The Village of Weary

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Shores of Strathmere, NJ, circa March 2009. Self Taken.

Previous Chapter 

The Village of Weary

Brutaka looked towards the ocean as he cleared away another shovelful of sand, watching his work crew wheelbarrow it back to the beach. With the dunes of Utywa gone— presumably pushed in by the storms to where he now dug—he could see straight out to the ocean, where whitecaps jumped from the dark waters, each straining to reach the sky.

The shore stretched far, but it was no longer full. The beach was a desolate ditch now, rocks and pipes sitting exposed in the gullies where thousands of tons of sand had once sat. The amount Brutaka and his crew were now transporting would not restore the beach, not by a long shot. Butt it was what they could do while the sky was clear and the tides low, the ocean’s way of allowing the island to nurse its wounds.

It was the last two houses at the end of the island they shoveled, which had been lifted on stilts a few years back. Sand had filled in the entirety of the space between the house and the ground, requiring a bunch of someones to come and clear the place. The crew had been working meticulously since early morning, but there was still a long day’s work ahead of them. The sand was dense, and only so many crew members could reach in at once to pull the sand out. The sun above streamed white rays down from the clear sky; As he waited his turn for his shovelful, Brutaka hoped they would get at least one of the houses finished before the sky turned yellow, as it did when the sun was on the bay side.

Sand spilled as one shovelful was taken. Brutaka did not know by whom, but what he did know was that it caused the house to shift. Forgetting his shovel, he dropped underneath, and thrust his arms upward, using himself to reinforce the structure. The Matoran workers cleared away the sand, to find the post they were clearing around was cracked. Brutaka cursed. The storm must have done this, the force of the floodwaters creating more pressure than the stilts could withstand. He nodded to the closest worker.

“The post is busted,” Brutaka noted as they cleared away the sand around a stilt. He turned to one of his Matoran workers. “Go to the lumberyard and ask for a dozen. Tell them its on my bill.” Creating a portal with his Olmak to the lumberyard, the worker nodded, rushing through, leaving his team leader holding the weight of the house. The portal closed behind him, leaving the worker to come back the long way. “Dig carefully—or I might not be around to uphold your house,” he warned in a grunt to the rest of them. Someone cracked a wise remark as they continued to dig, but Brutaka was in no position to respond.

Brutaka stood stuck where as he waited, forced to look out toward the choppy ocean. He glared as he watched each little whitecap out in the murky waters, the little wisps of whitewater catching his attention more than the mass of Matoran dumping sand to fill in the gullies. He should have thought of his position as he established himself under here. Or found something else to look at. It wasn’t seasickness that bothered him, but it was something else that made him mistrust the ocean. Maybe the strain of holding the building was keeping him from thinking straight, but there was just something wrong about the ocean, a vibe out there that did not resonate well with him.

The building shuddered, pulling him from his thoughts. Brutaka realized he had gone slack in holding up the building, too caught up in his staring contest with the black waters out beyond the beach. “This post better get here soon,” he grumbled to himself.

The end of the day found Brutaka walking home in a daze, utterly drained and arms reverberating with soreness. His titan frame was strong, but the endurance he required to keep the house from collapsing was beyond what he was used to. Tomorrow he would have to pick up the shovel again though. He wanted to go to get something to eat, and maybe he would later, but for now exhaustion led him right to his house, where he promptly fell asleep in his bed, hoping digging to be the last thing on his mind tonight.

***

On a promenade he stood, surrounded by fog, cloak snapping in the howling winds. Somewhere in the gale, someone was whispering his name, but no matter where he turned he could not catch sight of them.

The mist cleared, revealing a sky of grey clouds atop a stormy beach. [The whitecaps Brutaka had seen earlier in the afternoon were now enormous waves that battered each other, coalescing into mammoth breakers that tumbled into shore. The black water splashed into the sand, the sea in a driving rage that was coming up to completely consume the beach.

On the other side of the promenade was a marsh, seemingly unaffected by the hurricane that rampaged on the beach. The reeds extended as far as the eye could see, gently leaning to and fro. The streams cutting through them were glass, despite the howling winds on the beach.

Brutaka walked toward the rail, looking out at all the land the marshes encompassed. The whispering was coming from behind him now, that was certain, and as much as he wanted to answer that call a moment ago, something stronger was drawing him toward the marsh. The rail stopped him from going forward, as much as he wanted to walk out there and step from mudbank to mudbank.

Something was out there on the mudbanks. That was what drew his curiosity to there. He could hear the voice whispering his name practically in his ear now, but he ignored it, desperately trying to see what it was. He squinted, and his eyesight suddenly flew forward. He could see it, but he had to strain his eyes. Slightly taller than the grass, rising from the bank of mud…straining his eyes, he saw…

…a shovel.

1582708-A-shovel-in-the-sand-at-Lake-Michigan-beach-in-the-summertime--Stock-Photo.jpg

Shovel in Sand, Michigan Beach, courtesy of Google. 

***

Kopaka woke with a start as the beam shone upon his mask. He inhaled sharply, the cool night air filling his lungs as he was taken by surprise, his sleep interrupted. The Toa of Ice sat up on his bed, squinting as he used his hand to block the glare. It did not come directly outside his window, he observed. Using his Kanohi Nuva of Vision, he saw through the light to miles away, where the source of the light glowed brightly.

Kopaka… came a telepathic voice. The voice, like the light it came from, cut through the still and silent darkness of the late summer night.

“What are you doing, projecting yourself out here, old friend?” Kopaka spoke aloud, sitting on his bed, feeling the minute warmth of the light. “You should be on the lookout for sailors, Solek. But what brings you here tonight?”

Sailors have arrived here, Kopaka. The Matoran who were sent north have returned. And… a storm has followed them. Kopaka sat silent, staring into the darkness. Beyond Solek’s beam, he could see his desk sitting in the shadow. A storm had followed them. The sentence echoed in Kopaka’s head. Hurricane seasons had come and gone through Kopaka’s village for millennia. Each year the storms would come, taking away parts of the island, and Kopaka and his village would fiercely defend their homes. But now… maybe it was simply the lateness of the night call, but Kopaka sat in the light, thinking, Why do we need to go through this… again? It sounded like another storm, but Solek’s tone hinted something darker…

The clouds are pitch black, sitting out there on the horizon, Solek reported. It scares me, because it is unlike anything I have seen here before. If the winds carry in this direction, the storm will wreak some havoc on the village. Who knows what might be left standing.

“We are Toa,” Kopaka said, rubbing his eyes. This had not been the best wake-up call he had received. “We can control the elements, but sadly not nature. In this situation, any action of our power is only denying the inevitable. No amount of our power will hold off a storm forever. What of these travelers, Solek?”

Two Matoran and a Toa of Fire. Yetoxa rescued them in the storm last night, which already damaged the Lighthouse. Yetoxa is certain that we both can protect the Lighthouse, and he wants to send the travelers to help the village.

“I cannot stop his actions,” Kopaka spoke coldly. “I believe that the Lighthouse needs more protection, but you are one of the few who values my opinion these days. If Yetoxa thinks that they will be useful, let them come.” The beam gave no response, and there was silence in the room again. Kopaka sat, thinking about Solek’s words. Hopefully this was a dream, Kopaka thought as he lay down on his bed.

Rest well, Toa Kopaka.

“You as well, Toa Solek.”

***

“I believe that the Lighthouse needs more protection, but you are one of the few who values my opinion these days. If Yetoxa thinks that they will be useful, let them come.”

Brutaka stood in the dark in the hallway outside his room, halted by the sound of Kopaka in conversation with someone. He had not heard anyone come into their home, but the Toa Nuva of Ice was clearly talking to someone. A bright light crept from under Kopaka’s doorway, the source of which Brutaka had no idea.

He listened further, but not much more was said. Brutaka had awoken from his dream, hearing the voice of the Toa in the other room. Thinking the Toa was talking in his sleep again, the titan went to his roommate’s door, but the light stopped him from knocking. Brutaka sat there, mulling over midnight thoughts as he waited for the right moment.

The light disappeared, and the Toa did not speak anymore. Brutaka went to knock, but instead placed his hand against the door frame. The Toa had sounded ragged, his voice more tired than even Brutaka’s had this afternoon. He did not know what Kopaka did with his days anymore; the two had been caught up in the summertime labor to have much interaction.

The titan lowered his fist and turned towards his room, heading back to bed. They would talk later.

***

Kopaka stood in somewhere in a desert, a sandstorm rampaging around him. Beneath his feet lay a brick platform, extending beyond the raging storm. The wind blew fiercely, the airborne sand whipping through his mask. The wind was fiercer than any other the Toa of Ice had known, but he remained rooted to the platform.

Next to Kopaka stood a powerful Toa of Fire. His armor and mask blazed crimson, a shade red purer than any fire ever burned; inspiration radiated from him, keeping his friend calm in the storm. Kopaka had been with him in the beginning and in the end, and yet he had never viewed him like this. His eyes refused to make contact with Kopaka’s as he stared deep into the sandstorm.

“It is time to start another layer,” he said, gesturing to the platform. The icy one did not even understand what he was talking about, the words were slipping from his lips. The Toa was not responding, and the Toa of Ice went to nudge his brother, but found he could not move. “It is wide enough.” Knowledge of the scene flooded Kopaka’s head, and he understood. But the other disagreed, shaking his head.

“No, brother,” he replied, frowning. “You are not prepared for the next layer. The wider it extends, the higher it goes. Remember the first trial? The pyramid collapsed early on, because the base was not wide enough. It will happen again, until you learn your mistake. We need to build wider, in hopes of reaching a peak beyond anything our imaginations can fathom.” Kopaka began to argue, but the Toa whirled, and their eyes connected. In his, Kopaka expected warmth and comfort, but saw something that froze even him. “You may have built with me for years, but yet you have to gain the experience to build something that reaches above your head. If you do not use the tools I give you properly, the base will sink beneath the sands and bring you with it. Goodbye and good luck with your project.”

“No!” Kopaka cried, reaching for the space where the Toa had been. He had faded before he flexed a muscle. He fell to his knees. Without him, the pyramid would fall, just as he foretold. Already Kopaka could feel the base lowering as the sand came up to swallow it. There was no way that he could fix it, for the resources he needed were gone with the Toa.

The Toa of Ice wanted to escape, to find his partner, so they could fix it. He wished he had listened to him. The one gone was a leader, he knew naturally what to do- Kopaka had not a clue, and he needed his friend. Kopaka would venture out into the ferocity of the sandstorm to bring his brother back, if that was what it took to save the base…

There were pyramids before, and there would be more to come, rang a voice.

“But this one was supposed to be finished!” Kopaka sniffled. He sat there, sobbing, mourning, even as he sank lower into the sand….

***

Kopaka’s eyelids rose with the morning sun, the chill of the morning spring air seeping through the walls. It was the beginning of autumn, but it felt like mid winter. The Toa of Ice sat up, awake, remembering the events of the night before. Was it a dream? He asked himself, but immediately dismissed the thought. The light of Solek had awoken him and warned of an oncoming storm. It was real, there was no denying it. Yet as he looked out his window, above the village homes, he saw the cloudless skies. A purest blue lay above the land. It may not be here today, Kopaka thought, but it will come.

Drawing himself from the window, Kopaka left his home, only glancing at his ice blade, mounted on the wall as he closed the door. That blade had been used in countless battles, saving Kopaka’s life innumerable times. The power is in me. The sword is but the focus, Kopaka remembered. He had thought that the first time he used his blade in Ko-Wahi, tens of thousands of years ago.

The Toa of Ice walked among the houses in the quiet streets, the town shadowed and grey underneath the morning sunrise. Making his way toward the beach, he climbed over the rocks that separated the roads from the beaches, walking along the rock pier that went out to the water. He plopped himself down, gazing out at the flat morning surf. Watching the splayed ocean, frayed by only the dinky waves on shore, he focused his thoughts. There were two warnings last night. Solek’s and… the dream. Dreams mean something, I know that. That was a warning. But what was it warning me of? Kopaka leaned his head against the jetty and pondered deeply.

***

Our boat jumped forward as our oar snapped to the surface, the blades sending our puddles swirling into the marshes. The blades trailed mud as Tiribomba and I leaned forward for another stroke, and I could feel the bottom of the stream against my oar’s edge as I pried. Over the side of the boat, the waters were dark; however, we could feel the bottom of our vessel dragging along the shallow channel, letting us know how low the tide truly was. Not all still waters run deep, I thought, watching the water we left behind, as flat as glass once more.

The marsh grasses breezed by as we rowed, sitting high on mud banks on either side of the channel. The green yellow walls of marshes stood together like soldiers, erect at attention, yet they tilted in the slightest breeze. From the light blue morning sky, a warm gust would come down, playing across my neck as it rusted the turf. My eyes drifted from Tiribomba’s shoulder blades to the grasses that cut through my peripheral vision.

Our boat came to a halt as we slid onto a mud bank once more. Tiribomba grunted as he used his oar as a shovel, pushing the boat hopefully towards water. I hope we don’t have to push this thing again, I thought as I did the same. Nireta squatted  uncomfortably among the supplies we carried. Heavily stocked, carrying two Matoran and a Toa, it was a wonder we had made it this far. Yetoxa had loaded the boat with as much as we could carry, back to the village, desiring to help us prepare for the storm as much as he could.

The boat finally ended up in deeper waters, and we began rowing once more, cautious of the mud. Nireta fumbled with the map, and I chuckled. “The Ga-Matoran who gets lost in the stream,” I  teased, calling to her over Tiri’s shoulder.

My thoughts were interrupted by a distant rhythm; my ears perked as I heard the ocean crashing on the shore. Kshh. Kshh. We had traveled through this maze of streams, and now an exodus had finally been discovered. The gentle sound carried over the marshes, energizing us with hope as our strokes grew stronger. The boat jumped as it traveled through the portal to the sea.

We emerged from the streams into the seaway, waves slapping against the bow as we interrupted their path to the shore. As we plowed through the surf, larger crests batted the hull, the bow veering up to touch the sky. Sea spray flew in the sky, only to rain down on us. Nireta found herself grabbing hold of the sides of the boat, afraid to be flung out, while Tiribomba and I dipped our oars, struggling to keep the boat parallel to the ocean line.

We cruised out into the clear ocean, our fatigued arms lightly stroking the calm ocean. Calling for a rest, my eyes observed the coastline as my body slumped, exhausted. Ahead of our stern was the outer wall of the marsh maze. The green yellow grasses swayed, resisting the continuous beating of the spindrifts, extending to unseen points in either direction. As it ran southwest, the lighthouse protruded above the marshes, a tall white candlestick on the horizon; to the northeast, the grasses pointed to the village, which, despite its proximity, still hung in a distant haze. Almost home, I thought, smiling slightly.

“The Cavalry has disappeared,” Nireta said, waving to the free sky. Heeding her claim, I saw it was true- the approaching storm we had dubbed ‘the Cavalry’ had vanished from the sky. We had wandered through the maze as a shortcut to give the village an early warning, and now it was gone. I frowned. Where had it disappeared to?

“Don’t worry,” Tiribomba remarked, gazing warily as he took a stroke. “It’ll be back.”

***

A long breath of relief escaped Cenolb as the village finally came into sight. His legs ached as he waded across the sandbar, heavy from trudging through the muck of low tide. In his hand was a rope that dangled out into the bay, containing the last crab trap he had set out. He had walked far along the marshes this morning, only to find each and every one of his pots washed clean by the recent storm, not even a scrap of bait left. So now he stumbled home, hoping for better luck with this final trap.

Feeling the drag of the cage from underwater, he pulled and pried, retrieving his catch from the depths of the channel. His feet dug into the sandbar, calves flexing underneath his armor as his wobbly muscles pulled harder. The trap then broke the surface, flying out into the air, and Cenolb fell back into the sandbar as the tension on the rope vanished. It was relaxing, laying in the soft mud, he thought; he wanted to stay there, have a rest from walking, but the water creeping up his face reminded the villager how much he enjoyed breathing.

Sitting up, he shrugged off the mud, a grin coming to his face. The crab trap had landed on the entrance, preventing any of the creatures skittering around inside from escaping. Maybe my luck is turning, he thought as he picked up the cage. Keras and hahnah crabs scuttled in the bars, clawing at one another. Tonight he would eat well, he decided, picking up the cage and resuming my plod home.

Cenolb didn’t get far before hearing a noise from behind; Coming down the channel was a rowboat, three beings in it. The one Matoran, Nireta, he recognized, and the Toa seemed vaguely familiar… was that Tiribomba? he silently laughed, looking once more at the catch, and at the oncoming boat. Maybe his luck was changing, he thought as he walked toward the boat.

***

We passed into village waters, leaving the marsh grasses behind. Tiri and I rowed past the houses that hung off the island, weaving around the wooden and metal mishmash of docks extending into the bay. Next to Nireta sat Cenolb, one of the island crabbers, the two of them squashed in with the supplies.

“So… you’re a Toa,” Cenolb said to Tiribomba, breaking the awkward silence that hung in the boat.

“I’m still a Ta-Matoran, just taller,” he grinned, going for another stroke. “That’s some pot you got there,” he nodded to the cage in Cenolb’s lap.

“It was my best pot of the day,” the crabber told him, offering Nireta a closer look. “In fact, it’s my only pot of the day,” he added with a weary chuckle.

“What happened to the others?” Nireta asked, eyeing a crab scuttling away from another in the cage.

“The storm washed them clean,” Cenolb reported. “Not even a scrap of bait was left.”

“You may not want to reset those traps,” I grunted. “There’s a storm coming, worse than the first.”

“Worse than the first?”  Our guest replied, eyeing the guts of the boat and taking in its contents. “Then with all this supplies and Tiribomba being a Toa, I’m guessing the three of you aren’t coming back from vacation.” A silence fell within the boat at that. We rowed on, Cenolb only speaking to give directions to his house or to wave to the fisherman sitting idly on the docks. Sensing the journey’s end, Tiri and I had settled to a slow crawl along the water, unable to pull much harder. Our hands went up to our faces as we coasted into Cenolb’s dock, the pockets of sunlight on the bay dazzling our eyes.

“Thanks for the dock,” Tiri grinned as he stumbled onto the dock.

“Thanks for the ride,” Cenolb countered, grinning as he tied down the boat. “Come in for a moment. You three look spent.” I nodded, replacing the parcel I had picked up from the bow. The crabber, trap in hand, led us up the dock, ascending to a wooden porch; we followed him up the staircase and into the darkness beyond the screen door.

The shadows seemed welcoming as we entered Cenolb’s home, a relief from the brightness outside. Our eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, gradually making out the kitchen we stood in. The three of us sunk into the chairs surrounding the table where the cage sat, while the crabber ducked into the halls, looking for something. Tiri slumped, his closed eyes looking toward the ceiling, his long legs sprawled underneath the table; Nireta shrunk into the back of the chair, massaging her temples. I just sat there, my rubbery arms too weak to lift to the table. I could feel my eyelids drooping, and I let them close for the moment, feeling my eyes roll into my head. Today’s row had taxed our strength.

“Jaatikko and Azibo aren’t here,” our host’s voice jolted us, our bodies snapping out of our trance as he walked into the room.

“Where’s Peck?” Nireta queried.

“Probably the same place they are- the bar,” he guessed. “Sorry to cut your rest short, but do you mind taking a short walk?”

A few moments later found us outside again, as Cenolb led the way, cage in hand, down an avenue of houses. Our feet paced the dirt road, and my heavy eyes were drawn to the homes that lined the street. Broken shell pathways cut through the grasses of the properties to vacant lots that occupied the space under some houses, while wide staircases led to open aired porches on others. Shadows relaxed in low laying breezeways, sheets of blackness covering the windows. Wraparound decks and balconies loomed over twin garages, and shingles led their way up to tall roof lines, short only to the midday sky. Colors that complimented the front yard gardens were painted onto the houses- dark reds, blues and yellows, standing next to each other, accentuated by the dark browns of stilts and the still green grasses of the bushes below. A Steltian sat on the staircase of his home, applying a coat of turquoise to the rail. The colors clashed as we walked further, yet it all melted into a neighborhood feel.

As I observed the architecture of the avenue, Solek’s words came back to me- if we did not warn the village in time, Utywa would be doomed. I realized now what that exactly meant- we weren’t just protecting lives, but our homes as well. Glancing at a few houses with tired eyes, I remembered that I had laid the foundations of some of these houses. A sense of pride briefly rushed through me- there was no way I would let a storm topple what I had helped raise.

Turning off the street, we walked up a gravelly pathway, following the clatter and chitter chatter that floated out the screened windows. Tiri opened the door, letting us step inside the crowded bar. Within the boundaries of the orange walls, Skakdi and Matoran sat among the tables, relaxing in the calm of the day. Cenolb ducked into the kitchen, where a bruiser could be seen scrubbing a pan, while we wound through the crowd. Several eyes were drawn to Tiribomba as we passed their tables, low mutters and raised brows acknowledging the new Toa of Fire. Some of our friends were there, and I could tell he wanted to greet them, but the change in tone nearby made Tiri feel uncomfortable. Walking through the crowd without a word, we sank into the booth, drained. Cenolb soon joined us, dropping a tray of steamed crabs in front of us.

“Don’t worry,” he said, noticing how Tiribomba watched the crowd. “You’ll be the island gossip for a few days, and then everything will be back to normal.” Glancing back to the kitchen door, he pushed the tray closer to us. “Peck says he has a little longer on shift, but he will be out to see you. For the meantime, eat.”

“But this is your catch, isn’t it?” Nireta gestured to the dish. “We can’t!”

“There’s plenty of food here,” he assured her. I smiled in gratitude, pulling some of the meat from the crab shell. The flavor sat in my mouth, and I closed my eyes, savoring it, letting my hand drop into my lap.

While Bour slept, the sun slid across the sky, white rays shifting to an orange glow that hung over the bay. The late afternoon light shown down on the reeds, giving them a pale look, as if winter had arrived. Winter did arrive at the bar, in the form of Kopaka. Slumping on a stool, he stared into his glass, frustration and disappointment emitting from his armor in an icy aura as he stared into his glass. He had wasted the day, sitting on the jetty for hours, pondering Solek’s warning; using his Akaku Nuva to analyze the sky, he could see the storm forming, the warning signs in the air. Why didn’t he relay the message?

They would not believe me, he thought bitterly, conscious of the people around him; Skakdi, Matoran and others sat at each table, elatedly chatting with one another, while he sat alone with a troubled mind. Tahu they’d believe, came the angry thought, remembering his dream from last night. He was always action. He would never have been the way I have through the years here. Or they’d believe one another, but never the loner. No, never me, especially with the estival season almost over.

A tap on his shoulder brought him out of his glass. Kopaka looked at Tiribomba standing before him, sun from outside shining on his fresh black and crimson armor. So, this is the Toa that Yetoxa sent. He had been the only Toa on the island for many years, so he immediately knew who the newcomer was.

“Kopaka,” Tiribomba greeted him with a slight bow. “You were one of the greatest warriors of the past, and now it is an honor to call you brother. I—”

“’Warrior’? Is that all you think a Toa is?” Kopaka exclaimed, quiet rage on his mask. Eyeing up the new elemental, he shot, “Oh, you probably think that because of Tahu; it was always Tahu, always fire that received the glory. We were more than warriors- we were protectors! A Toa isn’t just a Kanohi of Power and a sword to battle your enemies. If that’s what you think being a Toa is, then go hand back that armor to whoever gave it to you.”  Tiri straightened himself, his Ruru glowing with embarrassment, while Kopaka glowered with anger as well as pain in his eyes. “You are not a brother. That we live on the same island means nothing. Brothers are Toa that have been through the worst together.”

“Forgive him, Toa,” a Po-Matoran chimed, sliding out of a booth. “He meant no harm, and he only wanted to talk to you. We’re tired–”

“You think you’re tired?” the Toa of Ice interrupted. “I’ve been tired for millennia! You have a job here, a trade, a duty, where people need you. My duty was suddenly gone before I could perform it. Do you know what it’s like to wake up to a void?”

An Olmak appeared from behind a glass, its owner slamming the mug onto the table. Brutaka had sat back; his roommate was in a mood, and he did not want to intervene, but he was not going to let it carry on longer.

“Watcher, Toa,” the Brutaka growled from his seat. The Toa of Ice shot a look his way. “You’ve had a few tonight, and you’re not thinking right. He’s not trying to insult for. Just let him be friendly, and everyone will forgive your mood.”

“No,” Kopaka replied. “Don’t tell me to hold back. I–”

“That is enough,” growled a voice. Raising his head, the angry Toa saw a purple Skakdi standing in the walkway between tables, an apron hanging over the arm pointed at him. Peck. Whether he was done his kitchen shift or heard the commotion and come to investigate, Kopaka did not know, but his appearance on the scene cut all conversation. All eyes were on the two. “That is enough,” he repeated. “Kopaka, you feel rejected, but you continuously isolate yourself. Those three have done nothing to you, so don’t let your anger out on them. If you can’t be sociable, then back to your brooding.” With a bitter expression towards the Skakdi, Kopaka nodded, turning back to his glass. No matter what he said, his mouth would make this situation worse. “As for you three,” the Toa of Ice heard Peck say, the only sound in the bar, “come with me.”

***

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Streak in the Sunset, c. 2009. Self Taken. 

The three of us stood on the beach, watching Peck pace angrily through the sand. Behind him, waves broke on the sloped end of the beach, muffling his muttering as they crashed. Coming in long, slow periods, they sat on the ocean line like a wide staircase to the heavenly orange blasted sunset sky. My eyepiece scanned the expansive beach, seeing no clouds anywhere; where could this storm possibly be?

“Kopaka frustrates me,” Peck confessed, looking at the Toa in his midst as if he were a reminder of the Nuva. “And so does Yetoxa. Is this what he told me to send you to find?”

“Yes. And no,” I piped, fidgeting my thumbs. I recounted our trip to Cipituez, only omitting the fact that Solek was the light in the candlestick on the horizon; Yetoxa had claimed he was a secret, and I wasn’t willing to be the one to break it. Peck listened with a calm face, quietly taking in what I told him.

“I’ve never known a Po-Matoran to be a storyteller,” he spoke once I finished, “but that was some story. I’m not sure if it’s all believable, but what is important is what you learned. To your convenience, I know about Solek, so the secret is still safe.” Turning to Tiribomba, he asked, “How long have you been a Toa?”

“A week,” he mumbled, the embarrassment of the scene at the bar still fresh on his mind. The confidence that helped him approach the Toa Nuva of Ice a mere half hour ago was gone, and now he was no different than a Matoran who had just lost a beach Kohlii tournament.

“Exactly,” Peck chuckled darkly. “I may not be a Toa, but I understand this stuff a little. Kopaka and Solek have been Toa for far longer than a week. They’re known for whom they are, and they don’t try to be like Tahu or anyone else. Give yourself time, be yourself, and eventually you’ll be known for that.

“As for the storm, I believe you. I’ve never trusted the ocean, and Karzahni knows why I live here.” Looking over Nireta’s charts, Peck glanced at the skyline.

“The storm is out there,” Nireta said with grim confidence. “I don’t know why it disappeared, but it is coming.”

“It’ll hit,” the Skakdi agreed. “One day or another. Tomorrow, we will begin preparation at sunrise.”

“But the Cavalry could be here by then!” I protested.

“Someone will be on watch,” Peck assured me as he began to make his way up the dunes. In the southwest, as the sunlight was finally gone, the lighthouse lit up, Solek’s beam swooping into the distance. ns-monogram1

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