Through the Storm

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A rift in space appeared at the top of a dune in the middle of the desert, purple sparks leaping along its edge. From its depths Brutaka stepped out, his bull shaped mask glaring at the horizon around him. He squinted into the distance where he knew west was, his mask the only shade his brow could receive in the endlessness of the desert. As quickly as the Mask of Dimensional Gates had stopped glowing, it began to glow again, opening up another portal. Brutaka stepped into it, his foot stepping onto a dune at the edge of his sights. Stepping all the way through, he repeated the process for the umpteenth time today.

“Sand,” the titan sighed, kicking the pile he was on. The grains tumbled to the valley between the dunes, revealing yet more sand.

This was his way of travel for at least four days now. His travel out into the desert from Utywa had not gone as expected; instead of stepping right into the quarry that would give them the sandbags they needed, he had found himself in the middle of the deep desert, no indication of any quarry nearby. A quick inspection of his mask had found a hairline crack on one of the horns, much to his dismay. Instead of trying again to reach the quarry, Brutaka instead resorted to travel within eyesight. That had not really been too progressive on the second day, when a sandstorm leapt up around him. The sand filled whips of wind the desert had used in attempt to drive Brutaka away had left an uncountable amount of scratches in his mask and armor.

He hoped his mask was repairable. That hairline crack… it must have happened during his drunken stupor, when he was pulled off the docks, a few nights back. Or, maybe the Ga-Matoran’s maps were off. “Follow the Rhode”, she had told him, the major highway system cutting through the countryside of Del Vienvi. Brutaka snorted as  he would look from the map she carried to the seamless blanket of sand before him. There was no road here. She was a little bit of an odd Matoran, the entire village knew, going off on cartography missions by herself for weeks, sometimes months at a time, by herself. The constant isolation had to contribute to the villager’s outlandishness.

As Brutaka travelled, he could feel the heat getting to him. A sticky tunic of sweat spilled under his armor. He had brought barely any food or water with him, thinking there would be no journey. He suffered silently, keeping his breath from uttering curses. It wouldn’t make do to waste energy on them, it just made more sense to just…go.

This was how his journey went for a time that he could not follow. He didn’t know anymore how long it had been since he’d left Utywa, whether it been days or weeks now. The scene changed sometimes, to long flat stretches of hardened sand, where meager brush cracked the surface. But it was all the empty desert, and Brutaka soon began to think that there was no quarry, that there had never been anything out here but himself.

Until he saw the statue.

It was almost alien, out of place in the blasted landscape. Perhaps it had been dropped from the sky, from another world, but the figure of the Toa atop the pedestal made that theory sound foolish. The statue was something that belonged in a city, and not here, of all places. Rising askew from the dune that half buried it, its bold posture looked as though it were examining the layout of the land before it. Brutaka shook his head, unable to believe what he was seeing was real. It had to be a mirage, and he should have teleported past it in continuance of his search for the quarry, but the sign of something out here drew him to the statue like pilgrims to a holy site, fascinated by a sign of civilization so far out in isolation.

The stone it was carved from was old, chiseled many millennia ago. It was a relic of the Kingdom, lost to the ages only to be rediscovered out here. Exposed to the elements, years of the wind had weathered the statue incredibly smooth. Its armor was unlike the Toa of Utywa, yet there was something about it akin to its living brothers. The blank eyes of its mask could have been watching the desert, yet at the same time could’ve been observing the traveler whom marveled at it.

“Matoro,” Brutaka croaked, reading name inscribed below the figure. He remembered the Toa Mahri of Ice little, having heard the name whispered from Order of Mata Nui agents. He had been one of the Toa in the coup of the Piraka on Voya Nui, and the apparent reason the Kingdom had to be established in the first place. There was some tale about how he had defeated a hidden Makuta in the Kingdom, but his name had still stuck as a replacement for “Spiriah,” as a word for failure to the majority of the Kingdom.

Yet the statue he looked at did not paint that picture of the Toa, Brutaka thought. Instead, it seemed to memorialize him as a hero that some other Toa or Turaga had always thought Matoro to be.

Brutaka looked from the statue to the rest of the desert around him. The shade the memorial provided was enough to let him finally think straight. There was nothing more than this statue, but it gave him an idea. Perhaps Nireta was not as crazy as he thought, and there was some type of road out here. The sandstorm Brutaka had endured— there had to be thousands of them throughout the centuries, he supposed. Maybe this was a landmark, something to indicate to travelers of the Rhode they were close to somewhere.

Crouching, he looked along the rock face for more than the Toa of Ice’s name, until he found what he was looking for. It may not have been right, the statue possibly having shifted in hundreds of years of wind. But the statue wasn’t just a memorial. It was a landmark. And inscribed under the carver’s tribute, there was an indication of directions. Brutaka smiled. He was close.

The statue was only a few hours of teleportation behind him when when the dunes dropped to harder soil, scarce vegetation peeking from the ground. Hills had shielded the plain from us, but wispy roots could not hide the tower, slender and aloof on the horizon. Seemingly in disuse, it looked like another relic of the countryside. Dead ivy climbed the outside walls, dragging the building back to the ground from which it rose. Dark, wide windows suggested its abandonment, save for one- an old Kanohi peered at Brutaka from the second story, stoic as he made his approach. The Kanohi nodded, leaving the window with a cane as he made his way downstairs to greet the titan. Behind the tower, in the distance, Brutaka could see tiny dots on the horizon. They were giant machines, mining the sand below the desert surface.

He had arrived at the quarry, and gotten away from the storm.

***

Kopaka splashed through the rain filled streets as he ran through the now muddy paths of Utywa. Floods roared down the avenues, walls of whitewater barreling into the houses. Though light on his feet, he could not free himself from the water that rose above his knees- it was impossible to wade, let alone run, and the Toa Nuva was a madman for even trying. The Cavalry was charging full force on the island, nearly sweeping Kopaka away with the oncoming floods. While lightning flashed dangerously close, sending shocks up his spine, thunder crashed overhead with enough ferocity to bash his body. The satchel across his shoulders was soaked, the candles inside rendered useless; the Toa of Ice only journeyed on to evacuate those at the end of the boulevard, and relay any news he could.

From a nearby window poked a mask, beckoning for the Toa Nuva’s help. As the water pushed him away, demanding he conform to the march along the street, Kopaka summoned a ramp of ice that arched over the water, surfing on it toward the Matoran. The rain had different ideas, however, as it slicked the ice with each drop. Losing his footing, Kopaka tumbled into that which he wished to avoid; within seconds a rogue wave swept him away, leaving the Matoran once more helpless and hopeless.

Though he was thrashed and tossed around underwater, Kopaka felt strangely still. On the surface, the waters could be seen running wild, while a steady current flowed underneath that, pulling him along. He needn’t call for his Mask of Water Breathing, for a bubble of air surrounded his head. Though curious about the phenomenon and knowing he needed to get back to the Matoran, he felt somewhat satisfied as he watched the world above, muted.

I know your secrets.

His first impression was of Solek, but there was unfamiliarity in the tone, the speaker foreign; nowhere in the water was the warmth of the light, only the cold of the floodwaters. The Toa of Light would be patrolling the coastline at a time like this, not casting thoughts into his friend’s head. Yet someone else had, as Kopaka felt a voice that immersed him, coming from everywhere he turned.

I know your secrets, the voice repeated, its tone darker and more sinister this time. Tell them to me.

“Who speaks?” Kopaka barked, attempting to freeze himself to the ground. His power went to waste, however, as a tendril of water yanked the ice into the flow of the flood.

The waters around you- they are my essence, so there is no escape for you. We both come from what was once one world, yet I have not seen your kind before I returned to my domain. You are here protecting a secret, icy one, and you will reveal it to me.

“Whatever you are, you are regrettably mistaken; this is Utywa- there are no secrets here,” Kopaka lied, his vexed mind spinning with questions. Few people knew that the Lighthouse’s beam came from anything but a bulb- This being came from his element like the Toa of Light did, and was infinitely telepathically stronger than him. If this being already knew about Solek, what plans did he have for him?

Do not try to fool me, the voice sneered. I know the power that is harbored on these lands, the same power that you and your companions used to herald my arrival, yet far greater… It rests within your country’s heart, and not even your paltry attempts to shore this island will stop me from reaching it.

“There is nothing out there for you,” Kopaka insisted. “Your search is fruitless. If you think this is all the power I possess, creature, then you have severely underestimated the power of a Toa Nuva.”

And you see this storm around you, yet remain truly ignorant of the power of an Element Lord. Every wave, every drop of water you have ever seen here, has been me, bidding my time, building my power. My power is to yours as yours is to your villagers- there will be no defying me. Stand aside, and perhaps you will be spared as your country frays at its edges. Kopaka’s vision went white as the waters permeated his air bubble, and he struggled to call upon his Kaukau Nuva. Flailing through the uncontrollable waves like a fish, he was unable to discern the surface from the streets. Confused and worried as he looked for control in the madness, it would only be a matter of minutes before he was gone.

Washing up on his back, he clung for dear life on a jetty. The storm whipped around him, akin to his dreams; to deny that the Element Lord of Water was anything other than Kopaka’s imagination would’ve been too sweet of a sell out. But there was a peculiarity of how this gale orchestrated itself, a style that convinced Kopaka that there was a puppet master behind it all. Wet and chattering, he pulled himself off, his vision quickly waning. If he were slipping into the oblivion, why would the flicker of the orange be in the corner of his eye?

Marching on the beach through the pelting rain, Kopaka found Tiribomba ahead, whips of fire twirling around his body. The Toa of Fire remitted the jets of flame into the sand that whipped around him, turning it into a glass wall. Behind him, the waves crashed dangerously close for the Toa of Ice’s liking; with their landing so loud, he would’ve thought that his approach gone unnoticed. Tiri, however, whirled to see him, and pointed at the wall. “It needs to be built more! Reinforce it with your ice!” were the words that weren’t lost in the tempest. “To give the village more time!”

“No! Stop!” the elder Toa demanded, slashing through the air with his hand. “We need to run from here! Get off the beach! We need to–” Kopaka’s words died in his throat, as alongside the island, a wave bigger than any other began to rise from the choppy seas.

The Commander of the Cavalry had arrived on the front line.

Rising up to touch the rainclouds, it truly made the sky and the sea undistinguishable. The Toa locked hands, knowing that doom was upon them. Not even the strength of a Pakari could’ve kept their grip together, as the Element Lord surged forward on the shoreline. They were blown away like the grains they stood on, scattered in the whirlpool that Utywa had become. Neither of them could fight the waters, so close to death in the dangerous clutches of the Element Lord they were.

The tide receded from the beaches, gulleys overflowing where the sand only moments before had piled. A Kanohi popped from one of them, sputtering as he glanced up at the sky, black clouds speeding inland, more ominous than ever before. Dragging himself up to a staggered stance, he glared angrily at the hurricane that still pounded the coastline.

Defy me and there will be consequences, the thunder growled. Your companion will suffer as a reminder of that.

“What have you done with him?” Kopaka demanded, fuming in the silent downpour. Whether that was a hand or a whitecap out in the waves, he could not go blindly charging int there- Utywa would be short two Toa. Travel by water was no longer an option, but the backroads were hopefully still there, Kopaka hoped as he began a trek toward the lighthouse. The village was no longer safe; he only prayed that Brutaka’s journey to the quarry would keep him safe.

***

The rain had stopped, but the wind and the pitch black clouds had stayed. I floated on a door through the flooded streets towards Tiribomba’s house, navigating my way with a long pole. The water in the streets was chest high now. Though the force of the waves coming through the roadways had stopped two days ago, I still did not think it was safe to walk. So I floated on to my friend’s home, eyes darting to any movement within the swamped houses to either side of the street. Every now and then my eyes would dart to the sky, a yellow lightning bolt lacing itself across the blackness.

My friend’s rooms were empty when I entered, and his housemates weren’t to be found either. The house was mostly silent, only the sound of water seeping by on all sides of the house. A creak here and there of rotting floorboards. “Tiribomba?” I called out. “You here?”

I ventured into his room, only to find the same sense of emptiness. It was though as if the house were abandoned. I had heard nothing from the household for the past few days, so I wanted to check up on them, offer shelter if needed (and it looked like they needed it).

Finding nothing, I left, only to find Nireta and Toa Kopaka walking an ice bridge in the middle of the street. Kopaka pulled me up above the water so I could join them, their path leading towards the bar.

“There’s a rendezvous call by Peck,” Kopaka said, extending his power to a couple of Matoran sitting on their porch. “He wants to count everyone, see how the village is doing.”

“We didn’t lose anyone, did we?” I asked.

“Certainly hope not,” the Ga-Matoran said, bowing her head in respect. Kopaka continued to walk onward, his icy manor keeping him quiet.

“Toa Kopaka, have you seen Tiribomba?” I asked. No response from the Toa, so I went to ask again, but Nireta grabbed my arm. My eyepiece looked at her, confused. She tried disguising her face, but my unanswered question was answered by her mask. I stared at her, my gaze dismal.

I didn’t even go into the meeting. As soon as Kopaka lowered us onto the dry rocky pavement outside the bar, I immediately set forth for the muddy waters. I didn’t care how deep it was. I wasn’t going to sit in this waste of time.

“Where are you going?” Kopaka said, grabbing my arm. “Peck demanded we all be here.”

“Is Tiribomba going to be here?” I asked. “Tell me the truth, Toa.”

The Toa glared back at me, and then his face developed an expression of concern. “We were shoring up the beaches,” the Toa recounted. “And your friend was trying… an unconventional method. A wave broke through, and I tried holding onto him, but he slipped from my hand. I’m sorry. It pains me to tell you this.”

“He couldn’t hold…” I was speechless for words. Kopaka put a hand on my shoulder, but I angrily shrugged him off. “No.” I turned around and began again towards the flooded streets.

“Where are you going?” Nireta called to me.

“I’m going to find him,” I said defiantly. The two looked at me. “My best friend did not go through all that you took us through Nireta… those weeks of travel… just to die!”

“Not all destinies are noble,” Kopaka said. I spat at his direction.

“I’m going to find him,” I insisted.

“Bour!” Nireta called as I waded away. “You can’t go out there! The storm isn’t over yet! We’re only in the eye!”

I leapt from the dock to a boat I’d deemed sea worthy, beginning to untie its ropes. I had gone to look at the place the Toa had been reported to be shoring, but I did not know where I would begin to look for Tiri. I just knew that I couldn’t leave my friend out on the ocean.

A thump thump thump on the docks brought my gaze to see Nireta running towards me. I turned me back to her, until she jumped in alongside me, untying the ropes. “I can’t let you go killing yourself out there,” she said to me. “I’m going with you to find him.”

“What did Peck and Kopaka have to say?” I asked.

“They’ve a lot to take care of,” she replied. “I don’t think they’ll be paying attention to a few missing Matoran.”

I grinned at her, appreciating her more than ever as we shoved off.

The adventure continued.

***

Far from the shores of Utywa, to the south of Utywa, a wave crashed on an uninhabited isle. It hit the frozen beaches, sea spray exploding into the sky only to rain back down on itself. As the wave retreated, it revealed the battered and half drowned body of an unconscious Toa. By some miracle, he was not dead.

At least not yet, the Element Lord of Water thought, his essence retreating from the beach. Though he was beaten and battered, the Toa still had a sense of freshness about him. The Element Lord could sense the power within the Toa, fascinated by Tiribomba’s command over flame. No others he had found were like that, lesser versions of himself and his brother— some commanded ice, others light, but not once in his exploration of power had he encountered someone who could command the flame. This power… there was purpose to it. Unlike all of the other miserable lives on that damned continent, this one’s life had purpose. For now.

He retreated from the frozen isle, for now, content to watch Tiri suffer on the shores. Hopefully the little Toa would awaken, for he was the only one who could be useful to helping the Element Lord get what he wanted which was on this icicle of a land.

In the center of his mass still at sea, the Element Lord could sense a small vessel, trying to brave the storms he was sending at Del Vienvi. If the entity could have smiled, he would have grinned more sinisterly than even the most devious of sea creatures. Using a fraction of his power, the Element Lord made the seas bend to his will, bringing the souls who dared sail in the weather to this spit. Perfect pawns, who would help Tiribomba, and furthermore, help the Element Lord. ns-monogram1

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