

*****

After the Turaga’s Council had adjourned, the Turaga had departed from the Kini. Only Frosam lingered behind. He sighed, sat down near the edge of the Amaja Circle, and rested his Quake Staff beside him.

“… I know exactly what was the reason Lhikan was able to kill Shifting Shadows in their natural forms. It is some sort of chemical reaction that is in his elemental powers… I’m sure that if you let me out of here, I could help you find something that will cause the same chemical reaction. All you have to do is set me free, and we can defeat the Shifting Shadows!”

Despite all he had been through, despite how he had spoken last night, despite how every time he said the words “Meench Vyzumi” he twisted them with such hatred… he found himself repeating what Vyzumi had said last night, over and over, in his head. Frosam knew not to believe in Vyzumi… he knew not to be tricked… and yet, why did Frosam have the strangest feeling that Vyzumi might just be telling the truth?

What did Vyzumi have to lose? He was a Dark Hunter, unless what he claimed about the Shadowed One thinking him dead was true, and the Shifting Shadows worked for the Brotherhood, so there was no hope in betraying the Matoran, Toa, and Turaga to the Shifting Shadows. What if he truly was content on helping the Matoran? Even if it was only an alliance that would last as long as the Shifting Shadows were on Mata Nui, it would allow the Toa Nuva to deal with him later, worse comes to worse.

There was only one way to truly find out…

No!, thought Frosam, banging his hands against his head. How could I even think that? Meench Vyzumi is a liar and murderer! HE MURDERED LAHKA! HE MURDERED IKAAG! There can’t be any way I’m even considering this!

Even as these thoughts ran through the Turaga’s mind, he couldn’t dispose of that voice in the back of his mind, itching and clawing its way across the rest of the brain. The voice that suggested that Vyzumi was telling the truth. The voice that claimed that Vyzumi was not totally irredeemable. The voice that insisted that Vyzumi was doing this to help the Matoran defeat the Shifting Shadows, or else just trying to form a temporary alliance to defeat the Shifting Shadows, but either way he was trying to accomplish destroying the Shifting Shadows.

But that was impossible!

Was it?

These thoughts increased in volume. While at first, they were mere whispers in the back of Frosam’s mind, they slowly but surely grew louder and louder, until at last they were screaming in his head, He’s telling the truth!

Strangest of all, Frosam had a feeling that these screaming thoughts were not put in his mind… he was truly thinking them up himself.

Their screams became unbearable. Frosam placed his hands over his ears, but shouts in his mind could not be blocked out. He stood up and walked away from the Kini, thinking that the farther he got from Vyzumi, the quieter his thoughts would be. Even after walking for five minutes straight through the jungle, he still heard himself thinking that Vyzumi might be telling the truth.

Then, another thought ran through Frosam’s head:

If Vyzumi is lying, there will be time to deal with him later. It’s not like setting him free will make him invincible, now, is it?

Frosam smiled at this thought. He knew as long as he kept this thought in mind, he could silence his other thoughts by doing one thing.

He ran back towards the Kini. Slowly, as to not hurt his arms, he scooped most of the sand out of the Amaja Circle, then placed the thirty Matoran stones, four Rahi stones, six Toa stones, one Makuta stone, and one Mata Nui stone in each of the corresponding slots. The Amaja Circle opened up, revealing a dark tunnel. Frosam grabbed a Lightstone out of his pack and jumped down into the tunnel.

It’s time to have a talk with Vyzumi.

Frosam walked down the dark passageway. Once more, as he traveled, he wondered about the tunnel’s origins and purpose. The structure revealed that it was carved out centuries ago, so it was not made to exclusively be a prison for Meench Vyzumi. So why was it made?

And what about that ancient Kini, the one whose Amaja Circle serves as an entrance for this passageway? What was the story behind that?

Mata Nui is a mysterious island, decided Frosam. Perhaps one shall never find the answers to all its mysteries.

Frosam then realized how cold the tunnel was. He shivered, and moved on.

The Turaga of Earth continued to walk, wondering and planning how he would confront Meench Vyzumi. At last, he reached the spot in the tunnel that was occupied by a cell carved into the tunnel wall, in which was Meench Vyzumi.

Frosam stopped, his eyes widening in a mixture of surprise and pity, for what he saw before him was not was he was expecting.

Meench Vyzumi was sleeping. He was in a sitting position, his spider-like legs bent to rest his abdomen on the floor of his confinement, unable to truly lie down like a bipedal creature. His arms were crossed; not in an angry manner, but to conserve heat. His eyes were closed, and his breathing slow. As Frosam looked at Vyzumi’s face, he saw that his expression was peaceful, but sad.

Could a lying, murderous monster truly be so peaceful but sad?

Was the Vyzumi that Frosam knew all actually a lie?

It’s time to find out, thought Frosam, clearing his voice in an intentionally loud manner. “I would like to speak with you,” Frosam spoke.

At first, Vyzumi did not seem to hear him. Then, slowly, his eyes opened, then blinked a few times. He yawned, and lifted his hands to rub his still-drowsy eyelids. When he removed his hands, Vyzumi realized who was standing just outside his cell. “Frosam?” he asked. “What are you doing here?”

“I was going to talk to you,” replied Frosam.

Meench Vyzumi smiled. “That’s… great! You’ve changed your mind?”

“Not quite. The Turaga Council wants me to extract information from you,” Frosam lied. “Preferably in a way that does not involve setting you free.”

Vyzumi’s smile vanished. “That may be… difficult. I don’t freely give information away; I need to know that you trust me before I can trust you.”

“Alright, then,” Frosam scowled, “it’s going to be the hard way.” Activating his Noble Kanohi Pakari, he put his arm through the bars of Vyzumi’s cell and grabbed Vyzumi by the throat. As well as strengthening Frosam’s grip, the Pakari seemed to lessen the pain of moving his arm so quickly. “Tell me, Vyzumi, or I break your neck. Tell me how to defeat the Shifting Shadows!”

“You wouldn’t…” whispered Vyzumi, desperately trying to remove Frosam’s hand from his neck. “You’re supposed… to follow a code... not… supposed to… kill…”

Frosam smiled cruelly. “That’s a Toa Code. I’m a Turaga. Big difference. Plus, I’m sure there’s some exception to every rule.”

Meench Vyzumi stared at Frosam with old, sad eyes, nothing like the burning eyes Frosam used to know. “Please…” croaked Vyzumi, his voice barely audible. “You… have to… trust… me… at least… stop… strangling me… or all… hope of… stopping… the Shifting Shadows… will be… lost…”

Turaga Frosam looked at Vyzumi. Those sad eyes… that pitiful voice… the knowledge he knew… the voices screaming in his mind to let go… it was too much for Frosam. He deactivated his Pakari, letting go of Vyzumi’s throat. Vyzumi sat down, breathing heavily. After a long moment of silence, Frosam spoke. “Fine. But how can I fully trust you with my life? I know you as a… as a murderous Dark Hunter who killed two of my best friends, and a lying, raspy voice that has haunted my dreams for months. How can I trust you? I need the truth, Vyzumi. The truth.”

Vyzumi closed his eyes, as he slowed down and quieted his heavy breathing. He opened them again, and looked at Frosam. Those eyes… no longer were they the burning eyes Frosam had known, but they told a tale of millennia of wisdom and knowledge, sadness and misunderstanding. “The truth,” he said. “That is what you want.”

Frosam stared in Vyzumi with shock. Meench Vyzumi’s eyes were not the only thing Frosam no longer recognized. While he had known Vyzumi to have a cold, raspy voice, suitable for a lying murderer, the voice he now heard coming from Vyzumi’s mouth was completely different; smooth, noble, reassuring, and wise. For some reason, it sounded familiar, though Frosam couldn’t put his finger on it. This voice shouldn’t belong to this freak… it should belong to a Toa, or maybe a Turaga instead…

So why did it seem right to be coming from Vyzumi’s mouth?

“I am far more than a murderous… lying… pathetic Dark Hunter,” continued Vyzumi. “I am not what or whom you think I am. I did not like being a Dark Hunter… constantly having to murder Toa and innocent Matoran… stealing objects of value that should belong in better hands. While I have done… terrible things, and I cannot ever be truly redeemed, you should know that is not the true me. I didn’t even want to be a Dark Hunter, but a greater organization I work for needed me to be a spy, and I couldn’t risk betraying them by hindering my actions. That’s why, unfortunately, I had to kill your friends, Ikaag and Lahka. Would the Shadowed One have expected any less of his most efficient operative? Nevertheless, I found it… sickening to kill them. In fact, I could’ve easily have killed you many times… but I didn’t. Back in that tunnel where you encountered that Nektann, I could’ve killed all three of you then, but instead I brought you to my cave. Back in my cave, while Ikaag and Lahka were trapped and you were just sitting there reading Dune, I could’ve killed you then, but instead let you knock me out. Think about it – even when we were fighting in the Dark Hunter Tower, there were plenty of opportunities for me to kill you… like at the end of the battle, your defense was down and I could’ve killed you, but instead I only crippled you.”

“… and, when we were fighting a week or so ago,” continued Frosam, “you hesitated before delivering the final strike, long enough to let Vakama capture you.”

Vyzumi nodded. “That too. Don’t you see now? I’m not… I can’t completely be the murderous Dark Hunter you think I am. And yes, I might be a liar, but when one looks at the big picture, all my lies are for the greater good. But I’m telling the truth when I say this: you must trust me, Frosam. It will take time and knowledge to find more of the… chemicals required for defeating the Shifting Shadows, which is why it would be hard for me to just tell you. If I am free, I can help find them, but… do you trust me, Frosam?”

Frosam blinked. For a moment, he wondered if this was all just a dream. Everything he knew about Meench Vyzumi had been turned askew in the past two days, and the creature he once despised he now pitied, and despite all that Frosam had said last night, his reply was: “Yes, Meench Vyzumi. I do trust you.”

Vyzumi smiled, though once more it was not the menacing smile Frosam used to know. “Thank you,” he whispered. “So, can you help me get out of this cell?”

Frosam looked the cell up and down. “You see, Vyzumi,” Frosam replied, “you were unconscious when you were brought here, so you do not remember how you got in. When this prison was designed, Vakama told me, it was designed with a slight flaw. However, this was a necessary flaw, as it was the only way to open and close the cell. If you look carefully,” Frosam activated his Noble Pakari, grabbed one of the bars of the cell’s side, lifted it slightly, and pulled the cell’s side clean off, “and if you have the proper leverage, you can get out. You see, that wall was held on by hinges.”

Vyzumi stood up and walked over to Frosam. “Figures,” he chuckled. “I was so busy concentrating on the fact it was made of protosteel, I never thought to wonder how I got in!” He looked Frosam over, then placed his hand on the Turaga’s shoulder. Frosam’s first reaction was to flinch, but quickly calmed himself. “Thank you, Frosam,” Vyzumi thanked. “I owe you with my life, right now.”

Frosam nodded. “Yes, Vyzumi,” he warned, “but I should tell you. I trust you now. But if you decide to use this to your advantage, and try to betray us… I will kill you.”

“Very well,” agreed Vyzumi. “But you should not worry so much – there will be no need for that.”

As they departed the cell, Frosam heard a small cracking noise. Vyzumi stopped abruptly and raised one foot. There was a small glass fragment, now cracked, lying on the ground. Vyzumi picked it up and looked it over. Frosam watched with interest. There was something curious in Meench Vyzumi’s eyes, as though the piece of glass held some sort of memory for him, but then he tossed aside the fragment and continued to walk out of the passageway with Frosam.



This post has been edited by PeabodySam: Oct 19 2009, 08:38 PM


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PeabodySam
post Oct 19 2009, 08:41 PM
Post #10



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Chapter 10
Heart of a Volcano


“It was no easy task – the basalt was hot, the rock was rigid, and some areas were not stable to stand on or to grab hold onto. Once or twice, he nearly fell off the side of the volcano, only to stop his fall by planting his saber into the rock.
Just when Tohu thought he could continue no further, he finally reached the mouth of the volcano. He looked down into the mouth of the volcano, and saw a large pool of lava below, its searing heat washing over him. Tohu breathed deeply, from his exhaustion, the heat, and the knowledge of the battle that was to be.”
- from Tohu’s Tale, as written in the nonfictional edition

Standing outside the Shadowed One’s chamber, the white-armored Dark Hunter known as Primal waited. Just a few hours ago, while Primal was in the training arena, teaching some newbie Dark Hunters very painful lessons, he was approached by Ancient, who told him that the Shadowed One wanted to see him.

Figures, thought Primal impatiently, as he handled his trusty spear. I come as he wanted, but he’s busy talking to someone else.

Though the doors to the Shadowed One’s chamber were closed, Primal could still hear the conversation. The Shadowed One was speaking to someone whose voice Primal did not recognize, though it was very deep and frequently interrupted by coughing.

“…the island of Mata Nui,” the Shadowed One was saying. “It’s an island near Metru Nui, and can be reached by tunnel networks or water travel.”

The deep voice replied: “And, what is he doing on this island?” He coughed a few times.

“He was the leader of a select group of Dark Hunters who were going to try and take control of the island. Further investigation led me to theorize that the anonymous person who asked me to do this might actually have been the Makuta of Metru Nui, though this has not been proven.”

The Shadowed One was interrupted by a loud coughing fit. “Sorry. Continue, please,” apologized the deep voice.

“If you’re going to go to Mata Nui to ‘speak with him’, that may be difficult. He is probably dead, though I’m about to send a Dark Hunter to investigate whether or not he died.”

“So, it has not been - ” the deep voice paused to cough violently “ – confirmed, his death?”

“Not yet. I’m hoping to get back results showing that he’s alive; after all, he was one of my better operatives. If we get back those results, I’ll be sure to inform you, so you can have your talk with him.”

“Very well.” Then, there came a long, violent, coughing fit. His hacking coughs echoed off the walls of the Dark Hunters Fortress. What was disturbing to Primal was that he was unsure if that was coughing, or if it was laughing, or a combination of the two. “Thank you for the information, Lord Shadowed One.”

“And thank you for the payment.” Primal then heard the familiar sound of gold coins clinking against each other.

“It took a while to - ” again, there came coughing “ – gather that much gold, but I knew it was worth it.”

“Very well; you may leave.” As soon as Primal heard the Shadowed One say these words, the mighty doors to his chamber swung open. Primal waited, still.

A figure stepped out of the Shadowed One’s chamber. He was, like his voice, not recognized by Primal. He was tall, yet incredibly thin, clad in blue and silver armor, and walked with a hunched posture. In one hand, he carried a staff; in the other, some sort of launcher. Strangest of all, he wore some sort of breathing apparatus; two tubes attached to his mouth that wound around his head and attached to an unseen device. He glared at Primal with his narrow yellow eyes for a moment, coughed violently, then walked away.

Primal watched him go, then stepped inside the Shadowed One’s chamber. By now, he recognized its interior – the fireplace which provided no warmth; the Kanohi masks that lined the walls as trophies; the unfortunate Toa trapped within a stasis tube; and of course, the Shadowed One, sitting placidly upon his massive throne.

“You summoned me,” stated Primal.

“Indeed, I did,” smiled the Shadowed One. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting; that newcomer had traveled to Odina to ask me where Meench Vyzumi was, and with the payment he gave me - ” the Shadowed One gestured towards a sack full of gold coins “ – I was able to give him the information. He claimed to want to talk to Meench Vyzumi… though I know better. That is where you come in, Primal.”

“What do you need me for?” inquired Primal, crossing his arms.

“You have a new assignment,” smiled the Shadowed One. “You are to follow the footsteps of your ‘friend’, Meench Vyzumi. Go to the island of Mata Nui, locate Meench Vyzumi, and inform me at once if he’s dead or alive.”

Primal frowned. His voice was bitter when he asked: “Why am I the one selected for this job?”

“Because I know you and Meench Vyzumi are such good ‘friends’, I figured I’m giving you a little test.” The Shadowed One gestured to a Kanohi Rode, hung on the wall. “If Meench Vyzumi is alive, you’ll bring him back here. If he’s dead, you’ll come back, tell me he’s dead, and tell me who killed him. I think the killer would be some Turaga named Frosam, but there’s a chance that the Makuta of Metru Nui might’ve been involved. The test is, of course, you’re not allowed to lie, for we will know.”

Primal scowled. The Shadowed One knew as good as anyone that he and Meench Vyzumi were not friends, but bitter rivals. Primal saw Vyzumi as a freak who likes to show off; he assumed Vyzumi saw him as an inferior weakling. “What sort of trophy would I get out of this?” he queried.

The Shadowed One thought a moment before replying: “If it turns out he was killed by Turaga Frosam, you may kill Frosam and keep his mask as a trophy. But if Vyzumi is alive, you are not allowed to kill him, and you must tell me truthfully.” Once more, the Shadowed One pointed to the Kanohi Rode. “In that case, your ‘trophy’ would be that you keep your life.”

Primal reluctantly nodded. “Very well. When do I leave?”

“As soon as possible,” replied the Shadowed One. “Part of this mission is to get there and find Meench Vyzumi, before that pathetic coughing figure can do so.”

*****

“Oh, come on!” groaned the Jungle Matoran. “I don’t believe it – why do I always have to be with her?”

“Silence, you fool!” hissed the Ga-Matoran. “The faster you stop complaining, the faster we can walk!”

The Ta-Matoran, in the lead, slowed his pace to match that of the Matoran of Green. “And the faster we walk,” he continued in a low voice, “the faster we can find Turaga Wodahs. The faster we find Turaga Wodahs, the faster you get away from her.” The Jungle Matoran smiled and nodded, catching on to what the Ta-Matoran was saying.

A few hours ago, the Ta-Matoran with the Kualsi had chosen the group to travel to the Shifting Shadows’ fortress and rescue Turaga Wodahs: himself, the Ga-Matoran archer, and the Matoran of Green. It was a small team, but the Ta-Matoran was sure that there were currently no more Shifting Shadows on the island, so there weren’t any dangers to worry about. A small group also meant that they could travel faster.

It was a long journey. They trekked through a vast land that looked like it was once very beautiful, but now very dead, traveling on nothing but their own two feet. There was very little to describe about the journey, for very little happened. The three Matoran barely even saw any Rahi. Once or twice, they’d travel past some long-ago replica of their history before the Shifting Shadows, crumbling and weathered. The volcano range, far in the distance, seemed to never get closer, but the Ta-Matoran was persistent. For two whole days, pausing only to rest and eat, they traveled across Wodahs Nui.

At last, the group of Matoran reached the volcano range. But instead of going through the range to get to the center volcano Mount Nuita, the large one that inside was the Shifting Shadow fortress, they stopped at a much smaller one at the edge of the range.

“Why are we here?” asked the Jungle Matoran. “Shouldn’t we be going to the big volcano in the center? I thought that’s where the Shifting Shadow fortress was…”

“We cannot go directly into Mount Nuita,” the Ta-Matoran informed the others. “Not without wasting time climbing and descending the other volcanoes of the volcano range. Luckily, many millennia ago, when it housed the village of Ta-Koro, there were many ways in and out that did not involve climbing to the Nuita. Many of these have been closed, but there’s still one left open: within Mount Nuita is a tunnel carved out from the northernmost smaller volcano, which is the volcano we’re at right now. The entrance is up there.” The Ta-Matoran pointed up, along the side of the volcano. The Ga-Matoran and the Jungle Matoran followed his gaze and noticed a small opening in the volcano’s side.

Instinctively, the Ga-Matoran unlimbered her bow, grabbed an arrow, and shot towards the opening. Silence. Noticing the other two Matoran staring quizzically at her, she muttered, “Just making sure nobody was on guard.”

The Matoran of Green rolled his eyes. “I’ll never understand you,” he shook his head. Then, he turned to look at the Ta-Matoran. “Now, how are we supposed to get up there? I mean, we don’t have any climbing equipment…”

The Ta-Matoran smiled. “That’s why we improvise. Luckily, I informed her to bring extra arrows… a lot of extra arrows.” He nodded to the Ga-Matoran, who reached for several arrows.

She stuck one in the volcano’s rocky side. Designed to pierce the Shifting Shadow’s hard armor without falling out, they easily pierced the volcanic rock, but did not come loose easily. She stuck a second arrow, a little higher, into the rock, and held onto it. She stuck a third one even higher, and held onto that as well. She then let go of the second arrow, took a fourth arrow, and stuck that even higher into the rock. The arrows would serve as good handholds, the Ga-Matoran had figured out before they left the Koro. Slowly but surely, she was ascending the volcano’s side.

The Jungle Matoran stared at the Ta-Matoran. “Okay,” he inquired, “so she is able to climb the volcano with a bunch of arrows. What are we, chopped Mahi organs? How are we supposed to climb?”

“I thought it would be simple,” frowned the Ta-Matoran. “She goes ahead and plants the arrows in the mountain side so she can climb. She doesn’t remove them… so we can climb as well.” With that, he began to climb the arrow handholds. The Matoran of Green watched him for a moment, muttered something under his breath about insane Ga-Matoran, then followed suit.

The climbing process was tedious, but successful. After what felt like an hour, the Ga-Matoran had made it to the opening in the volcano. She turned and impatiently tapped her foot, hidden underneath her skirt.

“We’re almost there,” the Ta-Matoran whispered to the Jungle Matoran, a few arrows below him.

“About time!” the Matoran of Green sighed with relief. He grabbed the next arrow handhold a little too hastily. It snapped, and the Jungle Matoran found himself holding on to one arrow, with at least a hundred yards between him and the ground. He screamed.

The Ta-Matoran stopped climbing. He descended a few arrows, so he was right above the Matoran of Green. “Grab my foot!” he called.

The Jungle Matoran needed a moment to regain his composure enough to realize what the Ta-Matoran said. With some effort, he managed to reach up and grab the Ta-Matoran’s foot, using that as a handhold. The Ta-Matoran held on tightly as the Matoran of Green held on to his foot, who was reaching for the next arrow. The Jungle Matoran managed to grab the arrow, then let go of the Ta-Matoran’s foot. They climbed the remainder of the arrow handholds with no further interruptions.

When they got to the opening, the Matoran of Green pointed an accusing finger at the Ga-Matoran. “You did that on purpose!” he yelled.

“Did what?” asked the Ga-Matoran, arms crossed.

“You know pretty darn well what!” snapped the Jungle Matoran. “You made that arrow too weak, so it would snap when I grabbed it!”

“That was an accident,” snarled the Ga-Matoran. “If I had been trying to kill you, I would’ve just shot you with an arrow instead, so you better stop with your talking before I consider killing you after all!”

“Oh!” scoffed the Matoran of Green. “Yeah, sure! You know, back where I came from, Ga-Matoran actually had sanity! So - ” The Ga-Matoran whipped out an arrow, placed it in her bow, and aimed it at the Jungle Matoran, who instantly shut up.

The opening turned out to be that of a tunnel, just like the Ta-Matoran said. They walked in silence, with particular tension between the Ga-Matoran and the Jungle Matoran. The Ta-Matoran found himself reminded of an old tale about a Horned Lava Rat and a Takea Shark; only, slightly altered, so that the Takea would kill the Lava Rat if the rodent dared make a squeak. Then again, the two Matoran would probably still make the Takea and the Lava Rat seem like best friends for eternity. The Ta-Matoran shook his head pitifully.

They traveled through the tunnel for what felt like a few hours. The Ga-Matoran glanced at the Matoran of Green. She noticed that he was sweating; not from fear of her, but from the intense heat. That’s when she noticed the heat, too. She realized that, even if she wasn’t like a typical Ga-Matoran in many aspects, she still found it hard to withstand such heat. She stopped for a moment to rest her hand on the side of the tunnel, but yanked her hand back sharply, for the rock itself was hotter than the air. She frowned, rubbed her forehead, and continued.

At last, the tunnel opened to the massive mouth of a volcano: Mount Nuita. A pool of boiling lava dominated the bottom of the crater. Rock platforms rose from the lava; constructed on the largest of these platforms was a frightening fortress that looked like it belonged on Destral. Imagine a massive, black fortress lined with spikes, in a large cavern with glowing red molten material below and always-gray skies above, enough to render an insane Skakdi speechless – only a fraction of what the three Matoran saw inside the volcano.

“Mata Nui,” whispered the Ga-Matoran, her eyes widening in an uncharacteristic manner. “If there is such a place as Karzahni… this is it.”

The Ta-Matoran sighed, pain in his voice. “It seems that tunnel was one of the few remnants left of the old Ta-Koro. The village I knew, my old home – gone, replaced by this monstrosity of a fortress. I swear; one day, when the Shifting Shadows are defeated, I will see to it that this fortress is destroyed and ground to dust.” He beckoned to his companions. “Come on, let’s get going.”

The three Matoran climbed down to a large expanse of rock that spanned a pool of lava below. The Ta-Matoran stepped foot onto the bridge, to see if it was secure. Nothing happened. He shrugged, then nodded to his comrades. The Matoran of Green was only half paying attention, breathing heavily with one hand on his chest and the other on his sweaty forehead. The Ga-Matoran too was sweating, but with determination, she did her best to ignore the heat and followed the Ta-Matoran. The Jungle Matoran stayed behind, faintly aware of what was going on. He sat down on the hard rock.

The Ga-Matoran whipped around and hissed at him, “Get up! Are you just going to wait for the Shifting Shadows to return from their mission? Or is someone going to have to carry you?”

Woozily, the Matoran of Green nodded. “Yeah… can someone… carry me? The… heat is too… much…” The Ga-Matoran groaned as the Ta-Matoran turned back. He picked up the blue-green armored Matoran in his arms and, with some effort, carried him across the bridge.

They were about halfway when the Ga-Matoran stopped short. She felt that something was wrong. Her eyes narrowing, she turned and saw a large wave of lava rising out of the lava pool! “Run!” she shouted even as she ran for the other side of the bridge. The Ta-Matoran, with the Jungle Matoran in his arms, just barely made it out of the way as the lava splashed onto the bridge. The burning rock made a sickly noise as it turned red-hot, then phased to a lesser solid state. The Ta-Matoran sprinted after the Ga-Matoran, but beneath his feet, he felt the bridge shake, then start to collapse. Just as he was nearly at the other side of the lava pool, the rock bridge fell beneath his feet, to the boiling lava below. Acting quickly, the Ga-Matoran jabbed her bow towards the Ta-Matoran, whilst holding tightly to her end of the weapon. The Ta-Matoran grabbed the bow even as he descended. It nearly tore his right arm out of its socket, but he held on tightly. The Jungle Matoran fell out of the Ta-Matoran’s left arm, but the latter grabbed the former’s foot in time. The three Matoran watched for an instant as, down below, the bridge hit the molten rock and melted.

The Ga-Matoran pulled on her bow, raising the two other Matoran onto the solid rock. The Matoran of Green passed out and the other two Matoran sat down, breathing heavily. Then, after about a minute, the Ta-Matoran turned to look at the Ga-Matoran. “Thank you, again,” he nodded.

The Ga-Matoran frowned. “There would be a lot of explaining to do if I went to the other Matoran with you two dead and Turaga Wodahs still unfound. Plus… just in case Wodahs thinks we’re a Shifting Shadow trick, it would be easier to convince him otherwise if I wasn’t the only one.”

“If you’re so worried,” suggested the Ta-Matoran, “why then just take off that skirt to show him that you’re really you?”

The Ga-Matoran glared at the Ta-Matoran with such intensity that the latter broke his gaze, glancing down to look at the ground instead. Despite having been the elected leader of the Matoran of Wodahs Nui, the Ta-Matoran still found it uncomfortable to be around that Ga-Matoran, especially when she was angry.

The skirt was a strange habit of hers, yes, but nobody was brave enough to question her about it. She only began wearing it after the Plague, so if it meant something important to her, it was probably better to respect her wishes.

After a moment, the Ga-Matoran’s gaze softened a bit. Therefore, the Ta-Matoran asked, “All that practice with the bow and arrow must really have increased your strength; you were able to lift your bow, myself, and him - ” he gestured to the unconscious Jungle Matoran “ – all by yourself. But even so, I never knew you were so good at gripping the ground… or else, you would’ve fallen with us, no matter your strength.”

The Ga-Matoran sighed, and her expression almost seemed sad. “I… guess so… Part of being a good archer is to hold your ground, so that’s why.”

The Ta-Matoran looked over his shoulder, at the place where the bridge once spanned. “Well, with the skies clear… well, at least when it’s not clogged up with smoke from this volcano… it seems that there’s no more Shifting Shadows, and hopefully that bridge was the last of the dangers we’ll encounter.”

They waited for a few minutes, then there came a stir from the Matoran of Green’s body. With some difficulty, he sat upright, and sighed. “You Ga-Matoran and Ko-Matoran think you’ve got problems with too much heat? You’re lucky - be glad you’re not of my Matoran tribe. Heat kills when it’s this hot… and it kills plants, of course.”

The Ta-Matoran smiled grimly. He and the Ga-Matoran stood up, he helped the Jungle Matoran to his feet, and looked up at the massive gateway that stood in front of them. Massive, black, spiked, and frightening, it was perfectly suited to the fortress it was part of. The Ta-Matoran walked up to one of the massive doors, timidly raised a hand, and pushed on the door, not actually expecting any result. To his surprise, he heard a creak, and the door shuddered slightly. He gestured to his comrades, who pushed the door along with him. The door creaked and ever-so-slowly opened.

The Ta-Matoran looked inside. “Strange that they would accidentally leave the gate to their fortress unlocked,” he muttered.

The Ga-Matoran readied her bow. “Maybe,” she suggested, “it was not an accident.” The other two Matoran glanced at her, as they wondered if what she said was true.

The three Matoran looked around at their surroundings. They were in what could vaguely be described as the fortress’s courtyard, a vast expanse of land within the fortress just beyond the gate. Towers and walls, black, twisted, and out of a Toa’s worst nightmare, surrounded them on all sides. Behind them, the mighty doors of the gate slammed shut, and the sound of the heavy iron clanging echoed throughout the fortress, the only other side besides the bubbling of lava. The red-tinted light emitted from nearby torches combined with the darkness created by the smoke in the sky increased the sinister feel.

The Ta-Matoran narrowed his eyes as he looked from one tower to the next. “Which do you suppose that Turaga Wodahs is locked in?”

“None,” replied the Ga-Matoran. “They probably have him locked in the dungeons… and I can take you there.”

The Ta-Matoran and the Matoran of Green both glanced at the Ga-Matoran in surprise. “What do you mean?” inquired the Ta-Matoran.

The Ga-Matoran sighed deeply. “It was a long time ago, and a long story, but I had briefly spent time in the dungeons. I even should still be locked in there, or better yet dead, had I not been rescued.” She then began to feel the ground beneath their feet with her hands, apparently feeling for something that she could not seem to find.

“Who rescued you?” This time, it was the Jungle Matoran who asked.

The Ga-Matoran did not pause to look up. She continued to run her hands over the ground as she continued, “I haven’t the faintest idea who. He claimed to be a representative of the Brotherhood of Makuta who was checking on the Shifting Shadows and how they were doing. They knew him well, but I can’t remember what they called him. However, incidentally, the Shifting Shadows were performing Matoran Torture for the representative, and I happened to be the one picked.” Suddenly, the Ga-Matoran’s hands seemed to stumble for a moment. She put her fingers on the spot where they stumbled, then lifted. Suddenly, the dirt near that spot shifted and a hatch opened up, revealing a dark tunnel below. The Ga-Matoran grabbed a torch off one of the fortress walls and led the group into the passageway.

“The representative seemed interested in me, for some reason. He told the Shifting Shadows that, once they were done torturing me, he would like to use me for what he described as ‘a twisted experiment’ of his. So, only inches from unconsciousness, I was taken by him outside the torture arena.”

Within the passageway, the blank walls on either side of the traveling Matoran soon gave way to barred cells. The Ga-Matoran slowed just a bit, to see if any one of them held Turaga Wodahs.

“Unbeknownst to the Shifting Shadows, the representative took me to the quarters where he was sleeping, and slowly nursed me back to health. After a few days, he helped me escape back to the Koro. He reminded me vaguely of someone, though I cannot put my finger on it… besides, they definitely aren’t the same person.”

“Was this… before or after you went insane?” asked the Matoran of Green, earning himself a dark glare from the Ga-Matoran.

The dungeons just seemed to go on and on without end. Lit by the Ga-Matoran’s torch, the Matoran looked inside each one for any sign of life.

Most of the cells were empty. Here and there, there might be a piece of a being’s armor, but that was scarce. For about an hour, they moved down the passageway, checking cells on both sides of them.

Then, the cells began to have occupants.

Unfortunately, the occupants expired long ago.

First in a cell on the right, then most of the cells beyond, the three Matoran found corpses, almost fully intact. They lay on the ground, looking almost alive, if not for the darkness of the heartlight… the lack of organic tissue… and the lifeless look in the eyes. Most of the corpses belonged to Matoran, though here and there was the corpse of a much larger being, including a few Toa, several Skakdi, and even a couple titan-like figures. While the Ga-Matoran quickly glanced at each cell to see if it was occupied by Turaga Wodahs, the Ta-Matoran looked at each corpse with awe and wonder, wondering just what the occupants did that earned them such a terrible fate. The Jungle Matoran began to feel slightly ill from the combination of the death surrounding them and the heat in the air, and walked slowly behind them, not looking in any of the cells.

The Ga-Matoran frowned. All these cells, filled with corpses of long-ago prisoners, and yet none of them contained what looked like a Turaga.

Her sharp eyes caught something that not even the Ta-Matoran noticed. Very faintly carved on the ground in front of each cell was a name. BUVUMI was sketched on the ground in front of a cell that had the corpse of a Skakdi who appeared to be clad in mostly black and gray armor, with the remnants of a black cloth wrapped around his face. DARUKTORE-CIPILBREK was the name labeling a cell containing the corpse of a Toa-like figure, clad in brown, white, and black armor. NERETORR was carved in front of a cell containing a bronze-armored figure who, in his time, apparently carved messages on the walls of his cell with his own bare hands. Then, just across from Neretorr, was a cell labeled WODAHS

The Ga-Matoran came to a halt. She bent closer to the ground, to make sure that it indeed read ‘Wodahs’. “So, this must be the cell that Wodahs was held in…” muttered the Ta-Matoran when the Ga-Matoran pointed this out.

“… too bad the cell’s empty,” added the Ga-Matoran, lifting her torch. The light revealed that the cell indeed had no occupant.

“B-But why?” stammered the Matoran of Green. “Why wouldn’t he be in his cell?”

“I don’t know,” the Ta-Matoran replied, “but he might.” He pointed to the cell containing the corpse of Neretorr. The three Matoran walked to the cell door, which they found to be unlocked, since who would lock a cell containing nothing but a corpse? Slowly, the Ta-Matoran opened the door, and he and the Ga-Matoran stepped inside; the Matoran of Green stayed outside the cell, unable to go any closer to the corpse that laid on the floor. “Look for anything involving Wodahs’s name,” the Ta-Matoran spoke, already skimming the things that Neretorr wrote on the walls.

The Ga-Matoran didn’t respond; she too was reading. Neretorr must have had some reason behind writing all this, she thought as she looked over his messages, or else he was just bored and crazy. Due to the speed that which she skimmed, she did not read the full message, but just enough of it to get what it was talking about.

No food, no water… The heat here is unbearable… Written on these walls… Close to death… I am a moron, why did… Denethok has a list… How long have I… Things are really getting…

“Denethok has a list…?” murmured the Ga-Matoran in surprise. The Ta-Matoran turned to see what she had read. She backtracked a little and found the phrase. “From what I have heard from Akela,” the Ga-Matoran read aloud, “Denethok has a list of all the prisoners kept in this fortress, and in which cell they’re kept in. Akela was a thief trying to snatch it, looking for one prisoner in particular to free, but was caught doing so and she was locked in here. She says she nearly had it… it was in Denethok’s quarters…” There, the message ended.

The two Matoran traded glances. “Perhaps,” the Ta-Matoran muttered, “since it says it has a list of the prisoners and where they’re kept… perhaps it lists where Turaga Wodahs is, assuming he hasn’t escaped.”

The Ga-Matoran nodded grimly. “Then, it’s to Denethok’s tower that we go.” With that, she left the cell and moved quickly towards the direction they had come from.

“But wait!” the Matoran of Jungle called after her. “How do we know which tower it is?”

“Simple,” the Ga-Matoran answered as she continued to briskly move out of the dungeons. “It’s only the tallest tower of this fortress.”



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PeabodySam
post Oct 25 2009, 01:35 PM
Post #11



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Chapter 11
A Lord’s Trial


“What a load of Kane-Ra dung! I seriously cannot express my feelings right now in this tablet… They say that Aeimla was taken away because ‘there was enough proof to prove her guilty’! Just because an army walks up to our doors shouting ‘We serve Aeimla! We serve Aeimla!’ doesn’t exactly make her guilty. There’s just… something not right here… if she was guilty (of which I’m sure she’s not), would she honestly let her army reveal that she was guilty? I saw it in her eyes… innocence… and yet, not even a trial was held for her!”
- from a tablet written by Ofinjur

Vakama waited patiently, just outside the Mangai Volcano, alone, as he’d promised. He watched as a few Lava Eels slithered past his feet, feeling the heat emanating from their sleek bodies. He watched Lava Eels many times before, and knew just how they slithered around the volcanic ground, natural and at ease, as though they’d done it for thousands of millennia.

This was not how these Lava Eels slithered. They seemed rushed, panicked, as though there some sort of monster that loved to eat their kind. There was something very wrong… and Vakama was expecting it.

The snakes made their way over to a large rock behind Vakama. They seemed to want to go behind the rock, but apparently at the last moment, they changed their minds, and made for a nearby lava flow instead.

A shadow descended upon the Turaga as the last Lava Eel moved away. Vakama looked up with grim resolve. A large, black-silver armored Shifting Shadow landed on the ground before him. Denethok, leader of the Shifting Shadows.

“I’m surprised, Vakama,” mused Denethok. “This time, I knew I didn’t have to have someone knock you out in order to make sure we would be able to talk.”

Vakama smiled. “Of course. Always sending someone to knock me out, rather than having the honor to knock me out yourself.”

Denethok’s lip pulled back, revealing a row of sharp teeth, and a snarl made its way out of his throat. “We haven’t much time, to make final arrangements of your plans. Otherwise, be thankful I haven’t already knocked you out a thousand times over disrespecting your betters.”

“My betters?” Vakama repeated. “Not for much longer.”

Denethok’s lip settled back into place, but his eyes narrowed. “What are you implying, Vakama?”

“Simple,” Vakama leaned against his Firestaff. “It would be your end of the deal.” Denethok listened carefully. “If I am to help you take over this island,” Vakama explained, “then you will let me resume my position as leader of the Shifting Shadows.”

Denethok spat on the ground. “You honestly think I would do that? Age must have made your ideas more foolish than before.”

Vakama shook his head. “If I’m not the leader, then the deal is called off. Because of my place in this island’s society, I’m very useful to your takeover, so don’t throw away the chance.”

Denethok glared at Vakama for a moment. “Fine then,” he replied, “I’ll give this matter a little thought. I shall tell you my decision when we meet again… at the end of the two-week peace agreement.”

Vakama nodded. “Very well then.” With that, Denethok took flight, and shot like lightning across the sky. Vakama watched the Shifting Shadow go, then began to walk in the direction of Le-Wahi. All was quiet as he passed the large rock.

Then suddenly, a figure jumped out from behind the rock. Vakama barely got a glimpse of who he was, he moved so quickly. In a moment, the figure was behind Vakama, and Vakama felt a hand covering his mouth and something sharp and cool sticking into his back. The voice he heard was unfamiliar and yet familiar at the same time.

“You…” hissed the figure behind him. “You filthy… backstabbing… traitor! I heard of your dealings with Sidorak and Roodaka, but you were a Toa Hordika with emotional problems, and I thought you had learned from your mistakes. But this…? No, I thought you were better than that, Vakama! But to go ahead and betray your fellow Turaga, Toa, and Matoran, just to get leadership of the Shifting Shadows? You should be condemned to Karzahni for something like this! Why… how could you do such a betrayal?”

Vakama found himself unable to speak; not simply because his mouth was covered, but because of the accusations that the figure had said. The figure was there the whole time, listening him talk to Denethok… and yet knew nothing.

And who was his captor, anyway?

As though in answer, two Ta-Matoran jumped out from behind rocks, pointing their twin-pronged spears at whoever was holding Vakama. “Freeze!” shouted Jaller. “By the order of the Captain of the Guard, get your filthy hands off of him, Meench Vyzumi!”

“We were about to check on you,” sneered the other Ta-Matoran, who was Agni. “Much to our surprise, we found your cell empty. However, Jaller had a hunch, and we followed you here!”

Meench Vyzumi? thought Vakama in surprise. That voice doesn’t sound like Vyzumi…

“Get back, you two!” Vyzumi shouted from behind Vakama. “Your ‘friend’ Vakama here is nothing more than a traitor! I saw him with my own eyes – talking to Denethok, making arrangements to betray you all!”

Jaller laughed. “How stupid do you think we are? You’re a lying piece of Dark Hunter scum, and you expect us to believe that you saw Vakama betraying us?” With that, a third guard member, Kapura, raced past Vyzumi at an incredible speed, grabbing Vakama. Three more guard members, identifiable as Kalama, Keahi, and Weeljak, leapt in the air and ambushed Vyzumi, knocking him to the ground and causing him to drop the spear he had been holding. Still lying on the ground, Meench Vyzumi spun around to face the Ta-Matoran, only to find five twin-pronged spears pointed at him by the guard members, while Kapura and Vakama watched from a short distance away. “You’re under arrest, Lord of Deceit,” smiled Jaller.

“What is going on here?” A few seconds later, and Turaga Frosam ran over to the scene. He looked from Jaller to Vakama to the rest of the Ta-Koro Guard before his eyes finally rested upon Vyzumi. “What’s this?” he asked.

“Meench Vyzumi escaped,” explained Jaller. “We managed to find him here, threatening Turaga Vakama!”

“Please, you must listen to me!” insisted Vyzumi. “Vakama is - ”

Weeljak jabbed forward with his spear. Although his blow did not hit, it was enough to force Vyzumi to be silent. “You have the right to remain silent,” hissed Weeljak.

Frosam saw Vyzumi looking at him, and bit his lip. Should he tell them that he was the one who freed Vyzumi? Perhaps, if his hunch that Vyzumi was telling the truth was correct, it could be the only way to get the information that they needed from the ex-Dark Hunter.

Frosam sighed. “Confession time,” he began. “Meench Vyzumi did not escape on his own… I helped him escape.” Immediately, all the Ta-Matoran stared at him, as though he mentioned worshipping Makuta. “I don’t know… but I’ve watched his actions, and listened to his words, and looked into his eyes while he was speaking of the knowledge he had… and I cannot find any trace or hint of lying. He’s got nothing to gain from lying at this point – he’s no longer a Dark Hunter, and Skorpeo, Vicee, and the Nektann are all dead or destroyed. He may be telling the truth – how do we know, unless we find out?”

Vakama watched Vyzumi, still surrounded by Jaller, Agni, Kalama, Keahi, and Weeljak. He pondered a moment, then nodded. “Very well. We shall find out whether or not he is telling the truth… during his trial.”


*****

It was settled, then. In just a few hours, all the Turaga and all the Toa Nuva were present at the ancient Le-Wahi Kini, as well as Meench Vyzumi, Jaller, and Matoro. Most of the Turaga and the Toa Nuva stood at the base of the temple; Vakama, Frosam, Vyzumi, and Jaller stood near the Amaja Circle. Jaller had Vyzumi handcuffed, and was assigned to watch the spider-like being. Frosam avoided making direct eye contact with anyone, wondering just how he was going to prove his point.

Vakama cleared his throat. “All right,” he spoke, “let it be known the purpose of the trial held here tonight. We are to judge Meench Vyzumi, and deem whether or not he is redeemable of the crimes he has committed, including joining the Dark Hunters, killing Toa, killing Matoran, and the attempted murders of Turaga Frosam and myself.”

Tahu shook his head. “Why are we even bothering with a trial, then? That’s enough evidence to just kill him right now! I’d do it myself, if it weren’t for the Toa Code…”

Vakama expression was grim. “We’re holding the trial because there has been some… argument over whether or not we can trust Meench Vyzumi in these… circumstances. Our island is plagued by the Shifting Shadows, and he may be the only one who knows how to stop them. Besides, if this trial ended with Vyzumi considered unredeemable and untrustworthy… his punishment would be worse than death.”

Vakama then turned to face Turaga Frosam, who was standing next to Jaller and Vyzumi. “Now, Frosam, tell us why you think that Meench Vyzumi can be trusted in this situation?”

Frosam bit his lip, glancing at all the other faces present at the trial before finally landing on Vyzumi. “Well…” Frosam began, “it’s rather hard to explain. As everyone here knows, I hated Vyzumi with every bit of my spirit. I considered him to be beyond irredeemable… but something about him changed my mind. In my hatred, I’ve watched his every movement and listened to his every word. Remember back when he was lying about protecting this island, how we all suspected that there was something odd about him? I’ve found none of that oddness in him as he told us that he alone knew the secret weakness of the Shifting Shadows.”

“Who’s to say that Vyzumi hasn’t simply improved in his ability to deceive us?” interjected Turaga Onewa.

“I don’t know,” Frosam bit his lip. “But he’s got no reason to lie to us. Vyzumi, most likely, is safer in that jail cell than he would be anywhere else… out here, he can get killed by a Shifting Shadow, or worse. Aside from that, what’s the biggest risk of letting Vyzumi free right now? We’d be able to see if he was telling the truth about knowing about the Shifting Shadows’ origins and weakness. The Shifting Shadows have blocked off any way off the island, so he can’t flee.” Frosam dropped his volume low enough for Vakama to hear, “Besides, if he’s lying, we can just deal with him later.”

Vakama scratched his head. “I don’t know… he’s already attacked me just a few hours ago!” The other Turaga began murmuring in agreement.

Frosam then reminded Vakama in a low tone, “But then, the Ta-Koro Guard downed Vyzumi. We’ve downed Vyzumi twice, now that he doesn’t have any Nektann or Dark Hunters on his side… we’ll just do it again.” Vakama bit his lip and frowned, but nodded in agreement. Then, Frosam addressed Meench Vyzumi. “Now, can you please explain to me, why were you threatening Vakama?”

Vakama shook his head solemnly. “I’ll answer this for you. He overheard me talking to Denethok. I… I told Denethok that, if he allowed me to resume my position as leader of the Shifting Shadows, that I would help them take over the island.” Now, it was Vakama’s turn to be stared at. He looked sadly at the faces around him, and spoke again. “But, what Vyzumi does not know are my true motives. If I regain control of the Shifting Shadows, I can get them off the island; maybe even destroy them for once and for all.”

Turaga Onewa coughed loudly, his eyes narrowing. “That would be a reasonable plan,” he spoke, “but the problem is you’ve already tried to pull this stunt before. Remember? You thought that taking control of the Visorak hordes was a good thing, because you could order the Matoran and us Toa Hordika free. Instead, you went mad with power!”

Vakama sighed deeply. “Things have changed since then,” was his reply. “I was an unconfident Toa… well, kind of… and influenced by Hordika Venom. I’m older now, wiser, and if I can take control of the Shifting Shadows, I assure you I will not repeat what I’ve done a thousand years ago.”

Onewa stared at Vakama for a moment, then inquired, “How can we be so sure?”

Vakama blinked in surprise. “What do you mean? Do you not trust me?”

Onewa nodded. “I trust you… but maybe not as much as I did a week ago.” Onewa’s eyes narrowed even more. “Now, tell me again your intentions with the Shifting Shadows.”

Vakama’s eyes suddenly went blank. “I will order them off the island, warning them of a false attack on the Kumu Islets,” he spoke in a monotone voice, “while you escape to Metru Nui. Then, I’ll try to figure out a way to destroy them.”

The Turaga of Stone smiled, and Vakama’s eyes returned to normal. “Good, good,” was all Onewa said on the matter. He then turned his head towards Meench Vyzumi, whose eyes widened a bit. “Now, let’s try to speed up this trial, Meench Vyzumi, by finding out your true intentions…” Onewa’s eyes narrowed again.

There was a moment of silence. Onewa’s eyes narrowed even further, his entire body tensed, and sweat collected on his brow. Suddenly, he broke off; his eyes shut and he shook his fists in fury, cursing loudly.

“What’s the matter?” inquired Toa Pohatu Nuva.

Onewa glared at Vyzumi in contempt. “I… I cannot use my Kanohi Komau on him! His mind is shielded – I cannot gain entrance!” He cursed again, and kicked aside a Kuna that happened to be slithering by at the moment.

It took several minutes before the Turaga of Stone calmed down. When he did, he looked at the other Turaga, the Toa Nuva, and then landed his gaze on Meench Vyzumi. “I,” he declared, “do not trust Meench Vyzumi. He’s lied to us before; he might just be doing it again. And, if he were on our side, why would he shield his mind from me?”

Nuju spoke next, clicking and whistling in a hasty manner whilst making broad motions with his hand. Matoro watched him speak, then translated Nuju’s speech as: “Turaga Nuju believes that the answer to this trial lies not in the past but in the future. What lies ahead is much more important, and Meench Vyzumi forming an alliance with us may be a crucial key to having any hope of a future after the Shifting Shadows. Although he doesn’t exactly trust Vyzumi, he’s willing to form alliances if it means the end of the Shifting Shadows.”

Nokama nodded. “Nuju speaks wisely,” she decided. “Although it would be hard to not think of what Vyzumi has done in the past few months, what matters now is what he’ll do in the next few months. I say that, in situations like this, trusting Vyzumi may be our only hope.”

Whenua was silent, so Turaga Matau shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not quite so ever-sure, anymore,” he admitted. “I was against him, but Frosam, Nuju, and Nokama have brought up good and strong arguments.”

Toa Onua Nuva scratched his forehead. “It is true,” he spoke. “Although with Dark Hunters and Nektann he is dangerous, he is with neither right now. We need allies in the war to come. We’ll need as many as we can get…”

“… and beggars cannot be choosers,” completed Lewa Nuva. Gali and Pohatu both nodded in agreement.

Toa Kopaka was aware of many eyes staring at him, wondering what he’d say. He opened his mouth, but before he could speak, a Ko-Matoran ran in the middle of the trial. Kopaka immediately recognized the Matoran as Kopeke. “What are you doing here?” he asked icily.

Kopeke looked around at the gathered Turaga and Toa Nuva. He glanced over his shoulder at the Kini, where Vyzumi stood guarded by Jaller, and nodded. “Forgive me,” he stated, “but I request the right to speak at this trial.”

Vakama smiled. “Of course. Now, what is it that you have to say?”

Kopeke stared at Vyzumi, but his words were directed to everyone present. “I was there,” he began. “I fought in the war. I saw Ikaag and Lahka die, killed by Meench Vyzumi. Thus, I can tell you that he was reluctant to kill them. I saw that when he stabbed Ikaag, he had the perfect opportunity to stab Lahka as well. He didn’t.” A hushed silence fell over the trial. Kopeke did not care to break it until about a minute later, adding: “Before Lahka’s death, Vyzumi told Lahka that he had a secret that could not afford to share in the presence of Skorpeo, Vicee, and the Nektann. As soon as he said this, he killed Lahka.”

When Kopeke was done, silence fell once more. “Why would he say such a thing,” murmured Vakama, “if he was just going to kill Lahka, and not persuade Lahka to join him or something? It would be a very odd comment if it were a lie.”

Frosam nodded towards Kopeke. “Backtracking a bit to your comment about Vyzumi’s reluctance to kill, I’ve noticed that too. And, I’ve got proof that you can see for your own eyes.” With that, he slowly held out his arms so that his scars glinted in the glow of Vakama’s Firestaff. “I had my back turned, and I was wide open. All it would have taken was a simple stab in the back, and I’d be dead. Instead, he chose to cripple me.”

Drawing his arms back under his cloak, Frosam continued: “Plus, when we fought at the Dark Hunter Tower ruins, I’m crippled and I should have easily lost. And I did, but Vyzumi would not deliver the final blow. He almost purposely seemed to avoid stabbing me, and when I was down, he hesitated long enough for you, Vakama, to ambush him.”

Kopeke silently stepped out from the center of the trial; his work was done. Toa Kopaka Nuva watched him go, then muttered coldly: “We can have Vyzumi on our side, but I’ll never trust him. If he’s a liar… I’ll deal with him myself.”

Nokama turned to look at Whenua, who had remained silent for the whole trial. “Brother,” she inquired, “is there anything you would like to share with us?”

Turaga Whenua nodded. “Indeed.” He glanced at Nuju, a short distance away. “Nuju, you and I have almost never agreed upon matters. Always, you’ve looked to the future for answers and neglected the past. I’ve always trusted in the past and did not care for the future. We may get along, but we’re near polar opposites.”

Nuju’s eyes narrowed. He was about to respond, but Whenua held up his hand. “And, yet, for once I agree with you on this matter. Looking at our past tells us that Meench Vyzumi here is a lying murderer who deserves death. But our future… our future tells us that Vyzumi will be a powerful ally against the Shifting Shadows. I see wisdom in your words, Nuju, and for a matter like this, the future is the more reliable source. What lies ahead is more important now… or, perhaps, the past and future are not what we should look for, but rather the present? I vote for Meench Vyzumi’s redemption and trustworthiness.”

Toa Tahu Nuva glanced around at the trial. He knew that, despite having made his opinion clear at the council’s beginning, he was greatly outnumbered. He sighed, and glared at Vyzumi. “Alright,” he said after a minute of silence. “Vyzumi can fight with us against the Shifting Shadows. But, I’ll be watching him.”

Matau made up his mind and concurred with the majority vote. Onewa declared then that he, like Kopaka, would not trust Vyzumi, but if an ally in the war to come was what was most important, then Vyzumi could be let free.

Turaga Vakama nodded and turned to look at Meench Vyzumi. “Very well,” the Turaga of Fire stated. “Meench Vyzumi has been judged trustworthy enough to redeem himself in fighting alongside us during the war. Trial ended. You are free.”

With that, Jaller took away Vyzumi’s cuffs. His hands free, Vyzumi rubbed his wrists and stared a moment at those gathered at the trial. Filled with gratitude, he smiled and said: “Thank you, everyone. Even you three: Onewa, Tahu, and Kopaka. Even if I am under surveillance, I am honored to know that you shall let me fight alongside you.”



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PeabodySam
post Nov 1 2009, 04:32 PM
Post #12



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Chapter12
Quadrant 14


“The lights dimmed again; intermission had ended. The Turaga of Sonics continued conducting his piece, and Vyzumi took one last look around the hall. Still no sign of–
‘Meench Vyzumi!’ hissed Skorpeo, leaning over Jemz’s seat to whisper. “Over there! Is that him?”
Vyzumi leaned forward. He watched as a Toa of Air, clad in green, gray, and gold armor proceeded to sit in the once-vacant seat to the left of the Vortixx. He nodded to Skorpeo. ‘Indeed. It’s him.’”
- from Four Years, Five Months, Five Days

<Hello!> <Deploying…>

<Target lost.> <Are you still there?>


The Ga-Matoran, Ta-Matoran, and Jungle Matoran huddled behind a large rock that was the only this between them and those… things.

“Okay,” muttered the Ta-Matoran. “So, we’ve managed to get inside Denethok’s tower with a surprising lack of difficulty. We’ve found the list with a lack of difficulty. Sure, the list said that Turaga Wodahs was moved to Quadrant 14, but we could handle that. We even found the key to Wodahs’s cell! We leave Denethok’s tower without a problem, find Quadrant 14 without a problem, and get inside without a problem. Just when all seems easy, they turn up!”

<Could you come over here, please?> <Where are you?>

The Ga-Matoran peered over the rock just long enough to take a look at their attackers. They did not appear to be Shifting Shadows, for they were entirely mechanical. She quickly assumed that the design was based off of the Nektann used by the Skakdi tribe, but it was much different.

<Activated.>

Both of them spoke at once, as their line of vision noticed the Ga-Matoran. Their sides opened up, revealing several blasters. The Ga-Matoran ducked behind the rock before they could shoot again, thanking Mata Nui that the rock was hard enough to deflect their shots.

<Where are you?> <Sleep mode activated.>

“Whoever designed these had a sick sense of humor,” she hissed through clenched teeth. Despite being incredibly violent, these attackers had such innocent, friendly voices, the kind that would guilt-trip one into doing something he didn’t want to do.

She watched as two red beams of light – literally, each one was the line of vision of the two attackers – scanned the area around the boulder for the Matoran.

<Hello?> <Could you come out now?>

Both of the attackers looked exactly the same. They resembled white metallic pods, with three legs to support it and to stand up. A black line ran down the height of each attacker’s body, with a single red eye in the center. From this eye the red beam of light was emitted that showed the attacker’s line of vision. In essence, they were turrets… that happened to have really innocent voices… and shot anything they saw.

<Naptime.> <Resting.>

Hopeful, the Ga-Matoran peered over the boulder again. As soon as she did, the two turrets woke up apparently, forcing her to duck back down. “Is there another way into this tunnel?” the Ga-Matoran asked the Ta-Matoran.

“No,” he replied, “but I’ve got an idea.” He picked up a clump of volcanic soil under his feet, then threw it over the boulder. No sound came from the two turrets.

“Excellent,” the Ta-Matoran smiled. “As I suspected, they are designed to fire not at movement, but at anything organic. We have organic tissues and organs, which is why they fire at us; but the dirt was just that: dirt. Now, to fully test my theory.”

With that, the Ta-Matoran grabbed a small rock, the size of his hand. He emerged from behind the boulder long enough to throw the rock at one of the turrets. It hit with a loud rock-against-metal clang, and actually caused the turret to lose its balance.

<AAAAA!>

The turret fell to the floor, and its sides opened up to reveal the blasters. Malfunctioning, the turret fired at the other turret.

<Don’t shoot! Wait! It’s me! Stop shooting!> <No… hard… feelings…>

The fallen turret’s eye dimmed as the line of vision disappeared and the blasters sank back into its side. The other turret was badly damaged, but still activated. All it said to mark that it acknowledged the other’s passing:

<I don’t blame you.>

The Ga-Matoran took that moment to bolt out from behind the boulder.

<There you are!>

She ignored the turret as blasters came out of its sides and it began firing. She was just one step ahead of it, running out of the way just before it could fire at her. Close enough, she picked up the fallen turret and swung it at the other turret, knocking that one over as well. Like the first, it malfunctioned and fired like crazy, before its eye darkened. The turret spoke its last word:

<Why…?>

Satisfied, the Ga-Matoran beckoned to her comrades. They continued down into the tunnel. The only light came from a torch in the Ta-Matoran’s hand, the air was hot and musty, and the tunnel continued to stretch into the darkness.

“So then,” spoke the Matoran of Green as they walked, “why don’t you tell us a little of what you know?”

The Ta-Matoran nodded. “As you,” he addressed the Ga-Matoran, “probably already know, the Magma Mines are a series of underground tunnels built inside and underneath the Ta-Wahi volcano range. At least, I consider it part of Ta-Wahi – some consider it part of Onu-Wahi. Ta-Matoran and Onu-Matoran work together in these tunnels to mine for important minerals, to lava farm, to trade between our village and theirs… or, if in a time of need, to make a hasty escape to or from Mount Nuita.”

Almost in agreement with what he said, the light from his torch revealed picks, drills, and Ussal Carts left behind by the miners. Apparently, since taking over Wodahs Nui, the Shifting Shadows never cleaned this place up.

The Ta-Matoran continued: “Areas of the Magma Mines were labeled by Quadrants, usually based under the volcano located above each area. In addition to making mapping the Magma Mines easier, it… was a system for warning the miners.”

“How so?” inquired the Jungle Matoran.

The Ta-Matoran lifted his torch towards the ceiling. “This is Quadrant 14, and it’s located directly beneath Mount Kurata. Although not nearly as large as Mount Nuita, Mount Kurata was so named for being a place of ‘angry fire’. It constantly erupts, and violently, too. Therefore, Quadrant 14 is the most unstable, dangerous, and volcanic areas of the Magma Mines, the main reason why most miners avoided it. Only the bravest worked here.”

As if in answer, the tunnel shook violently, accompanied by an ominous rumbling. The Ta-Matoran and Ga-Matoran, who seemed used to it, were unaffected, and simply moved with the trembling tunnel. The Matoran of Green, on the other hand, fell flat on his Kanohi. The rumbling ceased, and the Jungle Matoran got back up and grumbled to himself.

“Come,” the Ta-Matoran muttered. “We can’t afford an extra second down here in Quadrant 14.”

The trio of Matoran made their way down into the tunnel. The Ga-Matoran felt that they were descending, for the ceiling and floor of the tunnel were slightly sloped downwards. The heat rose gradually, and once more she felt herself sweating and uncomfortable. Still, she went on, determined that no matter what she endured, they would find Turaga Wodahs.

After a while, the tunnel stopped its downward slope and leveled out. The heat continued to rise, and the Ga-Matoran’s breathing became heavy. Suddenly, she stopped, as realization hit her.

Wait a minute, she thought feverishly, the heat cannot be rising simply due to a change of elevation, if the tunnel is no longer descending… which means –

“We have to get out of here!” she yelled, and bolted down the tunnel. The Ta-Matoran grabbed the Jungle Matoran’s wrist and dragged him after the Ga-Matoran.

“What are you doing?” stammered the Matoran of Green, who had shaken the Ta-Matoran’s hand loose and was now running, albeit not as fast as the Ta-Matoran.

“The heat’s taken its toll on you,” replied the Ta-Matoran, once again grabbing the other Matoran’s wrist and bringing him up to speed. “And, apparently, our Ga-Matoran friend has sensed some danger - ”

There came rumbling again. The tunnel shook, more violently than before, and behind them one of the walls collapsed. Red-hot molten magma burst into the passageway, and wasted no time at all in seemingly pursuing the Matoran.

The Ga-Matoran felt her legs grow tired, her lungs ache, and her eyes sting as she ran, with the other two Matoran behind her, and a fist of lava behind them. Yet, she refused to let herself slow down, despite her screaming muscles. Through her heavy eyelids, she saw the tunnel split into two different passageways. The one on the left continued to descend, while the one on the right ascended.

She realized that the chances of Wodahs being locked up in a cell in the left, lower passageway was likely. And yet, if the Matoran went down a descending tunnel, the magma would outpace them, and the rescue would be a failure. Going up the right, ascending passageway was their only hope for survival. And so, with a twinge of regret at not being able to investigate the other tunnel, she turned right. The Ta-Matoran and Jungle Matoran followed her.

The magma flowed into both passageways. However, due to the binding laws of gravity, more of the molten rock flowed down the left tunnel, while that which flowed up the right tunnel began to slow its pace. It was a few minutes, but eventually the Ga-Matoran, Ta-Matoran, and Matoran of Green came to a stop. They turned around, and saw that the lava was no longer flowing after them.

Panting heavily, the Ta-Matoran nodded. “That’s the main reason why miners usually did not work in Quadrant 14,” he stated.

The Jungle Matoran dizzily sat down on the floor from exhaustion. Only a second later, he was yanked back onto his feet by the Ga-Matoran. “Come on,” she hissed. “Turaga Wodahs could be locked up here. And if that’s the case, we’ve got to find him!”

Disgustedly, the Matoran of Green muttered something under his breath. Then, without another word, the three Matoran proceeded on their way. They had not gone far when the tunnel abruptly ended. The Ga-Matoran glanced around, then chanced upon looking upwards. A small hole in the ceiling, barely large enough for a Matoran to fit though. The ceiling was too high to reach, unless…

“You,” she spoke to the Jungle Matoran. “Get up on my shoulders. Then you,” she pointed to the Ta-Matoran, “get on his shoulders and get up there. Help him up, and then both of you get me up.”

It took a few tries, but the Jungle Matoran managed to balance himself on the Ga-Matoran’s shoulders. The Ta-Matoran climbed the two Matoran and stood on the shoulders of the Matoran of Green. His upper torso extended into the hole, and he found himself in a new tunnel. He hefted himself into the passageway, turned around, and helped the Jungle Matoran up into the tunnel.

“Grab my ankles,” he instructed. Once the Matoran of Green obliged, the Ta-Matoran was lowered into the lower tunnel. He grabbed the Ga-Matoran’s outstretched hands, and pulled her up.

There it was!

At the far end of the new tunnel was a gleam of metal. The Ga-Matoran recognized it to be that of a cell door. The three Matoran ran towards the cell, and the Ta-Matoran took out the key that they stole from Denethok’s tower. Sure enough, it fit into the lock, and after turning it, he opened the cell door.

“Turaga Wodahs?” he spoke into the shadows.

At first, there was only silence in reply. Then, came some movement, and the Ta-Matoran turned his torch in that direction. Sitting in the far corner of the cell was a frail figure. He looked only to be a bit taller than a Matoran. He was rather thin, and looked like he had not absorbed any food energy in months, giving him a weathered, beaten appearance. Although in the firelight, his armor appeared to be tinted red, it could vaguely be made out to truly be green and gray, with a few hints of gold. Being a Turaga, it was clear that his Kanohi Kakama was of the noble power, despite being in the shape of a Great Kakama. Beside him lay a small spear, tossed aside like a useless tool, despite the great craft visible in its blade and handle.

The Ga-Matoran stepped forward. She knelt in front of the Turaga, and whispered, “Turaga Wodahs? Is that you?”

Slowly, Wodahs opened his eyes. His naturally-red eyes narrowed before the sight of the Ga-Matoran. He looked at the other two Matoran, and then focused on the Ga-Matoran again. “What kind of sick joke is this?” he hissed a coarse voice that sounded parched and unused for years. “You Shifting Shadows think that this is funny? Just going to torture me again, this time posing as Matoran? You cowardly shape-shifters! You want to kill me, then, hmm?”

At this moment, displaying unseen agility and speed, he lashed out at the Ga-Matoran, smacking her across her Kanohi Kaukau. As she fell back in surprise, Wodahs grabbed the spear. Shockingly, he pressed the tip of the spear’s blade against his own head!

“Well, I’m not going to give you that pleasure!” he smiled, with a gleam of madness in his eyes. “I’ll kill myself, and thus rob you of the opportunity to torture or kill me! Yes, that’s what I’ll do – kill myself! Or, perhaps…” he took the spear away from his forehead, and instead pointed it at the Ga-Matoran, “it is you whom I shall kill!”

“It’s not a trick!” insisted the Ga-Matoran. “We’re Matoran – we’ve escaped the Koro to rescue you! Don’t you recognize me?”

“Hah!” scoffed Turaga Wodahs. “Look at you in your skirt. I know you Shifting Shadows can’t shape-shift into the exact form of another being. The garment is a clever cover-up for the differences between you and the Ga-Matoran you’re posing as, but you’re not fooling me!” He then pointed at the Jungle Matoran. “And you! I don’t recognize you; besides, there weren’t any Matoran of Green on this island, last I checked!”

“Then look long and hard at me,” the Ta-Matoran spoke, stepping forward towards Wodahs. “You will see no difference nor cover-up between myself and the Ta-Matoran you think I’m an imposter of. I am indeed whom you remember, and so is she. Our green friend is a fellow prisoner of the Shifting Shadows. And, once more, we’re here to rescue you.”

Wodahs lowered his spear to turn towards the Ta-Matoran. His keen, narrow eyes scrutinized every visible detail on the Ta-Matoran. He reached out a hand, and inspected the surfaces of the Ta-Matoran’s armor and Kanohi Kualsi. He seemed to do this forever, before stepping back. The Turaga of Air looked the Ta-Matoran up and down, then said: “Indeed, it is you. It’s the truth – you have come to rescue me, after all.” He helped the Ga-Matoran back onto her feet, the Ta-Matoran handed Wodahs a Bula to replenish his energy, and then they left the cell.

“We’re going to need to find another way out,” reminded the Jungle Matoran. “The way we came is flooded with magma.”

“Don’t worry,” the Ta-Matoran replied, “so many tunnels were built in the Magma Mines, we can probably easily locate the tunnel that connects to Quadrant 15, from which we can return to the other Matoran. Turaga Wodahs, we’re planning an exodus from the island. The Shifting Shadows are on an invasion, and they took most of their numbers with them. We have dispatched those who remained on the island. We have to get off this island before the Shifting Shadows return!”

Wodahs breathed deeply. “There can be no escape,” he muttered. “We can flee all the way to the Southern Islands, but once the Shifting Shadows return, they’ll track us down easily and recapture us. No, there’s only one hope of escaping them – we need to follow the Shifting Shadows.”

“What?” the Ta-Matoran stammered, coming to a stop. “Turaga, that would be foolish! Even more so, suicidal! If we follow the Shifting Shadows, all this – the exodus, rescuing you – will be for nothing!”

“And what if we don’t follow them?” snapped Wodahs, also stopping. “We’ll be no better off! I’ve heard those Shifting Shadows, thinking they’re so clever in talking right in front of my cell since I can’t do a thing about it; they were discussing invading the island of Mata Nui, which they said could easily be reached through an ancient subterranean tunnel. We’ll follow them, and since they won’t be suspecting as such, that will give us the perfect opportunity to strike at them! And if we die – well, better to die as freedom fighters than to live as slaves!” He continued walking.

“The Matoran are already hard at work building boats for the exodus!” reminded the Matoran of Green. “This will go to waste - ”

“No it won’t!” interrupted Turaga Wodahs. “The boats are just what we need to reach and travel through the subterranean tunnels! Well, then, are you two just cowards then? Perhaps you are as well?” This last sentence was directed towards the Ga-Matoran.

The Ga-Matoran lifted her narrowed eyes, to make eye contact with the Turaga of Air. “I don’t care what we do,” she half-whispered, half-hissed, “but as long as I kill those Shifting Shadows, I’m fine!”

“Hmm,” nodded Wodahs. “You’ve certainly changed, since I last saw you. Weren’t you just an ordinary Ga-Matoran fisher and net-weaver?”

The Ga-Matoran’s voice turned bitter. “You can thank the Shifting Shadows and the Plague for that,” she muttered in reply.

“Well then,” Turaga Wodahs declared, “it seems we have an indecisive vote. You’ll bring me back to the other Matoran, and then we’ll decide our course of action.”

*****

“Wodahs is free!”

These three words were shouted by Meench Vyzumi, who immediately sprang off his bed-slab with an ecstatic grin on his face.

He took a moment to calm himself down and slow his breathing. Then, he noticed that, beside his bed, Turaga Frosam stood with a puzzled expression. “Sorry,” Vyzumi grinned sheepishly, with an embarrassed chuckle. “I bet I surprised you, there.”

Surprised?” repeated Frosam in a mocking tone. “Why, you nearly gave me a Zyakarda! Now, who the Karzahni is Wodahs, why is he free, and why are you so happy about this?”

Vyzumi bit his lip. “Hmm,” he muttered, “I don’t know. I must’ve been dreaming, I guess. Problem is, as soon as I wake up, I can barely remember anything I dreamed about!” He again chuckled sheepishly.

After the trial, he and Frosam had traveled to a certain cave Po-Wahi: the personal residing spot of Vyzumi while he and the three Dark Hunters had come to their island. Vyzumi borrowed a bed from a Po-Matoran merchant identified as Ahkmou, and added it to the cave. As soon as that was over, the ex-Dark Hunter more or less fell asleep atop the bed.

“You’re back,” noted Vyzumi, remembering that before he fell asleep, Frosam had left the cave.

“Yeah,” nodded Frosam, reaching into his pack and pulling out a Bula. “I figured you may have wanted this. You look like you haven’t had any energy in weeks.” Gratefully, Meench Vyzumi took the Bula from Frosam. He looked over the fruit, brought it to his mouth, and promptly took a bite out of it. Frosam watched in a mixture of surprise and horror. “You… bite fruit?” he stammered in astonishment.

Meench Vyzumi shrugged. “Yeah,” he replied. “Quite unfortunately, try as I may, I just can’t absorb the energy from mere touch, like a Matoran, Turaga, Toa, or other species can. It’s just not a trait I’ve inherited.”

Inherited?” repeated Frosam, in a tone of interest and confusion.

Vyzumi thought as he took another bite of the Bula. “It’s not that bad, actually,” he murmured. “I suppose it’s harder for those who wear Kanohi, but it produces the same end result.” He continued to eat in silence.

Frosam wasted no time upon Vyzumi finishing the Bula. “So, then. When are you planning to tell us about the chemical reaction that can instantly kill Shifting Shadows in their main form?”

Vyzumi frowned. “It will take time and energy to actually get the chemicals needed. In the meantime, the war will probably begin, but hopefully within a week of fighting we’ll get the chemicals.” As he said this, he walked over to one of his shelves, brushed aside a few objects of little interest, and pulled out a small stone. He looked the stone over, nodded, and put it back on the shelf. Then, he turned to Frosam and continued: “You can read about them for yourself; just look at my journal.”

“Your journal?” laughed Frosam. He pointed to the massive pile of what appeared to be hundreds and hundreds of stone tablets, arranged in random order. “It would take far too long to find anything useful in there!”

Vyzumi nodded. “Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Did you think that I would actually leave my journal, detailing every detail about my life and secrets, open to the Dark Hunters and others to read? No. For every entry of my actual journal, I carved onto a stone tablet a copy of the journal entry, but with my personal information removed and the entire entry written from the perspective of a murderous Dark Hunter. And that’s what you see before you. However, if you remove the illusion…” With that, Vyzumi walked over to the pile, raised one of his four spiderlike legs, and kicked aside several dozen tablets. The pile of “hundreds” turned out to be nearly hollow, made up of only a few dozen stacked in a way that looked like hundreds. At the bottom of the pile was a peculiar object. Vyzumi picked it up and showed it to Frosam, who took it from Vyzumi.

It felt awkward, like holding a piece of wood. He tried to turn it over, but discovered that in doing so, he actually turned over a thin sheet of wood, revealing hundreds of sheets made up of leaf-thin yellowish material with Matoran letters written in ink.

“What is this?” he murmured aloud.

“I’ve discovered,” Vyzumi explained, “that if you take leaves of a certain commonly-found plant and leave them out to dry, it becomes this. It’s much lighter than rock, and more efficient to carry around and write in. Thus, I prefer to use it over the orthodox tablet. I’m probably the only being in the known universe to use this instead of rocks, but hey – it works for me, so I use it.”

Vyzumi took his journal back from Frosam. “I’ll try to find the specific entries of interest,” he told the Turaga of Earth. “That way, it will be easier for you, the Turaga, and the Toa Nuva to read about the creation of the Shifting Shadows, and the specific chemicals to kill them.” He chuckled softly, then added: “Of course, I’ve got so many entries, it might take a bit of time before even I find the correct pages.”

Frosam nodded. “Then, as soon as you do, inform us at once,” he murmured sternly. “I didn’t free you just so that you could sit around reading about your own life.” With that, the Turaga of Earth turned and left Vyzumi’s cave. Meench Vyzumi sat down on his bed-slab, watching him go.



This post has been edited by PeabodySam: Nov 9 2009, 07:26 PM


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PeabodySam
post Nov 8 2009, 02:08 PM
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Chapter 13
The War Begins


“Greybeard spoke in a low, passive voice as he walked towards Rex. ‘Listen, Rex, we be in a war. In a war, ye kill yer enemy, before yer enemy kills ye. We don't have time to go around taming little hatchlings. Even if it gives us an advantage, we'll be wasting our time while our enemy can strike at us. Yesterday... yesterday may have been different. Yesterday, we were not at war, but in a time of peace and prosperity. Yesterday, we could have had the time to tame these Mutant Dinos. But today... today be a war. It be a struggle for survival, and there be no turning back, or ye may not survive to pass this way again.’”
- from Dino Attack

A flash of lightning lit up the area. Turaga Frosam wiped the droplets of rain off his Kanohi, and gripped his Quake Staff tighter than ever. He wrapped his cloak even closer to his body, to conserve the heat.

“Turaga Frosam? May I have a word with you?”

Frosam turned his head and found himself looking up at Meench Vyzumi. The ex-Dark Hunter was holding his specially-crafted spear, one of the weapons that were retrieved from the Dark Hunter Tower ruins. “Yes, what is it?”

“It’s your wounds,” Vyzumi replied, gesturing towards Frosam arms. “You’re in no shape to fight. Even atop your Rahi steed.”

Glancing towards Ussanui, who stood a few meters away, Frosam bit his lip. “You’re right. But I can’t just sit here and do nothing while you, Vakama, and the Toa Nuva risk your lives here. The other Turaga voted to take refuge in the Le-Wahi Kini, but that’s because they’re not the young fighters they used to be.”

“Perhaps,” nodded Vyzumi, “but I know this from experience, having created, worked with, and fought against the Shifting Shadows. You can’t underestimate them, or you will die. Which is why I am inquiring… would you accept me to serve you as a bodyguard?”

Frosam raised an eyebrow. “A bodyguard?” he repeated. “But - ”

“I assure you,” Vyzumi continued, “that my fighting capabilities will not be hindered by the duty of protecting you. And, I do not joke when I say that I owe you my life.”

Frosam thought for a moment, wiped some more rain off his Kanohi, then nodded. “Alright, fine. If you feel so obliged.” He crawled up onto Ussanui’s back, and Vyzumi took position next to the insect-like Rahi.

Frosam glanced around at his surroundings. He, Ussanui, Vyzumi, Vakama, a group of Matoran warriors, and the Toa Nuva were positioned a short distance from Kini-Nui. Everyone was tense, because they knew that now was the time. The time when who shall live and who shall die would be decided.

Tahu was busy discussing a strategy with Lewa and Onua. Jaller was inspecting the weapons of the Matoran from the Ta-Koro Guard, while Onepu started stretching the muscles in his disc-throwing arm and Kongu took position in the trees surrounding the clearing. Closest to the great temple was Vakama, who barely moved a muscle, but just stood there, staring at the Kini-Nui with determined unwavering eyes.

For hours, it seemed, there came no sound but falling raindrops, the drums of thunder, and the whispers of those getting ready for the battle. Then, the darkness of a stormy night grew even darker, and the temperature seemed to drop. Frosam shivered, but not from the cold, but from the fact that he knew.

The Shifting Shadows had arrived.

There came the sound of footsteps. The Toa and Matoran ceased to talk, and the Matoran retreated to outside the clearing, where they could not be seen. The footsteps continued, until Frosam saw several dark shapes standing at the temple. Denethok, leader of the Shifting Shadows, stood on his tail like a serpent, and had his limbs crossed over his chest, suggesting them to be functioning as arms for the moment, while his wings were wrapped around him like a cloak. He looked around at the gathered Toa Nuva, Turaga, ex-Dark Hunter, and Shifting Shadow. Smiling, he gestured towards Vakama. Without a word, Vakama stepped forward towards the temple.

Frosam watched. His eyes scanned the Shifting Shadows flanking Denethok. There’s got to be about a few dozen of them, Frosam thought bitterly. If we can barely defeat one, how can we stop several dozen?

“So, Vakama,” spoke Denethok, “I’m sure by now that everyone has found out about your little secrets. How all this time, you were really a Shifting Shadow, somehow with the ability to stay indefinitely in the form of a Turaga! And, more importantly, how all this time, you and I have been plotting together to take over this island!”

Vakama smiled darkly. “No, in fact I have not told them that last one,” he lied. “But now that you’ve let the Muaka out of the sack, why don’t you uphold what you said the last time we met? That you would give me your answer here and now, of course.”

Denethok laughed, the sound of bones crunching underfoot. “Fool,” he hissed. “A fool and a liar, that’s what you are. Did you really think that your little Le-Wahi Kini was safe enough to spill the Madu Cabolo? One of my spies attended the trial, disguised as a Kuna, and found out the truth about your ‘betrayal’. The whole story about the false attack on the Kumu Islets. Quite pitiful, actually – you could have had so much potential. But that’s all gone to waste, then. Now, does that answer your question?”

Frosam’s heart sank. The chance of destroying the Shifting Shadow armies from the inside out was crushed.

“And you, Meench Vyzumi,” continued Denethok. “I’m surprised that you’ve chosen working for the wrong side of this war. You really could have made a potential ally.”

“Long ago,” Vyzumi hissed defiantly, “I made a mistake by creating you. Now, I have the opportunity to correct my error… and destroy you.”

Denethok’s smile vanished. “You are all fools,” he muttered. “So, do I need to hear the official answer to my question two weeks ago, or can I just guess it myself?”

Vyzumi lifted his spear and pointed it at the Shifting Shadow leader. “It is better to die free a thousand times, than to live an eternity as slaves. I speak for everyone when I say that we will fight!”

The Shifting Shadows flanking Denethok smiled ravenously. “You,” Denethok spoke so quietly, it seemed a whisper, “have just sealed your doom.”

The war began.

As one, the Shifting Shadows took to the skies, then dived down at Vakama. Vakama reacted instantly by shape-shifting into his true Shifting Shadow form, and dove out of the way in time. Instead of hitting the ground, Denethok’s Shifting Shadows shifted their direction to attack the Toa Nuva, Meench Vyzumi, and Frosam.

Vyzumi jumped in front of Ussanui and slashed his spear at one red-gray Shifting Shadow. Another yellow-gray Shifting Shadow quickly approached from behind, but Ussanui swung its hook-like tail at it. The tail never hit its target, for the yellow Shifting Shadow jumped out of the way in time. Then, it lunged at Ussanui and planted its fangs into Ussanui’s side. The Rahi screeched in pain, and Frosam fell off.

Vyzumi turned and fired laser beams at the yellow Shifting Shadow attacking Ussanui. The Shifting Shadow managed to shape-shift into a much smaller Lava Eel, and the beams sailed high over the creature’s head. Vyzumi quickly summoned a power blast to attempt at blasting away the Lava Eel, forcing it to burrow under the ground to avoid the attack.

Frosam gripped his Quake Staff with one hand, and rubbed Ussanui’s leg with the other. The Remos seemed to not be in any major pain, so that was good. Activating his Pakari to lessen the pain, Frosam swung the Quake Staff at an approaching Shifting Shadow whom Frosam recognized as Sroorw. Sroorw dodged the attack, and laughing, he reached out and grabbed Frosam.

Ussanui reacted instantly, by charging at Sroorw and burying his drill-like appendages into the Shifting Shadow’s side. A fire blast sailed over the heads of Ussanui, Frosam, and Sroorw. Turning to look, Frosam saw Tahu in heavy combat against two Shifting Shadows at once. Gali jumped in and blasted one of the Shifting Shadows away with a stream of water, but as soon as the creature was down it was back on its feet.

Vyzumi jumped on the back of the Sroorw. The Shifting Shadow became a Spiny Stone Ape, forcing Vyzumi off. In its distraction, Frosam swung his Quake Staff at Sroorw’s leg. It did little other than chip its armor, but now the Shifting Shadow was glaring at him.

Ussanui planted one of its drill appendages in Sroorw’s eye, forcing him to take on the form of a monstrous many-eyed spider creature. He kicked aside Ussanui, then grabbed Frosam in his pincers. Vyzumi, now back on the Shifting Shadow’s back, planted his spear into the abdomen of Sroorw’s spider form, forcing him to drop Frosam.

“Onward!” Frosam heard Jaller shout. Then, he was aware of a line of Ta-Matoran charging past them. He heard the sound of Gukko and Kahu cries, and saw the birds take to the skies. Then, dirt sprayed into the air as the Ussalry burst out of the earth.

The Ussal Crabs and their riders weren’t the only ones to burst from the ground. A Troller burst out from the ground a few meters away from Frosam’s position. Frosam realized that this Troller was the same yellow Shifting Shadow who retreated as a Lava Eel. The Troller swallowed up a whole Ussal, an Onu-Matoran, and three Ta-Matoran. It moved for Vyzumi, but did not see the ex-Dark Hunter creating a white sphere of energy.

Realizing Vyzumi’s intent, Frosam decided to distract Sroorw to prevent him from intervening. He picked up a small rock, climbed back on Ussanui’s back, and tossed the rock at Sroorw. The rock did not hurt the Shifting Shadow, but Frosam now had Sroorw’s attention. Ussanui turned around and ran, but Sroorw transformed into a Panrahk and fired at the ground beneath Ussanui’s feet. Both steed and rider were sent flying, and Frosam landed with his arms. Feeling pain surge through his entire body, Frosam took more time than necessary to get back up. In that time, Sroorw was already upon him. “You’re dead, Turaga,” he hissed, smiling.

A Kahu swooped in low, smashing into Sroorw’s side. Then, Frosam noticed that Vyzumi’s energy sphere was large enough, and he fired the power blast into the mouth of the Troller. The Shifting Shadow screamed in agony as its insides were obliterated, then fell, dead. Its corpse slowly shape-shifted into that of its original form.

Sroorw, on the other hand, shape-shifted into a many-tentacled monster, and grabbed Frosam. Frosam felt a change in the air pressure, and evidently so did Sroorw. He dropped Frosam and clutched its tentacles to its head, screaming from the intense air pressure. Then, the earth beneath Sroorw’s feet erupted in a blast of earth, which was then melted into lava by a fire blast. Sroorw was forced to shape-shift into his main form and flee. Frosam then wondered if this was the plan that Tahu was discussing with Onua and Lewa.

No sooner was Sroorw gone than a black-and-white armored Shifting Shadow in the guise of a Skakdi jumped on Frosam, laughing manically. Ussanui charged at the Shifting Shadow, knocking it off of Frosam. Five members of the Ta-Koro Guard surrounded the Shifting Shadow, and it shape-shifted into a twelve-foot-long land shark. Swinging its massive tail, it forced the Ta-Matoran to duck, then bit off the head of one of the more unfortunate Ta-Matoran.

Disgusted by this sight, Frosam climbed back onto Ussanui, and charged at the Shifting Shadow. Barok flew in Frosam’s way, chuckling menacingly. Ussanui did not halt, but plowed right through Barok. As soon as Barok was back on his feet, he took flight, grabbed Frosam in his claws, then took to the skies. “How much of a mess do you think you’ll leave if I drop you from this height?” taunted Barok to his prisoner.

A Kahu and a Gukko flew at Barok from either side, both ridden by Le-Matoran. Barok battled the Kahu away with his tail, but the Le-Matoran riding the Gukko grabbed Frosam out of Barok’s grasp. Angered that his prey was stolen, Barok pursued. He shape-shifted into some sort of winged reptile and shot lightning out of his wings. The lightning struck the Gukko, forcing it to make a crash-landing.

They landed near Pohatu, locked in combat with a turquoise-black Shifting Shadow. Pohatu kept trying to summon stone cages to capture the Shifting Shadow, but each time the Shifting Shadow broke free of its bonds, and got closer to Pohatu with every stone cage.

Grimacing, Frosam helped the Le-Matoran to his feet, then looked around for Ussanui or Vyzumi. He saw Vakama battling Denethok himself; a group of Ta-Matoran trying to bring down three Shifting Shadows; Tahu, Lewa, and Onua working together to replicate the attack that forced Sroorw to flee; the Ussalry fleeing from a Shifting Shadow in the form of a massive laser-firing Nui-Jaga; the Gukko Force and Shifting Shadows locked in aerial combat; Matoran dying left and right; all thus could be summed up in one word: chaos.

Frosam was suddenly aware of the Le-Matoran who was standing next to him, for the green-armored Matoran made a muffled cry. Then, Frosam saw two large Shifting Shadow claws snap the Le-Matoran’s neck. Spinning around, Frosam found himself face-to-face with Murtak. Quickly activating his Pakari, Frosam gave a battle cry and swung his Quake Staff at the Shifting Shadow. Murtak dodged and laughed as he did so. Then, he took on the form of a blue-silver Rahkshi, and pointed his staff at Frosam.

Frosam felt every part of his body become increasingly heavy. It took so much effort to take a single step towards Murtak. Then, suddenly his body was incredibly light, and he went soaring skyward. A sudden increase in gravity sent him plummeting back down, where he hit the ground with enough force that he left an imprint in the ground.

Every part of his body ached. It hurt to even think. Summoning the strength of the Pakari, Frosam managed to stand up, for Murtak had released his hold on Frosam’s gravity. Noticing this, Rahkshi-Murtak’s armor became black-gold, and he magnetized Frosam’s feet to their current position. Frosam threw his Quake Staff, but forgetting to activate on his Pakari as he did so, the simple motion left his right arm numb with pain.

Murtak blocked the flying staff with a swing of his Rahkshi staff. He moved closer to Frosam, making hissing noises that vaguely sounded like a chuckle. Looking around Frosam realized that a half-dozen other Shifting Shadows were approaching. He was surrounded. Sighing in defeat, Frosam narrowed his eyes and waited for which Shifting Shadow would strike first.

Then, a large black-silver shape smashed through the crowd of Shifting Shadows. It was Ussanui! Murtak looked up in surprise, but did not release his grip on Frosam.

It happened so quickly, but felt like an eternity to Frosam. In horror, he watched the Shifting Shadows turn on the Remos. One of the Shifting Shadows transformed into a Nui-Jaga. Instinct took over Ussanui, and he charged towards the scorpion, seeing a tasty snack. As he did so, he let down his defenses. A red/black-armored Shifting Shadow grabbed Ussanui’s tail, while two others grabbed Ussanui’s drill-like appendages. Ussanui attempted to resist, so the Shifting Shadows simply yanked the drill-like appendages off of Ussanui’s sides. Screaming in pain, Ussanui shook his tail more vigorously than before, forcing the red Shifting Shadow to let go. Another Shifting Shadow bit into Ussanui’s side, while another transformed into a hooded warrior carrying a massive axe. Ussanui’s entire body shook as the Shifting Shadow grabbed the Remos by the neck. Ussanui turned his head towards Frosam, and in his eyes Frosam saw not a Rahi, but a martyr who was about to be executed for what he believed was right. And Frosam could not do a thing about it, but watch in agony as the warrior-Shifting Shadow rose its axe in the air, then brought it down upon Ussanui’s neck.

Ussanui was dead.

Immediately, Frosam felt emotions well up inside of him. Recalling all his adventures and experiences with Ussanui, Frosam felt brotherly love towards the Rahi. Towards the death of Ussanui, he felt sadness and grief. Towards the Shifting Shadows, he felt anger boil into hate. In the span of only a few seconds, Frosam replayed the death of Ussanui again and again in his mind a thousand times. And with each replay, he felt more hate. He saw images of Ikaag and Lahka fly by his eyes, now accompanied by Ussanui.

Ussanui was dead.

Frosam screamed in rage. He glared daggers at Murtak, the Shifting Shadow who had magnetized his feet to the ground and forced him to be unable to save Ussanui. In return, Murtak smiled, an expression that seemed nightmarish on the face of a Rahkshi. Frosam picked up clumps of dirt and tossed it at Murtak, but Murtak merely magnetized the dirt away from him. It did not help that wind was blowing the dirt in the opposite direction anyway.

Lahka was dead. Ikaag was dead. Ussanui was dead.

Frosam turned over his shoulder and saw the half-dozen Shifting Shadows who had killed Ussanui approach him. Frosam trembled with hate, and did not feel the wind around him pick up in speed. Suddenly, dirt began to rise up off the ground, and was picked up in a swirling cyclone of wind. The tornado grew in strength, until the half-dozen Shifting Shadows were picked up by its winds. Frosam saw Murtak grimace and flee, but he too was grabbed by the tornado. Frosam felt his feet free of the magnetism, and then was aware that somehow, the tornado had moved in just such a manner that while it picked up the Shifting Shadows, it did not pick him up. Then, the tornado moved away, carrying with it the seven Shifting Shadows.

Frosam then saw Vyzumi standing there, his spear pointed in the direction of Frosam, with a grim expression on his face. Vyzumi lowered the spear, picked up the Quake Staff, and approached Frosam. Frosam blinked as he realized in astonishment: “You did that? You can create cyclones?”

Vyzumi nodded as he handed the Quake Staff to Frosam. “I have… slight control over the element of Air,” he explained. “Just enough to create a miniature tornado. I guess it was one of my inherited traits.”

“‘Inherited’,” repeated Frosam, raising an eyebrow. “You’re using that word again. What are you talking about?”

Vyzumi did not reply. Instead, he silently walked towards Ussanui’s carcass, Frosam following. Frosam knelt over Ussanui’s body, laid his hand on Ussanui’s separated head, and began to weep for his fallen friend.

Meench Vyzumi laid his own hand on Frosam’s shoulder. “He lay down his life for you, Frosam,” he commented, “and that proves him to be among the greatest of heroes.”

Toa Tahu Nuva approached Frosam and Vyzumi. Frosam noted several noticeable injuries on the Toa Nuva of Fire. “We have to retreat,” Tahu declared. “We cannot continue much longer like this. The battle is lost, but the war is far from over.”

Word became action. Within minutes, every Toa Nuva and Matoran, along with Vakama, Vyzumi, and Frosam, had retreated from the Kini-Nui clearing. Frosam heard the Shifting Shadows shouting and laughing in triumph, and caught a glimpse of Denethok glaring at him as he retreated into the jungle.

*****

They regrouped near the Gate of Ice. There, Frosam saw that Tahu was not the only injured one, but so was Lewa. Luckily, none of the Toa Nuva had fatal wounds, but significant numbers of the Matoran warriors were not so lucky.

“That was my best regiment,” Frosam heard Onepu telling Jaller, “and I lost about half of them in that battle. And how many did the Shifting Shadows lose? Only two or three, I’d reckon!”

Jaller then replied: “I pray to Mata Nui that this war ends soon, but I am not so foolish as to let it end soon. At this rate, if the war ends soon, then it would have ended with a Shifting Shadow victory.”

“We’ll quick-need more warriors,” noted Kongu, who was tending to a wounded Gukko.

“But we lost many Matoran during the Matoran-Dark Hunter War,” sighed Jaller, “and while not nearly as many Matoran yet in this war… we’ll have no Matoran to spare.”

“Even worse,” murmured Kapura slowly, “now that we’re at war, there may already be Shifting Shadows attacking our Koro, so we’ll need to keep at least some of our number at our Koro during the entire war.”

“I could try to replicate the prototype Nektann design,” suggested Vyzumi.

Tahu shook his head, wincing as Kopaka used his ice powers to freeze his wounds. “Even if you claim to be on our side, we’re not going to let you do such a thing. It would put you at too much power.”

Vyzumi nodded. “Right. Sorry, I forgot.”

This was all vaguely heard by Frosam, who sat isolated on a rock. Three of his friends were dead, and Ussanui he had known the longest. It was as though he was once again standing on the side of Mount Ihu, looking at the horrible outcome of the Matoran-Dark Hunter War.

Why did Mata Nui hate him so? What could Frosam have done that would give fate a reason to make Frosam’s life so miserable? Frosam glanced up at the dark, cloudy skies, and could vaguely see the Red Star burning through the clouds. Gritting his teeth, he shook a fist at the sky and shouted: “Then I defy you, stars!”

“Frosam?”

Frosam glanced away from the sky to look at Vyzumi. “What is it?” he muttered.

Vyzumi sighed and sat next to Frosam. “I truly am sorry about Ussanui. I know how you must feel, for I too have lost many close friends of mine… before I had to join the Dark Hunters, which meant that I had to live with it for thousands of years. But, I just want you to know that I’ll be there for you. It was my fault that Ussanui died, because I wasn’t there to help you or Ussanui. I won’t make the same mistake again. I promise you that, with my life.”



This post has been edited by PeabodySam: Nov 9 2009, 07:21 PM


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PeabodySam
post Nov 22 2009, 04:30 PM
Post #14



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Chapter 14
Master of Time


“Life and Time. Time and Life. Two fundamental forces of the universe, but at first glance so different. And yet, if there is no life, there is no perceived time, and if there is no time, then there is no achieved life. So one who controls Time can just as easily control Life. That is why Mastime can influence Life itself.”
- from The Journal of Meench Vyzumi

It was wrong, Turaga Frosam decided, to hide like a coward.

But he remembered Meench Vyzumi’s words. With Ussanui dead, Frosam had little to no place in this Shifting Shadow war, for he could barely fight with his crippled arms. Stubbornness was the only thing that kept Frosam out of the relative safety of Ga-Koro, Po-Koro, or Le-Koro, which were all being fortified beyond belief, and into the battlefield.

Therefore, as General of this regiment, Meench Vyzumi had ordered Frosam to stay behind him at all times. That was why Frosam was standing behind Vyzumi, barely able to do anything to get directly involved in the battle, while Vyzumi himself combated fiercely with a black-lime armored Shifting Shadow.

The battle was intensified by elemental blasts of fire, water, and ice flying in the air, accompanied by Matoran bamboo disks. Still, the Shifting Shadows dominated the battlefield, and Frosam did not need to look in order to tell how many Matoran were dead.

The black-lime Shifting Shadow backed away as Vyzumi jabbed forward with his trusty spear, the one that Frosam always saw him using. The Shifting Shadow glanced around, then took to the air. As it did so, every other Shifting Shadow in the area followed suit, then the group flew in the opposite direction.

“They’re… retreating!” cried one Matoran, too happy to believe it.

“No…” whispered Frosam as he saw the Shifting Shadow turn around as one and head back to the battlefield. “They’re only preparing for a large attack.”

Meench Vyzumi glanced around and noticed that the Toa Nuva and Matoran were scattered in the battlefield. “Regroup!” he shouted. “And remember, no ordinary Toa can defeat the Shifting Shadows!”

As the remaining Matoran and the three present Toa Nuva gathered around Vyzumi, Toa Tahu Nuva smirked. “Ah,” he pointed out, “but you see, General Vyzumi, we Toa Nuva are no ordinary Toa!”

Vyzumi shot a glare towards Tahu. “Then let me rephrase my statement: no single Toa Nuva can defeat the Shifting Shadows.” To this, Toa Gali Nuva nodded bitterly, then glanced at the other two Toa Nuva, Tahu and Kopaka.

As Frosam predicted, the Shifting Shadows, as one, dove down towards the battlefield and the regiment. They plowed through the first line of Matoran defense, then came to battle with the next line of Matoran, along with Vyzumi, Tahu, Kopaka, and Gali.

And here I am, Frosam mentally complained, unable to help them. But that doesn’t change the fact that Vyzumi is right. And that he is General, and gave me orders.

The same black-lime Shifting Shadow was again fighting Meench Vyzumi. Vyzumi blasted the creature with twin eyebeams, knocking it to the ground. However, as Vyzumi tried again to use his laser vision, the black-lime Shifting Shadow shape-shifted into some sort of Crystal Serpent.

The lasers went inside the Crystal Serpent/Shifting Shadow, and bounced around inside, magnifying as they did so. Then, they blasted out of the crystal creature, heading towards Vyzumi. Just in time, Vyzumi created a shield that deflected the lasers away.

Frosam’s eyes widened. Being in such close proximity with Vyzumi, he too was shielded by Meench Vyzumi’s powers. Was that on purpose, or accidental?

The Shifting Shadow returned to its main form, then charged at Vyzumi. The ex-Dark Hunter jabbed again with his spear, but the Shifting Shadow dodged the attack and, in doing so, whipped Vyzumi in the right side of his face with its tail. Meench Vyzumi crumpled to the ground, exposing Frosam to the Shifting Shadow’s gaze.

The black-lime Shifting Shadow chuckled. “Fools,” it hissed. “You are no match for me, the great Commander Krrystelian!”

Slowly, Vyzumi opened his left eye. “Oh, I don’t think so,” he whispered, then suddenly he jumped back onto his feet. As he did so, he bit down upon Krrystelian’s left shoulder with his two spiderlike mandibles. Krrystelian screeched in pain, and tried shaking Vyzumi off. Still, Vyzumi clung onto the shoulder. Then, Vyzumi twisted his head, dislocating Krrystelian’s left arm.

At last, Commander Krrystelian broke free of Vyzumi’s mandibles, and threw the ex-Dark Hunter onto the ground. Nursing his dislocated arm, he snarled, “Fine. Our work here is done, anyways!” With that, he took to the skies again, and his own Shifting Shadow regiment followed. This time, they did not return to attack.

The Matoran cheered. Tahu smiled triumphantly as he stated: “And so, a week after the Kini-Nui battle, we have finally won our first battle!”

Meench Vyzumi slowly stood up. “Do not be so foolish as to think that we have won, just because they have retreated,” he retorted. “That was a small regiment, and its commander, Krrystelian, only retreated so that he could nurse himself back to health and strike again with a larger regiment.”

“A dozen,” sighed Gali, shaking her head. “We’ve lost a dozen Matoran to that ‘small regiment’, which only lost two Shifting Shadows.”

“Shame I couldn’t bring their death toll to three,” Vyzumi muttered. “Commander Krrystelian was probably assigned to kill me; a battle of the generals. And had he not retreated, I could have easily gotten him for good.”

“Speaking of generals,” Tahu frowned, “when are you, General Vyzumi, ever planning to tell us how to quickly kill the Shifting Shadows?”

Vyzumi shook his head. “I already told you – it’s a certain chemical reaction found in elemental powers that automatically kills a Shifting Shadow. Unfortunately, I’m still trying to locate these chemicals on this island, for what is the point of telling you about this weakness if I can’t get it to work?”

Tahu stormed up to Meench Vyzumi. “What is the point?” he repeated, his anger clear in his tone. “What is the point of letting you out of prison and letting you command our regiments, if you do not hold up your end of the agreement?”

“And so I shall,” whispered Vyzumi. “Finding these chemicals is not as easy as it may seem.”

Sighing, he turned his head in the direction that the Shifting Shadows had retreated to. “Besides, I think the Shifting Shadows are here for something other than island conquering. Another reason Krrystelian retreated was because his work here was ‘done’. I fear that his regiment may only have been distracting us from the rest of the Shifting Shadows. The Shifting Shadows were known for invading islands just for sport and practice… but I’ve got the worst feeling that’s not why they are here, why they have come to Mata Nui.”

It took Frosam a moment, but then it dawned upon him. “Makuta…”

*****

“So,” frowned Denethok, “this is what has become of Makuta Teridax. Quite pitiful, actually.”

The Shifting Shadow leader paced back and forth in front of the massive carving of a Kanohi Hau. This, he knew, led to a sea gate to Metru Nui, but he wasn’t interested in that. Rather, he was much more interested in the massive door in the mouth hole of the Hau, for underneath laid Makuta Teridax.

Granted, there was some visible damage to the door, the result of being lifted by an enormous being then crashing back down. In addition, a small hole had been carved through the rock, just large enough to fit a boat through. Denethok suspected that this was how the Matoran planned to get their boats to the sea gate.

“You know,” Denethok spoke again, “I’m surprised at you. I honestly thought that you could have taken on a Toa of Light… but you lost to a door.”

Do not mock me, Denethok, a voice rumbled in the Shifting Shadow’s mind, or you’ll be much less happy to see me once I’m out of here. Now, get on with it!

“Right,” Denethok smiled. Makuta’s reaction was what he wanted; assurance that Teridax really was under the door, but still alive. Denethok turned to face the line of Shifting Shadows he brought down into the Mangaia. “You know what to do!” he barked at them. “Dig him out!”

Denethok noticed Sroorw smile. “And without any explosions!” he continued. “The point is to free Makuta, not blow him up!” Instantly, Sroorw’s smile vanished.

A Shifting Shadow shape-shifted into the form of a blue-silver Rahkshi. His pointed his staff at the massive door, then concentrated on lessening the gate’s gravity. For minutes on end, nothing seemed to happen, but Denethok noticed that the door had risen by a fraction of a centimeter.

Denethok glared at the rest of the Shifting Shadows present. Not needing him to say was he was thinking, they all shape-shifted into blue-silver Rahkshi, and assisted their brother Shifting Shadow in his work.

Even so, the gate seemed just too heavy, and after about fifteen minutes of the Shifting Shadows standing there and lessening its gravity, it only levitated about a meter in the air.

Finally, Denethok heard a voice he recognized as Barok as one of the Rahkshi/Shifting Shadows threw down his staff in frustration: “Too long!” Then, Barok changed the colors of his Rahkshi armor, becoming black-gold instead.

Then, Barok used his magnetism powers to send the door of the Mangaia flying out into the Silver Sea behind it. All the other Shifting Shadows stared as Barok laughed triumphantly.

His laugh was cut off as a massive, armored figure slowly stood up where the door once was. His black and red armor was cracked and battered, and from more than a few locations a greenish mist was rising out of holes in the armor. The figure was unsteady on his feet, and needed Denethok’s help to stand. And yet, that could not detract from the cold sense of darkness that seemed to surround the figure, or the malice in the figure’s cunning, intelligent eyes, the only visible part of a face masked by the Kanohi Kraahkan.

Makuta Teridax.

Makuta’s eyes scanned the faces of the present Shifting Shadows. Each Shifting Shadow caught in his gaze seemed to back away, or to lower his head in shame. Finally, Makuta’s eyes rested on Denethok. “You’re… late,” he rumbled, his deep voice shaking the Mangaia.

Denethok bowed his head. “With all due respect, Makuta Teridax, we had to go through the two-week procedure to prepare for war, and then we spent the past week trying to locate the Mangaia. Far too many tunnels, and far too twisting down here.”

“On the contrary,” Makuta replied, “not enough tunnels, if it only took you a week without an Ussanui to guide you.”

“Ah,” smirked Denethok, “so that’s how the Toa of Light managed to find this place so easily.”

Makuta looked at the other Shifting Shadows once more. “I thought there would be more of you, unless you’ve already lost so many to the Matoran.”

“In a way,” nodded Denethok. “You see, to keep the Matoran armies busy, I divided up the Shifting Shadows and sent different regiments to attack different parts of the island, to distract the Matoran from Kini-Nui, myself… and you.”

“Careful, Denethok,” Makuta raised a finger. “I know how volatile your Shifting Shadows can be. We don’t want too many Matoran hurt, for when the time is right the Matoran must return to Metru Nui to complete the next stage of the Plan.” With that, Makuta gestured to the Silver Sea behind him. Barok was the only Shifting Shadow who looked.

Denethok sighed. “Another ‘save the Matoran, save the Plan’ mission. Hope this doesn’t turn out like your previous ‘save the Matoran, save the Plan’ mission, or don’t you remember that Toa Lhikan annihilated our numbers?”

Makuta glared down at Denethok. “Toa Lhikan is dead, so you needn’t worry about him. And the Plan matters so much more than your petty urges to kill, Denethok. The Matoran go free when the Plan says so… when I say so.”

Makuta thought for a moment, then continued: “And yet, none of the Turaga are necessary to the Plan’s success. As for the Toa Nuva… at least keep some of them alive, but I suppose it won’t matter much if you kill one or two of them. And the Toa of Light won’t be necessary for the Plan’s success either. If it makes you feel more inspired in your mission, they are still fair game.”

“And Meench Vyzumi?” added Denethok. “What of him?”

Makuta raised an eyebrow, then smiled menacingly. “So, the Dark Hunter survived. Kill him.”

Denethok smiled back. “With pleasure.”

Makuta Teridax and Denethok turned to walk away from the Hau gate, and most of the Shifting Shadows followed. Only Barok stayed, still in his black-gold Rahkshi form, perplexed by the Silver Sea. He narrowed his eyes, and then spotted it. Raising his Rahkshi staff, he immediately magnetized his target to the nearest pillar in the Mangaia.

The object shot out of the ocean, flying at incredible speed. Barok and a few other Shifting Shadows ducked as it soared over their heads, smashing into the pillar and knocking it down.

When the dust cleared from the rubble, Denethok and Makuta approached Barok’s discovery. To their surprise, it was a Toa Canister.

Slowly, the lid of the Toa Canister opened. Surprisingly, no Toa stepped out of the transport, but rather a tall yet incredibly thin figure, clad in blue-silver armor and standing with a hunched posture. His clawed feet gripped the floor of the Mangaia with ease, and he held a staff in one hand and a launcher in the other. But most peculiar about this figure was that he wore a breathing apparatus over his mouth.

The figure glanced around the Mangaia with his narrow, yellow eyes. He caught sight of the Shifting Shadows surrounding him, and the tall, powerful form of Makuta Teridax. He coughed loudly, then spoke in a deep, ominous voice: “So, if it isn’t the Makuta of Metru Nui and his Shifting Shadows.”

Makuta crossed his arms, staring down at the stranger. “Who and what are you, and what are you doing here?” he inquired, his tone describing his sentence as more of an order than a request.

The figure nodded, bowing deeply before Makuta, though it was obvious that it was performed with sarcasm behind it. “My name… is Mastime,” he introduced himself after a coughing fit. “I’ve heard rumors that Meench Vyzumi, the Lord of Deceit, is on this island, and I’ve come for him. Or rather, you see, I’ve come for my revenge, for I have many… reasons to kill Meench Vyzumi.”

Makuta and Denethok traded glances. Denethok smiled and turned to look at Mastime. “Well then, Mastime, you’ve found the right group to come to. We are in need of… assistance, for we are in a war and Meench Vyzumi is a general of the opposite army. Someone such as yourself who bears a vendetta against Vyzumi could have potential.”

Mastime was about to reply, but got caught up in a loud choking fit.

Denethok’s smile vanished, replaced by a frown. “Then again, I suppose if you’re going to keep that up, you’ll need better reasons for us to hire you. Do you… I don’t know… have any powers, per se? If any at all?”

Mastime did not reply, but only looked Makuta Teridax up-and-down before making a noise that sounded halfway between a cough and a chuckle. Suddenly, without warning, he lifted his launcher. A ball of yellow energy formed in the launcher. Then, Mastime fired the launcher at Makuta.

Normally, Makuta would not have concerned himself with such threats. Makuta usually dodged with ease, or deflected the projectile with one of his many powers, or simply let the attack hit and bounce off his protosteel armor. And yet, Makuta found himself pinned in place, as though his feet were magnetized to the ground, and none of his powers could slow or deflected the oncoming ball of energy.

The yellow energy struck Makuta Teridax in the chest. Immediately, Makuta felt his body warp as a result of the impact. But to his surprise, the dents in his armor disappeared, the cracks healed themselves, and patches formed over the holes. Even more so, he felt some lost Antidermis return to him, and he felt stronger than he did in weeks. Exhilarated, Makuta inquired: “What… did you do?”

Mastime chuckled. “I have control over time itself,” he explained. “Not in the sense of the legendary Kanohi Vahi which can slow it or speed it up, but in such a way that I can alter a being’s state by evolving it or devolving it by a few months. In your case, your armor was devolved a few months, and I take it that a few months ago, your armor was completely intact. If I had chosen to, I could have evolved your armor by a few months, and if your armor was to get more damaged in the next few months… well, the damage would be inflicted upon you prematurely.” He stopped to cough.

Denethok nodded. “Excellent abilities, Mastime. Just how many of those can you fire during a single battle?”

Mastime sighed and shook his head. “Sadly, the energy I launch from the weapon is simply my own energies, concentrated and aimed using the launcher. Thus, the energy comes from myself, and it exhausts me to do so.” He broke off because of another choking fit. “Thus, if you want me to be an effective fighter and not one who dies quickly… I suppose I can only allow myself to fire my energies no more than once a day.”

“Hmm,” murmured Denethok. “That is a drawback.”

“But,” pointed out Mastime, “when I do have the energy to fire my powers, the results will be worth it. Usually, even if my attack does not physically affect a target by much, the shock of suddenly aging or jumping back in time will be enough to leave a target fallen and unable to move. Knowing Matoran, others will likely stop to help their fallen companion – a potentially fatal mistake.”

Makuta Teridax nodded. “Indeed. Here’s the deal: if you fight alongside the Shifting Shadows for the rest of this war, you will be given the honor of killing Meench Vyzumi yourself.”

Mastime did not reply; he only coughed.



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PeabodySam
post Dec 27 2009, 07:46 PM
Post #15



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Chapter 15
Mercy


“Mercy is always such a strange subject. In our minds, we wonder if we should show mercy, and how so? Should we show mercy to one who is writhing in pain, but by tending to their pain or by releasing them from their pain? Is it right to trick him with the illusions of his friends, even if it is out of mercy, even if it helps him defeat me? It may be the only way I can keep my secret, and let him defeat me. And thus concludes what may be the final entry of this journal, for if this works… then I will probably die.”
- from The Journal of Meench Vyzumi

Meench Vyzumi sighed. He had done this perhaps a thousand times while working for the Dark Hunters, and perhaps another ten thousand even before that. And yet, after all these years, he still could not find it easy to stay up all night on guard duty.

He stood from the balcony of an old tower in the Motara Desert. In fact, he himself had built this tower outpost several months prior, when he was still affiliated with the Dark Hunters. This was his original idea for his residing place; however, after deciding it was too much out in the open, he decided to use a cave instead.

Inside the tower, Vyzumi’s regiment slept. Vyzumi knew it would be a lie to say that he did not envy them; even if only for a few hours, they could be completely at peace, without a worry to the real world.

For one thing, an all-nighter always made Vyzumi sleepy and tired, and he knew that he was bound to make mistakes in fighting if he was not fully-awake for a battle. For another thing, usually there is nothing to see when on guard, so Vyzumi often became impatient and restless in addition to tired.

Meench Vyzumi shook his head sadly. Despite how much he hated it, staying up all night to guard this outpost was important, because if the Shifting Shadows did attack and nobody was on guard, the regiment would never know what killed them. And if needed, there was a catapult on this balcony to hurl rocks at the Shifting Shadows.

Vyzumi sighed once more. He looked down to his trusty specially-crafted spear, given to him by an old friend many years ago. He smiled. “At least I have you for company.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement in the desert. Immediately, his head turned to face the movement, and he caught a white-armored figure moving steadily towards the tower. Vyzumi grimaced as he saw that this figure had four spider-like legs and carried a spear.

Nuoka, also known as “Primal”.

In only minutes, the Dark Hunter reached the tower. He craned his head to look at the balcony, and addressed Vyzumi: “Ah, so if it isn’t Meench Vyzumi, the Lord of Deceit.”

Vyzumi tightened his grip on his own spear, then jumped down from the balcony onto the sands below, which provided a soft landing. “What the Karzahni are you doing on this island?” he hissed.

Primal glanced around. “Looking for you. Or else, trying to get killed by the Shifting Shadows. It seems I have come at a bad time.”

“Looking for me,” frowned Vyzumi. “So, the Shadowed One knows I’m alive, then.”

Primal smiled and shook his head. “No, of course not. On the contrary, the Shadowed One thinks you are dead. However, he’s decided to beat a dead Mahi and sent me to confirm your death, because he’s afraid to let go of one of his most ‘efficient’ operatives, and he thought that I should have a loyalty test.”

“A loyalty test?” repeated Vyzumi. “How so?”

Primal narrowed his eyes. “He told me to bring you back if you were still alive, and to bring back your killer’s Kanohi if you were dead. And, of course, if I lie to him or if I kill you myself, he will know; apparently, he’s got a Kanohi Rode, and he’s not afraid to let one of his Kanohi-wearers use it.”

“And if you’re lying,” smiled Vyzumi, “you die. Yes, that sounds like the Shadowed One. Too bad you’ve come all this way for nothing, then.”

“You’re coming with me, Vyzumi,” hissed Primal. “Whether you want to or not. Not that I can imagine why you’d want to stay here with the Shifting Shadows.”

“That’s exactly why,” nodded Vyzumi. “I’m not leaving until the Shifting Shadows are dead. To get me off the island before then, you’d have to do so over my cold, dead body. You’re just going to have to tell that to your Shadowed One.”

Primal spat at Vyzumi. “You… freak. You’re not even a member of my species. All those years ago, after we escaped Saelv in the protodermis mines, I knew you weren’t one of us. And yet, I took you in when you were shunned by everybody else, and even gave you a name: Vyzumi – in my tongue, the word for ‘Deceit’, a name I gave you because although you looked like us, I knew you weren’t one of us. And this is how you repay me?”

Vyzumi glared at Primal. “Listen, Primal, if you want to bring me back to the Shadowed One, fine – but you’re going to have to wait until this war is over, and you’d better be fighting alongside my army.”

Primal laughed. “Your army? You mean that pathetic so-called ‘regiment’ of Matoran, Toa, and a Turaga? I would almost rather fight alongside the Shifting Shadows.”

Vyzumi shrugged. “Too bad, then, because I’m not going with you to Odina.”

Primal pointed his spear at Meench Vyzumi. “You’re coming with me, if I have to drag you every step of the way, if I have to keep this spear pointed in your back to keep you moving!”

Vyzumi shook his head. “What would the Shadowed One think of this behavior?”

Primal thought for a moment, then smiled menacingly. “He told me that if you were alive, all I had to do was bring you back, alive. He never prohibited any non-lethal injuries.” With that, Primal leapt at Vyzumi, spear at the ready.

Casually, Vyzumi activated his shield, which deflected Primal and knocked him back a few feet. “You honestly think you have a chance against me, Primal?” he sneered.

Primal chuckled. “Well, only if you stop hiding behind that silly orb of yours like a coward, and fight me like a true Dark Hunter!”

Again, Primal jumped at Vyzumi. This time, Vyzumi did not block with his shield, but this time with his spear.

“And so I will,” Vyzumi smiled.

Meench Vyzumi pulled back his spear and jabbed at Primal. Primal jumped out of the way and responded with a series of short, quick strikes towards Vyzumi. Each of these was countered by Vyzumi, who moved his spear in the way just in time to block Primal’s spear.

Then, Vyzumi attacked with a lightning-quick series of stabs that caught Primal off-guard. The Dark Hunter cried out in pain as Vyzumi managed to land blows upon his arms and forelegs. However, as soon as Vyzumi let up, Primal swung his spear and tripped Vyzumi.

Primal did not give Vyzumi a chance to recover. He jumped on top of Vyzumi and exposed his paralysis device, implanted under his body. Normally, this would be his last resort, but Primal wanted to end the battle quickly. As he moved to stab Vyzumi with it, Vyzumi rolled over and knocked Primal to the ground.

Primal was back on his feet in seconds, and Vyzumi greeted him with another rapid series of blows, so quick that the naked eye could barely see his spear. It was only years of fighting experience that allowed Primal to even have a chance at blocking this barrage, but still some blows got through and cut at his armor.

Vyzumi continued his attack, driving Primal backward and forcing him on the defensive. Suddenly, Primal dropped to the sand and threw some at Vyzumi. The small rock particles stung at Vyzumi’s eyes, blinding him for a moment.

Sensing an advantage, Primal bellowed a war cry and charged, knocking Vyzumi to the ground once more. Vyzumi stood up, but Primal backhanded him and knocked him back down. Laughing, he kicked more sand into Vyzumi’s eyes, keeping his foe blinded.

Even though his eyes stung unbearably, Vyzumi smiled. Primal made the mistake of thinking that sight was the only way to fight. Listening, Vyzumi heard Primal’s breathing, and he could feel in the sand where Primal was walking. Using these two senses, Vyzumi stabbed blindly at the approximate location of Primal.

Vyzumi smiled again, for he heard Primal cry out in pain. Vyzumi then used his laser vision to clear the sand out of his eyes, allowing him to see once more. Primal noticed this, and did not give Vyzumi an opportunity to gain the advantage, for he struck at Vyzumi with his spear.

However, Vyzumi jumped out of the way and jabbed with his own spear. The spearheads of the two weapons sent sparks flying as they clashed against each other, and the furious sound of metal slashing against metal rang through the night.

Vyzumi chuckled. “It was foolish of you,” he spoke as he thrust forward his spear, “to try and fight me when there are others so near. I won’t be surprised - ” he dodged a jab from Primal “ – if they have woken from all this commotion we’re making. In just a moment, you’ll be outnumbered!”

“Oh really?” sneered Primal. “Then it will be a greater triumph for me when I return from this mission, having you in tow and the Kanohi of your ‘friends’!” Then, he pushed Vyzumi back with his spear and followed up with a stab to Vyzumi’s left shoulder.

As expected, Vyzumi twisted to dodge the attack, his right side now facing Primal. Primal laughed in triumph as stabbed Vyzumi’s arm, then slashed at Vyzumi’s leg. “Have you forgotten?” Primal smirked. “I still remember that one secret of yours!”

Vyzumi whispered a curse and backed away, but Primal pressed his advantage and continued to slash with his spear.

Then, Vyzumi pointed his spear at Primal, and suddenly the wind picked up around the Dark Hunter. Grains of sand lifted into the air and spun around Primal in a miniature cyclone, cutting Primal off from Vyzumi and trapping the Dark Hunter.

Primal hissed, then tried to stick his spear out of the sand vortex to stab where he last saw Vyzumi. Vyzumi immediately swung his own spear, knocking it out of Primal’s hands. Weaponless, Primal went back to his last resort and jumped out of the sand vortex, shoving Vyzumi to the ground. Then, he stepped over Vyzumi and readied his paralysis device.

Vyzumi saw this, and quickly slashed with his spear at Primal’s underside. The paralysis device fell off Primal’s body as the Dark Hunter screamed in pain. Then, Vyzumi jumped to his feet, knocking Primal down. Before Primal could get back onto his feet, he felt a spear at his throat.

“It is over, Primal,” Meench Vyzumi smiled darkly.

Primal laughed bitterly. “You do realize that if you kill me, the Shadowed One will only send more Dark Hunters after us? And even though you managed to best me, you may not be so lucky against them. You have no choice but to show me mercy!”

Vyzumi considered this for a moment. “True. In that case, you may return to the Shadowed One, and make sure no other Dark Hunter steps foot on this island. Tell him I have perished.”

Primal spat at Vyzumi. “And what makes you think I’ll actually do as you say? And even if I do, the Shadowed One will know I’m lying!”

Vyzumi grabbed Primal by the shoulder, then lifted the Dark Hunter to his feet. “The funny thing about the Kanohi Rode is that it cannot detect a lie if one firmly believes the lie, for that one will not be lying, but just telling what he thought was the truth. Therefore, we’re going to make you believe that I’m dead.” He turned Primal around and pointed his spear at Primal’s spine. “Now, get in the tower.”

Primal grumbled a curse, but had no choice, and so opened the door to the tower and stepped inside, followed by Vyzumi. Inside, they found a regiment of sleeping Matoran and a Turaga, as well as three very-awake Toa Nuva.

Toa Tahu Nuva frowned. “Meench Vyzumi, what is… that?”

“Dark Hunter scum,” replied Vyzumi. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get rid of it, so guard it while I find something I left in this tower several months ago.”

Tahu narrowed his eyes, but did as Vyzumi asked. He, Gali, and Kopaka guarded Primal while Meench Vyzumi searched some shelves and cabinets in the tower for something.

At last, after a few moments Vyzumi returned with an injection needle filled with some sort of clear liquid. He planted its needle into Primal’s neck, and the liquid entered Primal’s body. Immediately, Primal’s eyes went blank, and he seemed to faint. He would have collapsed to the ground, had Vyzumi not caught him in his arms. Vyzumi bent in close to Primal and whispered into the Dark Hunter’s ear:

“Go back to the Shadowed One. Tell him I had perished in the Dark Hunter Tower, murdered by the Turaga who murdered the other three Dark Hunters. Also tell him that this Turaga is dead, killed by the Shifting Shadows. My mission was a fake – simply a set-up created by the Brotherhood of Makuta to eliminate several Dark Hunters – so the mission should not resume. You lost your paralysis device to the Shifting Shadows. The island is lost to the Brotherhood, and it is not worth fighting over. Go! Go now!”

Color seemed to return to Primal’s eyes, and he slowly stood up and walked out of the tower in a rather dreamlike state. Meench Vyzumi and the Toa Nuva watched him go.

“Okay, then,” Toa Gali Nuva asked, “what was that all about?”

Meench Vyzumi sighed. “It was as I feared: the Shadowed One sent another Dark Hunter to check on my status. It seems we woke you three up in our battle. What I injected into the Dark Hunter was an old experiment of mine, a ‘liquid of suggestion’. You inject it into another being, then whisper a command in their ear, and they will do as you commanded.”

Toa Kopaka Nuva glared at Vyzumi, his eyes narrowing at the ex-Dark Hunter. “How do we know?” he inquired. “How do we know that liquid was nothing more than water? How do we know that you and that Dark Hunter didn’t plan this little ‘meeting’? How do we know that he hasn’t gone back to send more Dark Hunters after you?”

Vyzumi was about to reply, when he caught movement in the horizon. “We can question loyalties later,” he decided. “I think we may have another attack on our hands.” Before the Toa Nuva could saw anything else, he rushed back inside the tower.

Moments later, the regiment of Matoran, along with Meench Vyzumi and Turaga Frosam, emerged from the tower. Frosam scanned the horizon, and grimaced when he saw a large group of dark creatures moving steadily towards the tower.

“Bah,” he muttered. “They’ve spotted our outpost. I knew we should have chosen a better place to stay overnight!”

“Yeah,” grumbled a Po-Matoran whom Frosam recognized as Hafu, “a tower in the middle of the desert, not like anybody’s going to notice that! Now, if I had chosen where to stay - ”

“Silence!” ordered Vyzumi. “Regardless of whether or not they could have found us, they have found us anyways, so the only choice we have now is to drive them off!”

“Right,” nodded Tahu. “To your posts!”

Frosam ran back inside the tower, along with Hafu and a few other Matoran. He grabbed a torch off the wall while other Matoran picked up a pile of wood from the floor. As quickly as they could, the group made their way up a spiral staircase to the balcony.

There, the Matoran placed some of the wood in the catapult along with some of the rock. Frosam then lowered his torch to the catapult, setting the wood ablaze. Narrowing his eyes, he made a quick calculation of how far away the Shifting Shadows were. “Fire!” he shouted.

Hafu nodded and let loose the catapult. The blazing wood and rock flew in the air, a fiery trail following it as it dove towards the Shifting Shadows. “What do you see?” Frosam inquired a Ta-Matoran named Aft.

Aft zoomed in on the Shifting Shadows with the telescopic lens of his Kanohi Akaku. “Looks like we hit maybe one or two Shifting Shadows,” he murmured. “They’re wounded, but not fatally. And…” Aft shook his head and trembled for a moment. “Oh, Mata Nui, no…”

“What is it?” Frosam asked.

Aft bit his lip. “Rahkshi! A dozen of them, I’d say, following the Shifting Shadows!”

In his mind, Frosam experienced a flash of memory of the sight of three lizard-like creatures as they smashed through Ta-Koro, demolishing everything in their sight. Three Rahkshi could destroy two Koro, another three could destroy another Koro, and six combined badly damaged Kini-Nui and killed Jaller. And this… a dozen… who knows what they could do?”

Alerted to the knowledge that the regiment knew their position, the Shifting Shadows and Rahkshi moved even more quickly towards the tower. Bolts of fire, ice, and water rained down upon the Shifting Shadows as the Toa Nuva fired their elements at the oncoming hordes, and Frosam and the Matoran continued to catapult rocks and flaming wood.

It was not enough. In a matter of moments, the Shifting Shadows and the Rahkshi reached the tower. Luckily, the Rahkshi’s number’s seemed to be lower than a dozen, and Frosam guessed that they did not recover from the attacks as well as the Shifting Shadows did. Already, Frosam saw that Meench Vyzumi, the Toa Nuva, and the rest of the Matoran regiment were fighting on the ground.

“Come,” Frosam ordered the Matoran on the balcony. “Our work on the balcony is done!” Hurriedly, they ran down the spiral staircase. The Matoran grabbed weapons off the walls, while Frosam simply gripped even tighter onto his Quake Staff. When they were ready, they charged out of the tower into the battlefield.

The Shifting Shadows were already in fierce combat with the regiment. Aided by the Rahkshi, they seemed nearly unstoppable. Frosam saw Tahu, busy fighting three Shifting Shadows, ambushed by a Rahkshi from behind. Only because Kopaka was able to freeze the Rahkshi in a block of ice did Tahu escape with his life.

Frosam ran towards Meench Vyzumi, who was locked in combat with Murtak. The Shifting Shadow kept diving at Vyzumi, baring his teeth and swiping with his claws, then retreating in mid-air as Vyzumi moved to attack. Frosam couldn’t help but notice that Vyzumi was tiring quickly. Granted, he had been up all night, but was he up fighting all night or something? Frosam thought to himself.

Gritting his teeth, Frosam charged at Murtak. He quickly activated his Noble Kanohi Pakari and swung his Quake Staff. Its hooked end yanked on the end of Murtak’s tail, and in surprise, the Shifting Shadow fell to the ground.

“You, again?” Murtak growled. He batted aside Frosam with his wing, knocking the wind out of the Turaga. Luckily, Vyzumi was able to catch Frosam before he hit the ground. In that moment of distraction, Murtak was able to bite Vyzumi’s right arm.

Screaming, Vyzumi blasted at Murtak with his laser vision. Murtak let go, even as Vyzumi gathered energy to fire one of his energy blasts. Just as Vyzumi fired, Murtak took to the skies, and Vyzumi completely missed his target.

“Aim high!” shouted Vyzumi. Almost immediately, a bolt of ice struck Murtak, freezing his wings. With a yelp of surprise, Murtak came crashing down onto the sands below. He was lost amongst the chaos of Shifting Shadows, Rahkshi, and Matoran, though Frosam guessed that Murtak was still alive.

A black Rahkshi, which Frosam knew was a Vorahk, stepped forward and swung its staff at Vyzumi. Grimacing, Vyzumi moved his spear to block the attack, then he stabbed the Rahkshi in the chest plate. The Vorahk hissed and, through its staff, began to draw on Vyzumi’s energy.

“Frosam!” gasped Vyzumi. “Open the Vorahk’s spine! Quickly!”

“Right,” nodded Frosam. He ran towards the Vorahk, jumped, and swung with his Quake Staff. As he had forgotten to activate his Kanohi Pakari, a surge of pain coursed through his arms, and his staff instead hooked onto the Rahkshi’ neck. As gravity pulled Frosam down toward the ground, his Quake Staff pulled on the Vorahk’s neck and lowered the Rahkshi’s head. Then, a chain reaction caused the Rahkshi’s spine to open up, revealing a Kraata-Vo, and a mechanism flung the Kraata-Vo towards Vyzumi.

Slowly regaining his strength, Meench Vyzumi lifted one of his spider-like feet and brought it down upon the Kraata, impaling and effectively killing the creature. “Thanks for that,” Vyzumi nodded towards Frosam.

Frosam smiled bitterly, then noticed out of the corner of his left eye, an odd blue-silver armored figure that seemed to be wearing a breathing apparatus running towards Vyzumi, who didn’t seem to notice despite having better eyesight than Frosam. “On your right, Vyzumi!” Frosam called.

Too late his warning came, for the tall blue figure slammed into Vyzumi, knocking him to the ground. With a casual swing of his staff, the figure also knocked down Frosam. Then, the figure made a noise that sounded like coughing, though Frosam guessed that it may have been laughing.

“And so, we meet again, Meench Vyzumi!” the figure laughed. “This time, I am stronger than you!”

“Mastime!” spat Vyzumi. “I told you that I never wanted to see you again, you freak!”

“Freak?” repeated Mastime, handling his launcher. “Look who’s talking – the thing that can’t decide if it’s a Toa or a Visorak! By those standards, I’m no more a freak than you are! And, more importantly, I’m alive!” Mastime stopped to cough loudly.

“By allying yourself with freaks such as the Shifting Shadows?” Vyzumi smirked. “You all come from the same place, you freak show!”

“Better than allying yourself with vermin,” sneered Mastime, pointing a long, thin finger towards Frosam. With that, the figure fired a yellow ball of energy from his launcher. Before Vyzumi could react, the ball struck the ex-Dark Hunter. Frosam watched as sections of Vyzumi’s armor were suddenly covered with cracks and battle scars, and heard Vyzumi scream in agony as Mastime coughed again.

Slowly, Vyzumi got back onto his feet. Frosam could see that Vyzumi was even more tired and weaker than before, and his right foreleg was limping, but the ex-Dark Hunter still fiercely held his trusty spear. “Hah! It will take more than that to - ” he hissed.

Suddenly, the tower exploded into flames. Frosam felt heat rush over the battlefield and heard the Shifting Shadows laugh in triumph.

“They’ve taken the tower!” a voice shouted. “Retreat!”

“Oh, no you don’t!” growled Mastime, and he lunged forward with his staff. Vyzumi blocked with his spear, then stabbed Mastime’s shoulder. The tall figure distracted by his wound, Frosam was scooped up in Vyzumi’s arms as the spider-like being fled from the scene, and the Toa Nuva and remainder of the Matoran regiment followed.

Unfortunately, a few Rahkshi followed the fleeing regiment and began picking off Matoran from behind. Tahu Nuva spun around and created a wall of flame to block off the creatures. Most of the pursuing Rahkshi simply walked through the flames with ease, forcing the three Toa Nuva to combat them. A blue-purple Rahkshi and a Kurahk caught up with Meench Vyzumi, the former knocking Frosam out of Vyzumi’s arms.

Immediately, Vyzumi began to combat the blue-purple Rahkshi; not an easy task, since each of the Rahkshi’s attacks was incredibly accurate. The Rahkshi Kurahk moved to attack Frosam.

Frosam heard of Rahkshi Kurahk before. Their power was to spread anger amongst enemies, to cause their opponents to turn against each other. A Kurahk was one of the Rahkshi that destroyed Onu-Koro, and because of its actions, Tahu and Gali were rendered unable to defend the village, forced to fight each other instead of the Rahkshi.

Because of a Kurahk, Frosam’s home village was buried and destroyed.

Seething at this thought, Frosam activated his Kanohi Pakari and swung his Quake Staff at the Rahkshi. The creature blocked with its own staff, then swung again. Frosam tried blocking, but even with the Kanohi Pakari, his arms could not hold out against the Rahkshi’s strength, and he fell over onto the sand.

As quickly as he could, Frosam was back on his feet and swung his Quake Staff at the Kurahk’s leg. The Rahkshi hissed at him, then grabbed Frosam by the neck and hoisted the Turaga into the air.

Remembering how he defeated the Vorahk, Frosam seized the opportunity, gathered his strength, and swung his Quake Staff at the left side of the Kurahk’s faceplate in one powerful blow. It did not hook onto the creature’s neck, but badly scratched the metal and the Kraata-Cu’s eye underneath. Screeching in pain, the Kurahk dropped Frosam and fell over.

Quickly, Frosam grabbed his advantage and ran towards the Kurahk, pointing his Quake Staff at its neck. Then, before he could sever the neck of the Rahkshi and the Kraata-Cu inside, he hesitated, and the scarred Kurahk stared at Frosam as though pleading for mercy.

Frosam suddenly felt guilty for what he was about to do. Was the scar on the Kurahk’s eye not enough? Was it necessary to kill the creature? Did that make him any better than it?

Frosam then glanced around. Most of the regiment had already left for higher ground. The other Rahkshi were defeated, and the Shifting Shadows were not following. He sighed, then faced the scarred Kurahk.

“You want mercy? Fine, whatever,” he muttered. “You can go. After all, you’re alone, and you’re half-blind – what kind of trouble can you possibly cause? Just be grateful for this.” Then, he lowered his Quake Staff and walked away. Behind him, he heard the scarred Kurahk stand, transfer into hover mode, and fly away.

When he rejoined the rest of the regiment as they traveled north through the Po-Wahi desert, he overheard Meench Vyzumi speaking with Toa Gali.

“What happened to you?” Gali was asking. “You look like you’ve been through a thousand battles in just one night!”

Vyzumi sighed: “In a way. You see, I now believe that I was going to survive the next few months, but I was going to receive many wounds, injuries, and scars in battle. Now, unfortunately, I’ve experienced those ‘next few months’ in just a matter of seconds tonight, and Mastime is to blame.”

“Who?”

“Mastime. He was the tall, blue-armored figure with the breathing apparatus. He has the ability to control the timeframe of a single being, by collecting his energies into a ball of energy that he can fire from his launcher. What he does is that he either evolves or devolves a being by a few months into the future or the past. If I received a bad wound several months ago and it just healed yesterday, and he devolves me by a few months, then I have the wound once more. If I will receive more wounds over the next few months, and he evolves me by a few months, then I receive all the wounds at once.”

Vyzumi shuddered before continuing. “And that’s what happened to me tonight. You can only imagine the pain of wounds of battle, which I would have endured slowly over a few months, suddenly being inflicted upon me all at once. And, worst of all… Mastime has a vendetta against me.”

“Why?” inquired Frosam.

Vyzumi and Gali turned to face the Turaga. “You see,” Vyzumi explained with a tone of regret, “Mastime is like the Shifting Shadows… he’s a creation of mine. The first, in fact. And, of course, I was a rookie back then, and I didn’t know what I was doing. Everything seemed fine and complete in the test tube, but when Mastime emerged out into the world, a major flaw in his design became apparent: his lungs were created crippled. All his life, he’s needed a breathing apparatus to survive. Even so, he has violent coughing fits, and can never feel secure about breathing. It is a miserable life of torture for Mastime… and he taught himself to blame me for this.”

Tahu approached the group. “How many have we lost?” Vyzumi asked him, changing the subject.

Tahu shook his head. “Too many. We only have a fraction of our original regiment. We need reinforcements. And you’d better be telling the truth, because I still think that you and that Dark Hunter are up to no good… maybe even responsible for this!”

“How dare you suggest - ” hissed Vyzumi.

“Hold on,” Frosam interrupted him, “care to fill me in?”

Tahu looked down at the Turaga. “We Toa Nuva saw Meench Vyzumi with another Dark Hunter. He claims that they were fighting and that he was getting rid of the Dark Hunter… but something seems fishy.” He glared at Vyzumi. “If we see you with another Dark Hunter again, we won’t need a trial, now, won’t we?” With that, the Toa Nuva of Fire walked away.

Vyzumi sighed. “It’s not easy being an ex-Dark Hunter. Nobody trusts you.”

“May I ask you something,” Frosam inquired, “unrelated to loyalty but related to our previous subject, why you did not see Mastime charge at you from the right? I mean, you could have easily avoided that, and…”

Vyzumi shook his head. “Frosam? Can I show you something that I’ve shown almost nobody else?”

“Sure, what is it?” asked Frosam, his voice dropping low.

Vyzumi turned his head so that the right side of his face was facing Frosam. “Look closely at my eye. Do you notice anything about it?”

Frosam scrutinized Vyzumi’s eye, and noticed a hairline crack, barely visible to the naked eye, running down the right side of Vyzumi’s face, extending over Vyzumi’s right eye.

“I’ve had that scar,” explained Vyzumi “since… well, for a very long time. Because of it, I am nearly blind in my right eye. Someone can easily charge at me from the right, and I won’t see them until they’re on top of me. It’s a weakness I don’t let many know, and I often cover it up by using my left eye as much as possible.”

Meench Vyzumi sighed, and laid a hand on Frosam’s shoulder. “We’re heading for Onu-Wahi. Not the tunnels, but the mountains on the surface of the region. Hopefully, we can lose the Shifting Shadows there while we get more reinforcements. But… with my right eye, and the wounds and scars I should have received over a few months rather than a few seconds… it is important that you learn to follow orders.”

“What do you mean?”

“If I tell you to stay by me, stay by me. If I tell you to run and leave me behind, run and leave me behind. If… if I tell you to kill me, kill me, and quickly. Promise?”

Turaga Frosam nodded slowly. “I promise.”



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PeabodySam
post Jan 3 2010, 09:37 PM
Post #16



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Chapter 16
Destiny’s Last Words


“Instead, he said, ‘Do forgive me, because I am going to regret this.’ Lahka raised an eyebrow. ‘What are you crazy-jabber-blabbering on about?’ Meench Vyzumi looked around, then replied, ‘I’d be glad to tell you, Lahka, but unfortunately with Skorpeo, Vicee, and dozens of Nektann in the area, I cannot afford to have my secret revealed.’ ‘Secret? What secret?’ ‘You don’t know?’ the Dark Hunter asked, surprised.”
- from The Story of Frosam

The remainder of the Matoran regiment pushed slowly into the western mountains of Onu-Wahi. A messenger Rahi was already dispatched to seek out another regiment that was last heard to be in Ko-Wahi. Hopefully, there was enough left of that regiment to combine the two groups.

Getting through the mountains was no easy task, Turaga Frosam discovered. Only a month ago, they could have simply avoided the mountains and traveled underneath in the tunnels, but there was no telling how much damage was inflicted on the tunnels by the three Rahkshi that destroyed Onu-Koro. In addition, the mountains were far more open; if the Shifting Shadows followed the regiment into the Onu-Wahi tunnels, the regiment would have no escape.

However, the regiment was running out of supplies. The Bula berries they had brought were starting to rot, and rotten Bula do not provide energy. Their water supply was running dangerously low. Most of the surviving Matoran were wounded, and without proper treatment and care, these wounds were starting to become infected, further weakening the Matoran.

Everybody, especially from the previous battle, was tired. But nobody could afford to stop and rest for an instant, for they all knew that the Shifting Shadows were behind them.

Frosam had never been a mountain climber, and he found it harder than ever to climb with crippled arms. Nonetheless, the regiment kept turning down well-worn mountain paths in favor of steep, dangerous, rough paths that they made up as they went along; all the better to lose the Shifting Shadows.

Meench Vyzumi hoisted Frosam onto a rocky ledge above. Then, the ex-Dark Hunter climbed up onto the ledge himself. Frosam watched him as he strode over to Toa Tahu Nuva.

“Looks like there’s a valley down there,” Vyzumi spoke. “We can’t climb mountains forever; we should probably descend to the valley and find an easier path.”

“No,” Tahu shook his head. “We must keep going the way we’re going. We can’t let the Shifting Shadows find us.”

“At what price?” hissed Vyzumi, gesturing towards the rest of the regiment: a rather pathetic group of hungry, tired, and wounded Matoran. “They are just barely keeping up with us; if we keep going through the mountains, we’ll lose not only the Shifting Shadows, but our regiment as well! We need to descend to lower ground!”

Vyzumi and Tahu glared at each other for a moment, then Tahu sighed. “Fine. But this better not be a trap.”

“For the last time,” groaned Vyzumi, “I’m not trying to betray you all! The Shifting Shadows hate me; if I kill you all off, it’s me against the entire Shifting Shadow legion! That would be extremely stupid and unpractical!”

“Whoever said you weren’t stupid and unpractical?” suggested Tahu. “It was your suggestion to stay in the tower in the middle of the open desert.”

“I’ve been trying to keep tolerant of you - ” Vyzumi pointed a finger at the Toa Nuva of Fire.

“Tolerant?” repeated Tahu, his eyes narrowing. “Who’s being tolerant here? I’m the one who has to work in the same regiment as someone who not long ago was trying to take over this island, Dark Hunter!”

Before Vyzumi could say anything else, a downpour came raining down upon both of them. Just as quickly as it had began, it ended, leaving both Vyzumi and Tahu drenched. Toa Gali Nuva stormed up to them and scolded them. “Tahu! Just because Vyzumi is trying to make a suggestion does not mean that he’s automatically a traitor leading us into a trap! His past actions aside, Vyzumi has done nothing since the trial to try killing us! And Vyzumi! You had better quickly learn that when Tahu opens his mouth to make a snide remark, do not bother replying!”

Tahu shook the water off his armor. “Very well,” was all he said. Vyzumi simply nodded towards Gali. Then the regiment turned and made its way towards the valley.

There was not as much climbing for Frosam to do: only a lot of descending. Sometimes, he found it as easy as simply hopping down from one rock ledge to another. Other times, he needed to wait for Vyzumi to get below him and lower him down, or even sometimes carry him down if necessary.

“I’ll be glad when this war is over,” Frosam mumbled. “Then we won’t need to do all this running around and fighting and mountain climbing; I’d finally get some rest in my hut.”

Vyzumi chuckled. “Well, Frosam, you’re not the only one who wishes that. But at least be glad you’ve got someone here for you who can carry you and protect you. If things go well, this war could end soon with us as the victor… but we need those chemicals, and quickly. Luckily, I’ve got a feeling that we’ll find some very soon…”

In about a half-hour, they reached the valley at last. Mountains and cliffs rose up on all sides of the regiment, creating a bowl-like shape to the valley. However, a small path existed between two mountains that led out of the valley. A few coniferous trees populated the center of the valley, as well as some grasses and mosses, and a stream ran down from one mountaintop to greet these plants.

The regiment made its way into the coniferous trees, where they briefly stopped. It was nearly midday, though the storm clouds make it hard to tell where the sun was in the sky. The Matoran took out the Bula berries that were not yet rotten and shared the fruits, giving the regiment a small boost in energy. The thirsty drank from the stream, while others simply refilled their water carriers.

Frosam inhaled a breath of fresh air. Even with mountains all around, he could feel a slight sea breeze. “We must be close to the coast,” he murmured.

Vyzumi nodded slowly. “Probably. We may have been travelling too far north; we’ll need to head south if we are to meet with the other regiment in Ko-Wahi.”

“Are you alright?” Frosam inquired. “I’ve noticed that you’re tired and weaker, especially after the encounter with Mastime… and you really needed to come to this valley to rest a moment.”

Vyzumi sighed. “Right now, I’m simply trying to take in all the sights and sounds of the world that I can. Nobody knows when their time comes, but the older and weaker we get, the more aware of our time we become. But I think that I’m well and strong enough to continue fighting.”

He glanced around, sniffed the air, then narrowed his eyes. “Hold on. Something’s not right…” He rushed to the Toa Nuva. “We’ll need to get out of the valley as soon as possible!”

“After all that work convincing me to come here,” snorted Tahu, “you want to leave so soon?”

“No…” whispered Toa Kopaka Nuva, scanning the mountaintops surrounding the valley with his Kanohi Akaku Nuva. “I see them. The Shifting Shadows are back, with larger numbers it seems.”

“So soon?” blinked Gali. “They located us so quickly? But how…?”

Almost immediately, Tahu glared at Vyzumi. “You brought them here, didn’t you?”

Gali shook her head. “No, he didn’t. He couldn’t have. And even if he did, he would not be telling us to get out of the valley!”

“Right,” nodded Vyzumi. “Now, quickly! We’ve got to get out before they come in!”

Frosam gasped when he heard the news. He glanced up at the mountaintops, and there they were: the dark silhouettes of Shifting Shadows, surrounding the valley on all sides. Surrounding the valley… and the regiment!

The regiment quickly made their way towards the path between the two mountains, unfortunately on the other side of the valley. The Shifting Shadows and their accompanying Rahkshi descended from the mountaintops, and Frosam saw that indeed the Shifting Shadows’ regiment was larger than before. Two Shifting Shadows dropped Mastime down into the valley from their claws, and like an ever-shrinking ring the Shifting Shadows grew closer and closer to the regiment that they surrounded in their largest attack yet.

The Matoran regiment slowed to a stop, for it became apparent that reaching the path between the two mountains was impossible at this point; the Shifting Shadows were too close, and the path too far. They clustered together into a tight circle, with the armed and least wounded Matoran on the edges.

The Shifting Shadows and their Rahkshi slammed into the outer Matoran, killing most of them and wounding the survivors. Only a couple Rahkshi were taken down along with the outer defense. Then, battle once more erupted, and the valley was thrown into chaos. The sounds of metal clashing against metal rang throughout the area as the Matoran, Toa Nuva, and Meench Vyzumi attempted to fight off the attackers.

“Stay by me!” Vyzumi ordered Frosam. Remembering his promise to follow orders, Frosam was forced to stay by the ex-Dark Hunter as all around him Matoran fought for their lives.

A Ta-Matoran charged forward, planting his spear in the shoulder of a Shifting Shadow and swinging on it to kick a Rahkshi in the face, only to be torn apart by another Shifting Shadow.

Hafu, the Po-Matoran carver, found himself surrounded by Shifting Shadows. “You can have my statues, but you want the original Hafu?” he shouted. “Too bad!” Then, he swung his carver’s pickaxe like a madbeing, and didn’t notice as a Le-Matoran helped him take down one of the Shifting Shadows. “Hah!” Hafu smirked. “I got you!”

Kopaka flash-froze a Shifting Shadow, but it shape-shifted into an entity made entirely of fire. The ice melted in seconds, and Kopaka felt the heat rush over him and sap his energy. Still, he determinedly faced the Shifting Shadow without even a blink.

Mastime loaded his launcher and prepared to fire at Tahu, but Gali slammed into him and he missed his shot. In anger, he grabbed Gali and threw her into the crowd. With a swing of his spear, he beheaded two Matoran. Coughing loudly, he bellowed: “Meench Vyzumi, come out and fight me, you coward!”

Meench Vyzumi gritted his pincers together. He took a few steps away from Frosam and towards Mastime. Frosam was unsure whether to follow or to stay.

Suddenly, Murtak swooped down upon Frosam. “I’ve had enough of you!” he growled. “It’s about time you meet your destiny, Turaga!” He grabbed Frosam by the arms and took to the skies. Frosam found himself in great pain; the way Murtak was gripping his arms was more than enough to aggravate his scars. Still, he hung onto his Quake Staff in his right hand; his only weapon.

“Frosam!” called Vyzumi from below. Immediately, the ex-Dark Hunter broke free of the crowd and pursued Murtak, running as quick as lightning itself.

Murtak made his way towards the path on the far side of the valley between the two mountains. They exited the valley, and Murtak turned to head for the coast to the north. Frosam looked down below and noticed Vyzumi giving pursuit. He smiled, remembering Vyzumi’s promise not to leave Frosam.

Suddenly, Murtak laughed and let go, and Frosam felt himself tumbling in midair. He fumbled for a moment, trying to grab his Quake Staff, and did not let himself scream while plummeting to what could be his death. Instead, he simply angled his body so he was falling head-first, and stared down at the ground with open, unblinking eyes. He would not meet his end with his eyes closed and his head lowered in shame, no more than Toa Tahu, or Toa Gali, or – Meench Vyzumi!

Just in the nick of time, Vyzumi arrived Frosam’s would-be landing point. He pointed his spear into the air, creating a cushion of air to slow Frosam’s fall. Then, Vyzumi jumped into the air, caught the Turaga in his arms, and safely landed on the ground. Breathing heavily, he asked: “Are you okay, Frosam?”

Frosam nodded. “Yes. Thanks for saving me.”

“That’s it!” screamed Murtak, who also dove in for a landing. “You’re done for – both of you! You’re dead!” With that, he exposed his teeth and jumped for Vyzumi.

Vyzumi slashed with his spear, forcing Murtak back. However, the Shifting Shadow came right back at Vyzumi, charging forward and slamming into the ex-Dark Hunter. Before Vyzumi could recover, Murtak struck again, knocking Vyzumi onto the ground and jumping on top of him. Vyzumi held his spear vertically over his chest and tried to shove Murtak off, but Murtak kept snapping his jaws, inches from Vyzumi’s face.

Frosam charged forward and attacked the Shifting Shadow with his Quake Staff. He tore at Murtak’s wing with the Quake Staff, and Murtak screamed in pain. Vyzumi was able to shove Murtak off his body and get back onto his feet.

“Frosam,” Vyzumi whispered, “run. Run and leave me behind – I’ll make sure Murtak doesn’t follow. Go now!”

Frosam was about to argue, then remembered his promise to follow Vyzumi’s orders. Sighing, Frosam turned and ran from the battle. Behind him, he heard the fight continue in new heat as Vyzumi’s spear clashed against Murtak’s armor and claws.

When he was a safe distance away, Frosam gave in to the urge to turn around and watch. Vyzumi was right, it seemed, because while the ex-Dark Hunter seemed to be growing more and more tired and weak, he gained the upper hand of the battle, delivering lightning-quick strikes to Murtak.

Murtak snarled and swiped his claws at Vyzumi, leaving gashes on Vyzumi’s left shoulder. Vyzumi backed away, and Murtak laughed and taunted his foe, though Frosam was too far away to hear what he was saying. Then, the Shifting Shadow jumped at Vyzumi, jaws wide-open and exposing rows of razor-sharp teeth.

Vyzumi waited until the last moment before he made his strike. Just before Murtak could land his attack, Vyzumi jabbed his spear into Murtak’s mouth, stabbing at the Shifting Shadow’s insides. Murtak’s eyes widened and he screamed in agony as Vyzumi twisted his spear, even further wounding the Shifting Shadow. Then, Murtak’s entire body went limp, and he fell silent. Frosam smiled in triumph – Vyzumi won!

Grim, Vyzumi removed the spear from Murtak’s mouth. Frosam could see that the ex-Dark Hunter was very tired and weak. “If only Mastime did not inflict all those wounds on him!” muttered Frosam. He began to run back towards Vyzumi, when he stopped short.

A Kurahk with a scarred left eye was running towards Vyzumi from the right.

“No…” whispered Frosam. Vyzumi was too tired, and Mastime’s actions left him extremely vulnerable. Frosam shouted Vyzumi’s name and tried to warn the ex-Dark Hunter, but Vyzumi did not hear him.

The scarred Kurahk slammed into Vyzumi’s right side. Before Vyzumi could recover, the Kurahk swung and pointed its staff towards Vyzumi, and then unleashed a blast of white, misty energy. The attack hit Vyzumi directly, and the ex-Dark Hunter collapsed. When Meench Vyzumi stood again, Frosam could see there was something wrong: his eyes were a foggy white, rather than pure red.

Ignoring the Rahkshi completely, Vyzumi glanced around and spotted Frosam. His face twisted into a scowl, and he charged towards the Turaga. Frosam immediately knew he was under the Kurahk’s influence, and he ran.

It was a lost cause, and Frosam knew that in only a minute, Vyzumi would be upon him. Gritting his teeth, Frosam turned and prepared himself for battle. He clutched his Quake Staff tighter than ever and waited for Vyzumi.

When Meench Vyzumi arrived, he leapt into the air, and as he came down he jabbed his spear at Frosam. Frosam activated his Noble Kanohi Pakari and swung his Quake Staff to block the attack. “It’s me, Vyzumi: Frosam! I don’t want to hurt you!” Frosam shouted. “I’m just trying to survive until the Kurahk’s effects wear off!”

Vyzumi did not even seem to notice that Frosam was talking to him. Snarling, Vyzumi swung his spear again. Frosam blocked again and swung his Quake Staff at Vyzumi. The two beings exchanged blows for a few moments, then Vyzumi kicked Frosam in the chest, knocking the wind out of the Turaga and sending him flying.

Frosam scrambled to his feet in time to see Vyzumi bearing down upon him. Just in time, he moved his Quake Staff in the way to block one of Vyzumi’s strikes. Frosam then spun around and swung his Quake Staff, hitting Vyzumi in the shoulder.

Even angrier than before, Vyzumi swung his spear madly and backed Frosam up against the side of a mountain. Vyzumi fired with his laser vision, and Frosam ducked just in time to dodge, the laser beams burning holes into the mountainside.

Frosam crawled underneath Vyzumi’s abdomen and stood up behind the ex-Dark Hunter. Vyzumi spun around and grabbed Frosam by the neck, choking the Turaga. Desperately trying to free himself from Vyzumi’s grip, Frosam looked into Vyzumi’s eyes, which were still foggy white. Doing the one thing he could, Frosam kicked Vyzumi, and he was freed.

Gasping to get air back into his system, he dodged a kick from Vyzumi. They continued to exchange blows with their weapons. Then, when Vyzumi lunged at Frosam with his spear, the Turaga swung his Quake Staff in such a way that its end hooked onto the spear, and Vyzumi could not get it out. Instead, Vyzumi held out his palm and created a small power blast that sent Frosam flying backward.

In two strides, Vyzumi was upon Frosam. When he stabbed with his spear, Frosam rolled out of the way and let the spear strike the ground. He jumped back onto his feet and kicked Vyzumi twice. It was better to use his legs whenever the opportunity presented itself.

After clashing their weapons again, Vyzumi lifted his leg and kicked Frosam in the chin. Grunting in surprise, Frosam got an idea. He turned around, ran for the nearest mountain ledge, and slowly lifted himself onto the narrow rock. Vyzumi followed, jumping onto the ledge. However, it was almost too narrow for his four legs, and he wavered for a moment before balancing.

Slowly, Frosam backed away on the ledge. Just as slowly to maintain his balance, Vyzumi advanced, swinging his spear whenever possible. Yet, the narrow ledge kept Vyzumi from getting too close to quickly. Perhaps that would delay the fight long enough for the scarred Kurahk’s effects to wear off.

As Frosam took a step back, he felt his foot waver in the air for a moment. Looking down and behind him, he saw that the ledge had come to an abrupt end. Thinking quickly, he hoisted himself onto a higher rock ledge using his Quake Staff.

Vyzumi easily jumped up onto the higher rock ledge and advanced on Frosam. Frosam swung his Quake Staff, which Vyzumi blocked with his spear. However, once more the Quake Staff hooked onto the spear, and Vyzumi had trouble dislodging it. For several seconds they remained locked in this position, before Vyzumi was able to untangle his weapon.

The ex-Dark Hunter swung his spear low to the ground, and Frosam jumped over the attack. Then, the Turaga turned and ran, with Vyzumi following close behind. As he ran, Frosam spun around and swung his Quake Staff, taking Vyzumi by surprise and forcing him to block. Then, Frosam squeezed himself inside a narrow crack in the mountainside.

When Meench Vyzumi reached Frosam’s hiding place, he glanced around for a moment, then noticed Frosam in the crack. Sneering, Vyzumi jabbed at Frosam with his spear, and Frosam found blocking difficult in the confined space of the crack.

Frosam then jumped out of the crack, lunging himself at Vyzumi. He slammed into the ex-Dark Hunter, knocking him off the ledge and onto the ground below. Then, Frosam continued to scale the mountain.

Beneath him, Vyzumi had easily regained the lost distance between the two of them. He swung his spear at Frosam from below. Frosam pushed his Kanohi Pakari to its limits as with one hand he held onto the mountainside and with the other he swung his Quake Staff to block Vyzumi’s attack.

They exchanged another blow, then the rock that Frosam was trying to get a foothold on broke off the mountainside, raining down upon Vyzumi. Frosam took advantage of Vyzumi’s distraction to continue ascending the mountainside.

At last, he climbed up onto another smooth rock ledge. He was aware that he was tiring, for he doubled over and started breathing heavily from exhaustion. Come on, you ungrateful scarred Kurahk! Frosam thought. Have your effects wear off already!

Unfortunately, when Vyzumi climbed onto the same rock ledge, his eyes were still foggy white. Frosam wasted no time in swinging his Quake Staff, and they continued exchanging blows of their weapons. Sparks flew in the air as the sounds of metal clanging rang through the mountainside.

At last, Frosam hooked his Quake Staff onto Vyzumi’s spear once more. This time, Frosam did not give Vyzumi the opportunity to unhook the spear, but yanked with his Quake Staff and forced the spear out of Vyzumi’s hands. The weapon hit the ground, and before Vyzumi could grab it, Frosam placed his foot upon the spear.

“Come on, already!” snapped Frosam. “Snap out of it! You’re Meench Vyzumi, and I’m Turaga Frosam! We’re friends, not enemies! Get that Kurahk, that son of a Makuta, out of your head!”

But Vyzumi’s eyes remained foggy white. It was no use. He didn’t even reply, or make any notion that he heard Frosam. He just stared angrily at the Turaga. Then, in one quick motion, he shoved Frosam off his feet and snatched the spear.

As Frosam slowly stood to his feet, Vyzumi jumped in the air and landed behind the Turaga. Frosam spun around and blocked a blow from the spear. He swung his Quake Staff at Vyzumi, but the attack was easily dodged.

They continued exchanging blows, but Frosam could see that both of them were tiring. His strength was sapping away, and he could feel through his Quake Staff that Vyzumi’s attacks were not as strong as before. Looking up at Vyzumi, Frosam allowed himself a smile. His eyes were still foggy and white, but the fog seemed to be slowly clearing, and the white had a tint of red. Just a few more minutes, and the scarred Kurahk’s effects would wear off!

Vyzumi swung low with his spear, and Frosam jumped over the attack. As he landed, Vyzumi kicked him, knocking him down onto the ground. Vyzumi jabbed with his spear for Frosam’s head, but Frosam kept rolling out of the way and letting the spear strike the ground. Then, Frosam swung his legs, tripping the ex-Dark Hunter.

They got back onto their feet, and Vyzumi advanced on Frosam. Frosam tried to block Vyzumi’s blows, but even with his Kanohi Pakari activated, pain surged through his arms. In shock, he dropped the Quake Staff. In horror, he realized that his arms were so weak now, not even the Kanohi Pakari could save Frosam from feeling pain upon use.

It began to rain. Breathing heavily and sweat collecting beneath his mask, Frosam backed against the mountainside, defenseless and without use of his arms. Vyzumi continued to advance, and readied his spear for a final blow. “So, this is how it ends,” Frosam whispered. “You’re going to kill me… just as you killed Ikaag… and as you killed Lahka…”

Then, Frosam realized he was trembling. Not from fear, but from anger. Before Frosam could control himself, his mind was ablaze with the inferno of another rage. He forgot that Meench Vyzumi was a friend, an ally. He forgot that there were Shifting Shadows on the island. He even forgot he was a Turaga with scarred arms.

All he remembered was that this monster who killed his friends was about to kill him.

Enraged, Frosam rolled out of the way of Vyzumi’s spear with unbelievable agility. The spear was caught in the mountainside, and although Vyzumi tugged at it, it did not come loose.

Frosam seized his advantage and grabbed his Quake Staff. Bellowing a war cry, he charged at Vyzumi’s right side. Too late, Vyzumi activated his shield, for Frosam was in such close proximity with the ex-Dark Hunter that rather than being left outside the shield, he too was protected by the orb, leaving Vyzumi defenseless.

In some small part of his mind, Frosam remembered that the right side of Vyzumi’s body was his weakness. Without any conscience or second thought, he threw all his might into swinging his Quake Staff at Vyzumi from the right. Vyzumi did not see the attack, and did not move to dodge.

The hook end of the Quake Staff planted itself in Vyzumi’s torso and scraped away at his armor. Vyzumi screamed in pain, and when Frosam removed his Quake Staff, a large gash was left behind.

Then, Meench Vyzumi’s eyes cleared and became red once more, and the blazing inferno of a rage departed from Frosam’s mind. Vyzumi collapsed onto the ground, and Frosam gasped when he was aware of his surroundings. “Vyzumi!” he cried. “What have I done?”

Slowly, Vyzumi struggled to his feet, his hands covering his wound. He smiled weakly while breathing heavily. “It’s nothing, Frosam. Just a flesh wound.” He took a few steps forward before collapsing again. Sighing, he decided: “Perhaps not.”

Frosam rushed to Vyzumi’s side. He lifted Vyzumi’s head to look at him. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered.

“What happened?” inquired Vyzumi incredulously.

Frosam sighed. “After you killed Murtak, a… Kurahk, with a scarred eye, attacked you and used its anger powers to turn you against me. And I… had another rage…” The Turaga broke off as he felt tears run down his mask. “It’s all my fault.”

Vyzumi slowly sat upright, his hands still covering his wound. He smiled gently and assured: “It’s not your fault, Frosam. I should have been more aware of the Kurahk, and Rahkshi Kurahk have been known to make friends hurt each other many times in the past. You did what you had to.”

Frosam shook his head. “No. That Kurahk with the scarred eye attacked you because… I saved its life. That night, where the Shifting Shadows and the Rahkshi attacked the tower, I… spared its life after scarring it. I shouldn’t have done that…”

Vyzumi stared at Frosam for a moment, then nodded in understanding. “You didn’t know this would happen,” he murmured. “You couldn’t have. But still, never spare a Rahkshi – they are very ungrateful creatures.”

Frosam blinked. “Wait… didn’t your encounter with Mastime prove that you’ll live? That you’re going to live the next few months? Perhaps this is only the first of your scars…”

Vyzumi shook his head sadly. “Unfortunately, no. My encounter with Mastime proved that if he didn’t attack me, I was going to live the next few months. This means that today, I would have been stronger, and I might have been able to defeat the Kurahk before it attacked… or maybe, I could have defeated you. In that regard, be glad that Mastime attacked.”

“No!” shouted Frosam. “I’m a frail Turaga with crippled arms. You’re Meench Vyzumi! You can kill Shifting Shadows when nobody else can! You’ve got more fighting skill than anybody! How can I consider it lucky that destiny has chosen me to live and you to die?”

Vyzumi laughed bitterly. “Destiny has its horrible sense of humor.” He stopped to breathe for a moment, then continued: “Speaking of killing Shifting Shadows… I’m not going to live much longer, so it is of the utmost importance that you pay attention to every word I say. Understand?”

After Frosam nodded, Vyzumi shut his eyes, inhaled, and began: “It was many, many years ago… I’d say perhaps around eighty thousand years ago. It was after I created Mastime, but before I had created the Shifting Shadows. I was considering using my experimenting talents to further advance the Matoran species. I took a dozen… no, thirteen Matoran from various islands across the known universe. Twelve of these Matoran I had placed in test tubes, and injected them with chemicals, fluids, and viruses.”

Vyzumi winced slightly from his wound, then breathed slowly for a minute. Once he was ready to continue, he said: “No effect would become evident on these dozen Matoran, not while they were Matoran anyways. But I had studied the stars for a while, and I knew these Matoran were destined to become Toa one day. And once they became Toa, my experiments would become realized.”

Vyzumi bent in closely to Frosam. “Now, listen to this, Frosam. Once these Matoran became Toa, they would be no ordinary Toa. For example, one of the twelve Matoran was an Onu-Matoran, and I know for a fact that he became a Toa of Earth. But he didn’t just control Earth… he controlled lava and geyser water as well.”

Frosam blinked, then his eyes widened in realization. “You mean…?”

Vyzumi nodded. “Yes, Frosam. I created the Matoran Ulti.”

Silence fell upon the two beings for a moment. Frosam let this knowledge sink in while Vyzumi struggled to resist the pain of his wound. Vyzumi… created the Matoran Ulti? It seemed so strange… and yet, it made sense to Frosam.

Once Vyzumi was able to speak again, he continued: “But extra elements are not the only extra abilities that the Matoran Ulti have. One of the side effects of the experiment was that Matoran Ulti are prone to terrible infernos of rages, such as the ones that you have experienced... such as the one that has killed me.”

“But you’re not dead yet,” Frosam pointed out.

Vyzumi laughed bitterly once more. “Not yet. But in essence, we both know my life will end before nightfall, so I am not quite alive either; an almost in-between state.”

“No, no,” whispered Frosam, taking his cloak off. “Here, I’ll cover your wound with this; we can get your wound treated and possibly healed, and…” His voice trailed off, for he knew that his efforts were useless, and Vyzumi’s death was inevitable.

Vyzumi shook his head and continued: “More importantly, the other extra ability of the Matoran Ulti is that when they become Toa Ulti, their elemental powers, should they create something new rather than use preexisting matter, contain some sort of chemical as a result of my experiments. For years, this chemical was useless and had no effect. However, when I was creating the Shifting Shadows, I had second thoughts, and so included in the formula certain chemicals that, upon reacting with the Ulti’s chemical, would instantly kill the Shifting Shadow. Unfortunately, this only works when the Shifting Shadows are in their true forms.”

“Wait…” murmured Frosam. “Do you mean to say that Toa Lhikan was a Toa Ulti?”

Vyzumi smiled lightly. “Not quite. Twelve of the thirteen Matoran became Matoran Ulti. The thirteenth was Lhikan. He was supposed to become a Matoran Ulti, but I ran out of time and materials. I was only able to give him the chemical that would eventually kill Shifting Shadows. That is why he could kill them instantly, but nobody from Metru Nui remembers anything about him using lava, plasma, or smoke.”

“It does,” nodded Frosam.

Vyzumi coughed, and a bit of blood came out of his mouth. “My time is very near,” he whispered. “My journal… Frosam, read my journal! It contains everything about my life, including the names of the other nine Matoran Ulti. Perhaps some of them are on this island!”

“And what then?” inquired Frosam. “Even if I find them, they’ll be Matoran, and as you said, their elemental powers won’t have any effect until they become Toa! And we don’t have any Toa Stones!”

Vyzumi weakly held up a finger. “Actually… can I remind you of something? You, Ikaag, and Lahka found three Toa Stones, just conveniently sitting there waiting for you. Unlike the Toa Stones that Takua had to collect… those stones were only recently put there… and I was the one who followed your group and placed those stones where they could conveniently be found.”

“You…?” blinked Frosam. Suddenly, he realized what a large and important role Meench Vyzumi had played in his life.

Vyzumi nodded slowly. His breathing was becoming shallow, and he was finding it harder to speak. “I have… more Toa Stones… in my cave. When you are… ready, use those… Toa Stones to… transform the… Matoran Ulti… so the Shifting Shadows… may… die.”

“Please don’t leave me,” Frosam whispered. “You’ve told me everything I need to know, but I don’t think I can do it without you! Don’t give in to death!”

Vyzumi laughed. “Death? I do not… fear death; I… embrace it with… open arms. Death… is but… a natural part… of life… and so I… accept it.”

Slowly, Vyzumi reached out and extended an arm, taking Frosam’s hand in his. “Remember…” he spoke, his voice little more than a whisper. “Read my journal… Thank you… for… trusting… me…” Then, his eyes closed, his hand slipped out of Frosam’s, and his entire body collapsed limply onto the rock ledge, silent as the grave.

So passed Meench Vyzumi.

Tears ran down Frosam’s Kanohi Pakari. His emotions welled up inside of him, and he knelt over Vyzumi’s still, silent body and wept, mourning the loss of his friend. And it continued to rain.

Meench Vyzumi was dead.

*****

It was still raining when Turaga Frosam reached the coast. He did not dare leave Meench Vyzumi’s body behind, lest some carnivorous Rahi or a Shifting Shadow found it, so he dragged it with him the entire way. He also carried with him Vyzumi’s specially-crafted spear, for he could not let the Shifting Shadows take it.

Frosam stared out into the ocean, an angry mix of dark waves constantly crashing against each other. Lightning flashed in the distance, and Frosam could, once again, vaguely see the Red Star glowing through the storm clouds.

Curse that Red Star and its prophecies! Its prophecies bring nothing but death and punishment for me, and so I turn my back on it! Frosam thought, his fists clenching in anger. He imagined that if the Red Star could speak, it would be laughing mockingly at him.

Disgusted, Frosam turned away from the ocean. He faced the body of Vyzumi, lying motionless on the sand. What kind of funeral would be best for him, especially during the Shifting Shadows’ attack? Should he be buried? Should he be placed in a coffin and sent out to sea?

Frosam sighed. He drew his cloak closer to his body; it was getting colder out. He planted his Quake Staff into the sand, then bent down on one knee and shut his eyes. He had run out of tears, and could only internally weep for all that which he lost.

Ikaag was dead.

Lahka was dead.

Ussanui was dead.

Meench Vyzumi was dead.

For hours, it seemed, he stayed in this position. He wondered what he was going to do with himself. Suicide seemed like a good option. But what would that accomplish?

Nevermore, Frosam decided. I shall nevermore let this happen to anybody else. Nevermore shall I give another being my trust and friendship, and thus nevermore shall anybody affect me this way again when they die. And that scarred Kurahk… I shall hunt down that miserable, ungrateful creature and kill it myself, and I shall know no rest nor comfort until I do!

Then, Frosam was aware of cold, sharp metal being pressed against the back of his neck. “Alright, Shifting Shadow,” whispered a feminine voice behind him, “any last words before I dispatch you?”

“Kiria,” spoke a male voice, also behind Frosam, “lower your arrow – he may not be a Shifting Shadow.”

“Shut up, Mleot!” hissed the female, whom Frosam presumed to be Kiria. “He’s alone, and Turaga are never alone during a Shifting Shadow attack!”

Frosam laughed bitterly. “I’m no Shifting Shadow. But go ahead and kill me anyways – it would make things better for both of us.”

“Okay…” said another male voice of a higher pitch than Mleot. “I guess he’s just crazy like you.”

“Nobody asked your opinion, Vabreh!” the female spat.

“Now, now, we’re guests on this island; we must treat our hosts with respect. Kiria, lower your arrow.”

Frosam’s eyes widened in surprise, for that last voice sounded surprisingly similar to Meench Vyzumi’s, only aged. He didn’t dare turn his head until Kiria lowered her arrow, and when he did, he was disappointed to only see a group of unfamiliar Matoran, with a Turaga of Air in the lead. He guessed Kiria was the Ga-Matoran with a bow and arrow and the skirt, and that Mleot and Vabreh were the Ta-Matoran and the green- and turquoise-armored Matoran standing on either side of her.

The Turaga of Air approached Frosam. He was clad in green and gray armor with hints of gold, wore a Noble Kanohi Kakama albeit in the shape of a Great Kanohi Kakama, and carried with him a small spear. When he spoke, Frosam figured out that he was the one with the voice like Vyzumi’s.

“I am Turaga Wodahs. These are the Matoran of Wodahs Nui. And, we’ve come to help you rid of the Shifting Shadows.”

The End of The Story of Frosam, Part II




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PeabodySam
post Mar 14 2010, 01:05 PM
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Chapter 17
Vakama’s Secret Origins, Deleted Content, and Original Outline


This bonus chapter contains little-known secrets and behind-the-scenes facts about Vakama’s Secret.

ORIGINS

The origins of Vakama’s Secret actually date back many years. In February 2005, I was on a fourteen-hour train ride to Florida for a vacation, a ride that I made a reference to in another story of mine: Villain Vacation. This was an overnight train, and I eventually fell asleep on it.

Now, just so you know, I’m not the kind of LEGO fan that thinks about LEGO all day and dreams about LEGO all night. In fact, dreams about LEGO come to me very rarely.

On that night, as I slept aboard the train, I had a rather interesting dream. As most dreams are, most of it was forgotten upon waking, and I only remember bits and pieces of it. But what I remember is that there were a group of people who were working on making alternate models for #8540 Vakama. One of the alternate models they came up with was a serpentine creature with wings and arms. Then, another remembered fragment of the dream took place in the BIONICLE universe, and the winged serpent was there, telling the Toa Nuva in Vakama’s voice: “Help me.”

For some reason, these two fragments of the dream stuck with me even after I woke up. In fact, they stuck with me all vacation, and for whatever reason I was very intrigued by them. Being a writer-in-progress, I began to wonder if I could adapt this dream into a story I could post on BZPower.

Thus, during the vacation I outlined a basic plot. It would be set after BIONICLE: Mask of Light, but before the Toa Nuva and Matoran traveled to Metru Nui (although this was in 2005, it was obvious that they would go back after Vakama finished his tales). Not-dead-yet Makuta would summon his minions, the Shifting Shadows, to invade and try to take over the island of Mata Nui. The Toa Nuva tried to fight back, but they were unsuccessful. Thus, Vakama had to reveal his deepest and darkest secret: he was a Shifting Shadow. The Toa Nuva immediately distrusted Vakama, and he had to fight to regain their trust. With Vakama’s aid, the Toa Nuva would be able to defeat the Shifting Shadows.

But what were the Shifting Shadows? I knew this much about them at the time: They were a shape-shifting race of creatures, whose main form was a serpent-like creature with wings and arms. However, most of them were little more than Visorak: semi-intelligent Rahi that just went around invading islands and capturing weaker Rahi. Vakama was an exception for whatever reason.

However, the Toa Nuva were not thrilled at finding out that Vakama, whom they trusted for a year and knew as a Turaga and a friend, was actually a Shifting Shadow, and they turned their backs on him, as did the Matoran and four of the other Turaga. Only Nokama trusted Vakama, and that was because she already knew that he was a Shifting Shadow, having seen him fight off a Tarakava attack on Ga-Koro in the form of a Ghekula.

The story had a title that I knew would fit it best: Vakama’s Secret.

Unfortunately, as my vacation in Florida ended, so did my interest in this version of Vakama’s Secret. I found it too difficult to put into words, and I found far too many plot holes: for example, if Vakama was simply a Shifting Shadow in the form of a Ta-Matoran, how did he become a Toa Metru when touched by Lhikan’s Toa Energy and later a Turaga when he gave up his Toa Energy? Besides, while the concept of shape-shifting enemies was cool, other than that they were essentially Visorak clones, and that would make the story a boring repeat of 2005.

Still, I did not want to let go of the concept of Shifting Shadows so easily. In March, I included similar creatures of the same name in the Alpha Team: Mission Deep Freeze RPG, in which they were legendary creatures who hated dragons and Alpha Team, and were commanded by a Shifting Shadow Queen. They tried to stop Frozeen’s friend PBB when he was looking for a cure to Frozeen’s sickness. The Shifting Shadows were later defeated by a mutant dragon, but killed the dragon in the process.

Okay, great! They weren’t Visorak rip-offs! But wait… crud! Instead, they became rip-offs of the kreelixes from the book The Fires of Merlin by T.A. Barron!

I decided to trace the Shifting Shadows’ origins back to BIONICLE and Vakama. I came up with an entirely different concept this time. The Shifting Shadows once more were Visorak rip-offs, but at least this time they seemed to have more intelligence. Ironically, however, in what I had established in my concept, the Shifting Shadows never actually appeared, and Vakama was a true Turaga, not a Shifting Shadow.

The concept was a rather haunting segment of a darker take on Vakama’s Secret, inspired by the Overture on Hebrew Themes segment of Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf: Narrated by Sting. The segment would involve Vakama traveling through Ko-Wahi and stumbling upon a camp. There, he would meet a group of Turaga that he would recognize as old friends from Metru Nui. It would be a happy reunion at first, but then one of the Turaga would explain to Vakama that they were dead, killed by the Shifting Shadows; they came back as ghosts to warn him that the Shifting Shadows were coming; and then they would vanish into the night, leaving Vakama alone in the cold wasteland of Ko-Wahi.

Very haunting, no? Well, the problem was that it worked very well in theory and concept, but was far too difficult to put into words while retaining that haunting feel. So, that idea was scrapped, and Vakama’s Secret was shelved indefinitely.

Months passed, and instead I found myself working out concepts for a new story of mine, The Story of Frosam. In this story, I would introduce characters such as Frosam and Meench Vyzumi, and it would take place during the events of Mata Nui Online Game II: The Final Chronicle.

2005 ended and 2006 began. January came and went. It was February once more, a whole year since I first came up with the idea of Shifting Shadows and Vakama’s Secret. To my surprise, I found myself thinking about that, but I initially dismissed it, remembering that it was too difficult to write, and all the plot holes in the story.

Then, I had an idea that I shall conceitedly describe as “brilliant”: what if I merged The Story of Frosam with Vakama’s Secret? Not in the way of combining the two stories into a single epic, but by making the latter a continuation of the former, and reusing characters from the former in the latter.

Somehow, by doing this, suddenly Vakama’s Secret seemed to work. Characters such as Meench Vyzumi would fill in various plot holes, such as the Matoran-Toa-Turaga issue addressed earlier, and it would further expand on the characters I introduced in The Story of Frosam.

Slowly, the story started to piece itself together. The Shifting Shadows, once merely Rahi invaders, now became a species of intelligent war-loving conquerors. The character Denethok came into being, and a twist was added in which Vakama was not only a Shifting Shadow, but the former leader of the Shifting Shadows before Denethok overthrew him. Denethok’s name is not particularly based upon any pre-existing name, but it’s inspired by some of the names in Lord of the Rings.

Barok and Murtak, two other Shifting Shadows that this story often seems to focus on, were created to follow the “Skorpeo-Vicee” formula: two prominent characters that followed the main villain around. To add a twist to this formula, Murtak dies in the final chapter and thus breaks away from the “Skorpeo-Vicee” formula by leaving Barok alone by himself for the next story. Barok’s name is somewhat based off of “Baroque”, and Murtak’s name was based off of “Murtogg” from Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.

Meench Vyzumi pretty much snuck into the story. When writing first drafts for the story, as far as I cared Vyzumi was dead. But I liked the character so much, I decided that he created the Shifting Shadows, and thus he appeared in the prologue. The prologue got axed; therefore, I needed to include Vyzumi someplace else, and decided that he would attack Frosam as the Turaga passes by the Dark Hunter Tower ruins, only to be killed by the Shifting Shadows that invade at that moment – an excellent storytelling device to show that these new villains are more powerful and dangerous than the previous villains.

And yet, that idea changed as well when I started coming up with concepts for Turaga Wodahs. I made him a Turaga of Air, since Air was the first non-Fire non-Earth element that came to mind when I wrote the prologue. As I expanded on the character’s concept, I also expanded on his background. And I began to wonder – Meench Vyzumi has a pretty mysterious background; what if he and Wodahs were old friends?

This idea completely changed Meench Vyzumi’s character in my mind. Was he a lying, murderous Dark Hunter, or what he only pretending to be one so that he could spy on the Dark Hunters? Was he evil, or was that just a mask to hide his true, noble self?

As time went on, I decided to have Vyzumi attack Frosam near the Dark Hunter Tower ruins, but he wouldn’t be killed by Shifting Shadows; only captured by the Ta-Koro Guard. Then, with the knowledge that the Shadowed One considered him dead, Vyzumi could take off his Dark Hunter mask and reveal his true self to Frosam.

I gave some foreshadowing to the Vyzumi-Wodahs relationship when I wrote Four Years, Five Months, Five Days in February 2009. It will be further expanded and explained in Reign of Shadows.

Turaga Wodahs’s name came from an unused concept from the Prologue, which was that the Shifting Shadows mockingly reversed the name of “Wodahs Nui” into “Shadow Nui”, in which case Wodahs’s name had to be “shadow” spelled backwards. This concept was unused, but the name stuck.

The concept of adding epigraphs from other writings such as Meench Vyzumi’s journal and the Wall of History came from Dune. For my stories, it was originally intended for use in the never-written The Story of Vyzumi, in which each chapter would begin with a paragraph from an entry of Meench Vyzumi’s journal written about the content of that chapter. This has since evolved into a standard for my serious stories to begin each Epic’s chapter or Short Story with an epigraph relating to it.

Since this story featured an important flashback that went back several years prior to the current story, I decided to include the year at the beginning of a chapter whenever we change time period. “B.G.C.” stands for “Before Grand Cataclysm”, and “A.G.C.” stands for “After Great Cataclysm”.

Sroorw was another Shifting Shadow introduced to break away from the “Skorpeo-Vicee” formula, to show that there are other Shifting Shadows that will be identified. His name was based off the word “Sorrow”, but with each “o” exchanged with each “r”.

Kiria the Ga-Matoran , Mleot the Ta-Matoran, and Vabreh the Jungle Matoran were introduced to show that there was more going on in the story than just on Mata Nui. They were also used to show what life was like for those on Wodahs Nui. They were left unnamed until the end of the story to see how well I could work with writing unnamed characters; in addition, it emphasizes the lack of identity of the Wodahs Nui Matoran, as though the Koro was actually a concentration camp from World War II, and they only win back their identities upon their liberation.

Kiria, especially, was used to show the impact of the Shifting Shadows. Her dialogue reveals that she was once the average calm, peaceful, sweet, quiet Ga-Matoran fisher before the Shifting Shadows attacked. Since then, she has become an aggressive, antisocial, bloodthirsty fighter who wants nothing more than to kill the Shifting Shadows. Her name was originally Karai, but I changed my mind after doing a Google search for “Karai” and finding lots of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-related results. Not wanting a character coincidentally with a name from that series, I changed the “i” and the two “a” around and made it Kiria. Interestingly, the name “Karai” just randomly popped in my head when I was thinking of a name for her; I had no idea it was the Japanese word for “harsh”, which describes Kiria perfectly. Ah, well… it would have been a fitting name for her, but as I said, I did not want a BIONICLE character sharing a name with a TMNT character.

Vabreh was used primarily because I wanted to use a Matoran of Green/Jungle, which I had never used before. True, it was a pain in the neck constantly referring to him as a “Matoran of Green” or “Jungle Matoran” instead of a “__-Matoran”, but I didn’t want to make up any noncanon prefixes, especially since any day now Greg Farshtey will likely come up with a canon prefix. His name was based on a combination of “vine” and “herb”.

Mleot, the brave leader of the Matoran revolution, was a Ta-Matoran. Therefore, his name was “Molten” with the letters mixed up and the “n” cut off. Before Kiria’s character was fully developed, I decided that she was the leader of the Wodahs Nui Matoran. As the character was developed, I realized that, due to the way that other Matoran view her, nobody would willingly follow Kiria when they could follow the more-respected Mleot instead, so Mleot became the leader.

Commander Krrystelian the Shifting Shadow General was named as a result of playing too much LEGO Battles while writing Chapter 14. His colors were based off the Alien Commander, and his name was based off of “Crystalien”, the unofficial fan-made name for the Alien Commander’s species.

Mastime is clearly appearance-wise based off a prototype sprite in Voya Nui Online Game, which some debate whether it’s a prototype Hahli Inika or a prototype Barraki. His coughing fits were inspired by General Grievous from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

My idea to give Frosam a cloak and Kiria a skirt came from a sketch I did of Toa Frosam and Toa Ikaag. Although the sketch was good, they didn’t quite look right, so just for laughs I gave Frosam a cloak and Ikaag a skirt, and they looked surprisingly good. Ikaag never got a skirt since she was already dead, but Kiria ended up getting it instead. While I did not always mention that Frosam was wearing a cloak, he nearly constantly wore it from Chapter 3 to Chapter 17; I just didn’t feel that I needed to constantly mention it, in the same way Greg Farshtey doesn’t always mention that Vezon is wearing a cape.

In The Story of Frosam’s origins, I mentioned that several characters who were to appear were scrapped when the Prologue was scrapped; these characters were Bavomee, Naraitoar, and Diractore, three Onu-Matoran named after The Search for the Mask of Light characters Mr. Bafoomy, Narrator, and Director Spielbrick. These characters were renamed and adapted into three of the Shifting Shadows’ former prisoners: Buvumi, Neretorr, and Daruktore-Cipilbrek.

The two ancient Le-Wahi Kini with the hidden tunnel between them originated from BZPower’s Short Story Contest #4, my entry being Fight or Flight. While it wasn’t the best of my stories, one concept I loved about it was the two Kini with the tunnel, and decided to include that in this story, with one Kini being the meeting point of the Toa Nuva and Turaga, the other Kini destroyed by Sroorw, and the tunnel between hosting Meench Vyzumi’s cell.

Chapter 3: Return of the Lord was named after The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien, substituting “lord” for “king” since Meench Vyzumi’s name meant Lord of Deceit. Since then, “Lord” became the name used to describe Meench Vyzumi in chapter titles, such as Chapter 11: A Lord’s Trial.

Chapter 9: The Ally Revealed was named after The Story of Frosam Chapter 19: The Enemy Revealed, since in “The Enemy Revealed” Meench Vyzumi was revealed to be a villain, while in “The Ally Revealed” he is revealed to be an ally.

Chapter 16 originally had titles like “Fall of the Lord” or “The Lord’s Last Words”, but fearing this would give too much away, I decided to give it the more vague title “Destiny’s Last Words”. This title could be interpreted in multiple ways, such as Meench Vyzumi’s last words or Frosam turning his back on the Red Star.

The name of Mount Nuita, the largest volcano of Wodahs Nui, came from the Matoran terms “Nui” and “Ta”, which mean “great” and “fire” respectively; thus, “Nuita” means “great fire”. The name of Mount Kurata, a particularly violent volcano, drew inspiration from Kurahk, the Rahkshi of Anger, and was combined with “Ta”; thus, “Kurata” roughly means “angry fire”.

At various points throughout the story, the Dark Hunter codenamed Primal was referred to by the name "Nuoka". While Primal's name in the official storyline was never revealed, "Nuoka" was the original name given to the character by his creator, Pekel. This name is used in a Microsoft Word document found in Pekel's Brickshelf gallery of Primal, linked here.

Quadrant 14 was based, both in name and description, off Quadrant 14 from the book Race for Survival of the LEGO Rock Raiders series. The robotic turrets guarding Quadrant 14 were ever-so-lovingly ripped-off from Portal. Remember, kids: the cake is a lie!

DELETED CONTENT

Much like The Story of Frosam, Vakama’s Secret began with a Prologue. However, after completing the first draft of Chapter 1, I decided that neither of the two chapters was up to full-quality, and that the Prologue was not necessary for story-telling purposes. For one thing, it was written to show that Meench Vyzumi made the Shifting Shadows, but that would not be necessary if Meench Vyzumi could tell everybody that himself.

The Prologue also included quite an alternate history to Wodahs Nui. Metru Nui was growing overpopulated, so a group of its Matoran led by the current Turaga of Metru Nui, Wodahs, left the city to establish a colony on Wodahs Nui, while Toa Dume took Wodahs’s position as Turaga. While in the final story Wodahs and the Matoran did colonize the island from a larger population, their original island changed from Metru Nui to an unknown continent (presumably the Southern Continent or Northern Continent).

In addition, since I had not yet filled in the Matoran-Toa-Turaga plot hole, Vakama was still created from scratch by Vyzumi, and thus Vyzumi had no need to create Denethok himself to try making a Shifting Shadow without a Matoran base. He was also commissioned by the Brotherhood of Makuta to create Vakama; this was changed so that when he created Vakama and Denethok, the Shifting Shadows were completely unaffiliated with the Brotherhood until a few years later, when the Brotherhood offered Vyzumi powers to hand them the formula for the Shifting Shadows.

Zark, a Ga-Matoran fisher and an “early version” of Kiria, appeared briefly in the Prologue. While she has never appeared in the story itself since the scrapping of the Prologue, she is mentioned in one of the “Collected Writings of Wodahs Nui”, so she is not entirely removed. She will likely be expanded upon in Reign of Shadows.

After the Prologue was written, the first draft of Chapter 1 was written. It was pretty much the same thing as the current Chapter 1, only a lot shorter and less descriptive. After scrapping the Prologue, I reread Chapter 1, and decided it was not up to standard. So, I scrapped that and rewrote it from scratch.

The subterranean tunnels leading from Wodahs Nui to Mata Nui originally ended in Onu-Wahi. This was altered when I realized that the Matoran of Wodahs Nui would need to get to Mata Nui by boat, and that would be difficult unless the tunnel ended in the Endless Ocean.

Makuta Teridax’s reasons behind his actions changed greatly from 2007, when I first began writing this story, to 2009, when I finished this story. Originally, he sent the Shifting Shadows to Metru Nui to conquer it before the Dark Hunters, and brought the Shifting Shadows to Mata Nui to kill everyone in sight. However, in 2008, the official BIONICLE storyline revealed Makuta’s Plan, and I realized these reasons would be out-of-character for Makuta. Thus, they were altered: he sent the Shifting Shadows to Metru Nui to eliminate all Toa Mangai except Lhikan, and brought the Shifting Shadows to Mata Nui to keep the Matoran there until the Plan’s timing allowed them to return to Metru Nui.

One of my bigger disappointments was that I wanted to include an awesome battle in Chapter 7, where Vakama fights the entire Shifting Shadow army before retreating. Unfortunately, the chapter seemed quite long already, and ever since The Story of Frosam Chapter 27, I’ve always been a bit worried whether chapters are too long, because if they are, then they turn up blank on BZPower. Thus, the battle was cut.

Vakama also went through a large escape plan in Chapter 7 to flee the Shifting Shadows and live on Metru Nui as a Ta-Matoran. Not only was this cut because of length, but also because it was completely unnecessary. All that Vakama needed to do was done in the final Chapter 7.

Because of the similarities in their true forms, after I decided that Vakama was created from a Ta-Matoran, I decided that the rest of the Shifting Shadows must have come from Lohrak. However, I found myself reminded that I didn’t want the Shifting Shadows to seem like Rahi, and so this relation to Lohrak was scrapped.

I originally planned to write about the Wodahs Nui Matoran travelling to Denethok’s trap-rigged tower, but that was cut to move the story along quicker and reduced to a brief mention in Chapter 12.

In Chapter 15, a random unidentified Matoran was originally going to be exposed to Mastime’s power. However, I decided that this would be a waste, since Mastime cannot use his power more than once in battle, and for him to waste it on an unidentified Matoran would be useless to the story. Instead, I decided that he would use it on Vyzumi, and that would play a role in making Vyzumi weaker, and thus responsible for Vyzumi’s death.

These are only the major cuts; almost everything deleted from the story can be found below.

ORIGINAL OUTLINE

Beginning in early 2007, I decided to write an outline that would supposedly help me write Vakama’s Secret faster. Granted, even with the outline, it took two long years to write, but I’m willing to bet that if I had not written an outline, it would have taken even longer to write.

Ask some writers, such as Greg Farshtey, about writing an outline. Greg’s reply is that he doesn’t do it, because he feels that writing an outline restricts his freedom when he writes the story itself. However, I disagree with him on this: there’s no rule stating that once you write an outline, you must follow it. Most of the deleted content in the section above comes from my outline, and was deleted because as I was writing the chapter, I said to myself: “Hey, this works better than my original idea.” That’s my stance on outlines.

However, take note of the following: I began writing this outline before scrapping the Prologue and Chapter 1 first draft, and they were included in this outline. As I went along, I would constantly add to the outline, but I never went back and changed old content. The only changes I’ve made to the outline since writing it would be splitting the outline into chapters (to make it easier to locate a chapter) and color-coding the outline (to make it easy to see what was kept and what was removed). Also, this is a slightly-altered version of the outline; the original contains some spoilers for Reign of Shadows.

And I hereby present to you… the outline!

However, sometimes this outline wasn’t enough to help me write this difficult story. Again unlike Greg Farshtey, I am a visual person – sometimes, it helps me best if I can picture it. Therefore, I would rehearse the scene in my head as though I were watching a movie, and quickly sketch the images onto paper. I did this once while writing the battle of Frosam and Meench Vyzumi in the Dark Hunter Tower when I had some severe writer’s block, and since it had worked then, I used this method again three times while writing this whenever I had severe cases of writer’s block. I did not put a whole lot of effort into the artwork; to see artwork with actual effort, check out the review topic; the point of these was to show what was going on, not to display my (lack of) artistic talent.

I drew these with some help from my friend, bouiglob1. He offered assistance in the arrangement of characters, scenery, and dialogue of some sequences. However, bouiglob1 is a very random person with a unique sense of humor; therefore, he often inserted random humor into these storyboards just to make the experience more enjoyable for us. For example, bouiglob1 finds the infamous Shoop Da Woop hilarious, hence why it appears a couple times.

Basically… it’s very random, and only comprehensible to myself and bouiglob1. But, since I bet you’re curious, here’s the three storyboards we did.
- Chapter 7 - Mutiny
- Chapter 11 - A Lord's Trial
- Chapter 14 - Master of Time

I hope you found this behind-the-scenes chapter interesting. Stay tuned (for the next five years…), for the epic finale of this trilogy will be written: Reign of Shadows.



This post has been edited by PeabodySam: Jun 25 2010, 05:50 PM


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Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 13th October 2012 - 02:12 PM