A sudden bump jolted Bour awake. Sitting up he found himself in his wagon…which was moving. Had his Mahi steeds simply taken off while he was sleeping? No, they couldn’t have. They had not been harnessed to the wagon last night. Incredulous, he scrambled to the front of the wagon. A Kikinalo strode alongside the wagon, its saddle empty while its rider was at the reins of Bour’s Mahi.
“Nireta?” Bour asked, spying the shape of her Kakama from behind. Turning to see he was awake, she smiled. “How did you find…what are you doing here?”
“Bringing you back,” she answered. “Tell me, how do Po-Matoran even survive in this heat? Kokovuki is coming, and I wanted to celebrate with you.”
“But the Rhode—“ Bour protested.
“Can be found another time,” Nireta she said matter-of-factly. “You should come be amongst friends.”
“But I was getting out there!” the Po-Matoran insisted. “Another day and I could have found something!”
“Then you will know exactly where to look again,” she reminded him. “You were also low on supplies.” There was an uncomfortable silence as they both knew why Bour wanted to be out in the desert by himself. “I miss him too Bour. But I’d also miss you if you disappeared into the desert forever. Just because your best friend isn’t here doesn’t mean you can’t be amongst company.”
The Po-Matoran looked at her. He was upset still, yes, but she was right. He did need to be with company. “I will celebrate Kokovuki with you,” he agreed, “but afterwards I’m coming right back out here. We need to find a way home once our stay here ends.”
“Then I find another reason for you to stay,” she resolved.
“Is it tonight?” Bour asked. Nireta shook her head.
“In a few days time,” she said. “I’m taking you back to the jungle, so you can get some fresh food.”
“So what happens at this Kokovuki?” asked Bour between bites. Nightfall had found Nireta and him amongst a camp with two Tenpravihn hosts, where they would rest for the night. A basket of fruits sat amongst the four, of which mostly Bour had made short work of. He now sat crouched over, juice dripping from his mask as he and Nireta conversed with their hosts.
“The jungle lights up, and it is almost as if it is day during the night,” Caamley explained. “Fires, lamps abound for most of the night. And then everything goes dark, and we all go to see the sunrise on the cliffs. That is the first night. And then a few days later, we have a controlled burn in the forest, where we put old brush on bonfires to make way for the new brush to grow.”
“You’ll let it grow that long?” Bour asked. “The weeds,” he said, gesturing to the ground at their confusion.
“Here we called it brush,” Orkahm corrected him. “Nothing really comes up and cripples the forest, so we don’t name it as such.”
“Our island was much different,” Nireta said. “We had to upkeep our homes, and keep everything free of brush.”
Bour choked in laughter, the fruit in his mouth falling to the ground. “We? Your home was always overgrown, since you were always off adventuring. Brutaka and his crew always did your house.” The Po-Matoran laughed a moment more, before rolling onto his side, holding his stomach.
“Here, chew on this,” Orkahm said, pulling a long grass out of his pack. “It will alleviate the pain.”
“Your system is still adjusting,” Caamley noted. “You’re going to take a while before you’re fully nourished again.” Nireta crawled over to help Bour sit upright. While she did so, the Tenpravihns removed themselves, bidding the Utywans good night as they journeyed into the forest. Bour and Nireta would sleep here for the night.
“Glutton. I hope he gets sick,” Caamley grumbled once they were out of earshot. Orkahm shot him a glance “What? You’re thinking the same thing. This is our food, and here they are, spitting it onto the ground.”
“You still think they’re some kind of sick pirates?” Orkahm asked, jumping over a log in the path. “They seemed decent.”
“Perhaps they are just good actors,” was Caamley’s reply.
“The elders said they were fine,” Orkahm reminded his Ta-Matoran friend. The two grabbed onto vines and swung to the treetops, where their hut awaited.
“Turaga Gali said they were fine, and that is because her old brother Kopaka is one of them,” Orkahm rebutted. “Perhaps the water elder is too trusting.”
“I haven’t let my guard down,” Orkahm told him. “But I think you should a little. They haven’t done anything to us.”
“Doesn’t mean they’re not up to something.”
“What proof do you want?” Orkahm asked his friend.
“Their ships,” Caamley said, gesturing through the treetops in the direction of the bay. “They’ve seen what we have on this island, but we have no idea whats out on those ships. We need t—”
“You want to sneak onto those ships?” Orkahm said. The Ta-Matoran nodded. “You realize the consequences if we are caught.”
“We won’t get caught though,” Caamley said. “Because everyone will be at Kokovuki.”
“What are you doing here?”
Peck whirled to see Shaktar looking down at him from the incline of a path leading up the mountain. The Toa of Ice glowered/glared down at the Skakdi. The frustration in the air Peck had felt in his failed navigation suddenly shifted to nervousness, a vibe in the air changing as the elder waited for an answer.
“I was told this path will lead me to Kokovuki down in the jungles,” Peck responded [evenly].
“This path leads to Bioaki,” Shaktar informed him. “A place of which Utywans are not permitted.”
“Since when?” Peck asked, surprised at the coldness of the Toa.
“Since your two Matoran caused damage to the shelves when you first arrived,” was his reply.
“I’m sure it was an accident,” Peck said, silently cursing Nireta’s clumsiness. “If you point me to the jungle, I’ll be on my way. I have no desire to go to your library, elder.”
A path of ice appeared, leading back the way Peck had come. “Follow it, and spread word to your people. You may have Gali’s pardon, but that is for her region. Do not let me see or hear of Utywans on my mountain again.” Peck glowered at the Toa, his pride as a leader surging within him. Yet he said nothing. Instead he readjusted his feel on the map-tablet to show his claws to Shaktar, and then turned to follow the icy path down the mountain. He felt the Toa’s stern gaze on his spine for a long time.
The numerous lanterns illuminating the jungle dulled at the roar coming from the treetops. Toa Solek’s smile disappeared, suddenly cautious of the unseen creature. He began to conjure his Toa powers, ready to defend the Utywans and Tenpravihns alike, but Turaga Gali’s right hand Matoran, Okoth, placed a hand gently over his, reassuring him it was alright.
A flying serpent burst through the treetops. Strands of green light flowed from a mask that was not a Kanohi. Twisting over the crowd, glowing tendrils— reminiscent of lightvines— swung from its body, sending a tingle through the crowd as it passed by. The creature rumbled softly as it neared Solek, letting loose what seemed to be its scales over the Toa of Light. They fell onto his armor as the creature flew to another part of the crowd, and the area’s torches began to grow again. Solek watched the scales fall onto him, feeling no different than falling leaves brushing his body. The scales dissolved into his armor, the light leaving them, and some nearby Matoran clapped. Overhead Toa Kongu could be seen vine swinging behind the creature, a Mask of Rahi Control on his face glowing with equal parts power and glee.
“A Toa of Light during Kokuviki!” Okoth marveled. “You must be a sign from the stars that the coming summer will be prosperous. Bless you, Toa Solek.”
“Have you never had a Toa of Light or Fire here before?” Solek asked. The Ga-Matoran shook her head.
“You are a rarer breed than any, Toa,” she replied. “Do the Utywans have any Toa of Fire as well?”
“We did, once,” he nodded, remembering for a flash the determined Toa Tiribomba. Okoth noted the distance in his voice, and did not inquire further.
Solek looked around, enjoying the expressions on the masks of the Matoran around him. He saw seldom any real Kanohi protodermic masks, most of the Tenpravihns in the jungle adorning strange makeshift masks, made of wood and reeds, atop their own. The creature that had just passed wore something similar. Some were simple circles with reeds sticking out the sides like spikes, while others were intricately carved, wicked looking crowns. “What kind of masks are all of your villagers wearing?” Solek asked Okoth.
“Tributes,” she explained. “Most Matoran prepare a ceremonial mask for Kokouvuki, usually in honor of the Kanohi Avohkii and Toa Takanuva. Some wear their vision of the Kanohi Miru for Toa Tanma and the Kingdom, but most pay respects to the Mask of Light. Perhaps next year, people will start wearing Akaku in your honor!” Solek smiled at the Matoran, flattered by the praise. Perhaps I will wear a Ruru, he thought, a small thought for Tiribomba.
Solek stood at the center of Kokovuki looking around in wonder at the light all around him. Little lamps floated amongst the treetops, drifting in and out of the musical ensembles the Tenpravihns were playing. He’d spent centuries looking for people out on the horizon beyond his lighthouse, keeping his existence a secret as he literally became an embodiment of thought in a beam of light. But it looked like he was the one who needed to travel in order to find people. The voyage of winter had put him in the presence of crowds for the first time in a very long time; now he felt comfortable with himself at this party, in the midst of Matoran praises.
From afar, Peck caught sight of Solek, and the game around him forgotten. The sudden clink of a glass upside down in the middle of the table brought him back to his surroundings, to the faces of Part Sand and Yetoxa grinning at him. “You boasted Skakdi were amongst the best drinkers on Utywa,” Part Sand laughed. “Something about the Tenpravihn drinks got you?”
“Nothing like this fazes him, but I think that does,” Yetoxa said, noticing where Peck’s gaze went. “He certainly looks happy.” The Skakdi nodded in agreement. Before they had left Utywa, the Toa of Light had always been… tired. Tired and gaunt. But now here he was before them, alive and energized. It was a strange, yet welcoming sight.
“This is probably the least amount of stress on his body since he was a Matoran,” Peck said.
“Now we just need to figure out how to make yourself relaxed,” Yetoxa noted. “What is troubling you so much as to put a damper on tonight’s celebration?”
“I ran into the ice elder on the way here,” Peck said, recounting the conversation to the two of them. He seemed… most unwelcoming.”
“Don’t worry about Shaktar,” Part Sand patted Peck on the shoulder, filling up the Skakdi’s glass. “All those ice types get grumpy when the wind blows the wrong way on that mountain. The Utywans are fully welcomed here.”
Orkahm sighed as he paddled through the night waters of the bay, following the sound of Caamley’s paddle ahead of him.
The Le-Matoran briefly wondered how the celebrations back in the jungle were unfolding, almost able to see the floating lanterns through the darkness in his mind’s eye. Newcomers would certainly make the Kokuviki celebrations a year to remember, as the Tenpravihns had never celebrated with anyone.
A thump tore his thoughts from the island. Memories of warm yellow lamps and the greenery of the jungle were replaced by darkness as his vision returned to the bay. Looking around him, he could see the silhouette of the ship looming above the canoe the two Matoran shared. The ship’s size blocked out the stars.
The glow of Caamley’s eyes emerged from the night. Orkahm’s adjusted to see his friend offering him a rope ladder, which led to the deck of a Tenpravihn ship far above.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Orkahm asked. Caamley climbed up the rope ladder, his silence speaking for him. Securing the canoe so it wouldn’t drift away, Orkahm reluctantly followed.
They landed with a soft thump on the deck, the noise sounding like thunder to the overcautious ears of the Matoran duo. Holding their breath for a moment, they stood still, cautious of anyone possibly still on the ship.
Orkahm straightened himself as he looked around. They were alone, no one except himself and Caamley on deck. With the absence of people also came the absence of cannons, weapons, and anything else the Ta-Matoran thought would have been there. The Le Matoran frowned.
“I don’t think—“ he started, but Caamley immediately cut him off.
“Below deck,” he insisted. “They wouldn’t leave it out in the open.” Orkahm opened his mouth, but then closed it again. It really does only look like a fishing vessel, he thought as he examined the structure of it. But if you insist, my frenzied friend.
The pair crept slowly below deck, down a long hallway leading beyond the moonlight.
Caamley whipped his head into rooms where only empty hammocks hung, the original contents of the room pushed into corners. Orkahm frowned as he saw this, further disapproving of this venture. But he knew exactly what Caamley would say if he piped in. “It’s a big ship, they could be hiding anything anywhere,” his friend would say. Caamley was convinced he would find weapons of some sort that would prove their guilt. They had to have some ulterior motive for coming to Tenpravih.
The hallway opened up into the ship’s galley. The two Matoran walked silently through the mess of it, appalled at what they saw. The pantries were nearly empty, the pantries themselves looking frailer than a pile of fish bones on one table. Actual food was scarce, nothing greater than a handful of something identifiable here and there. The eating area was no better, the furniture in shambles. Chairs were missing a leg here, a back there. Tables were jury-rigged with said missing parts, feeble attempts to keep the structures standing. The place was in an obvious state of deterioration, the ship slowly rotting from the inside.
Orkahm knew he would have been frightened if the Utywans really were pirates, and his friend was right. What he was seeing however was far more alarming. The voyagers had appeared frail and gaunt at their arrival to Tenpravih. Now they had a glimpse of how desperate for salvation the travelers actually had been.
“Does this really look like the galley of pirates to you?” Orkahm asked quietly.
“Why do you think they needed to make land?” Caamley was becoming shrill. “They’re stockpiling whatever they can find in the jungle. They’re restocking their stores, going to take whatever else they find useful on this island, and then mark us as one more land conquered.”
Orkahm knocked his friend upside the mask. “Think, for a second! Actually look around!” he angrily whispered. “Maybe they are who they say they are. Maybe they aren’t hiding any secrets from us. You always say I’m slow, but you’re the one who is looking so hard for something that isn’t there! You’re jumping to conclusions when—“
A thump made Orkahm freeze. As angry as he was with his friend, the sound of footsteps coming down the hall made him grow quiet in terror. This was supposed to be an empty ship. A feeling of dread was overcoming the Le-Matoran. Maybe Caamley was right, and they’d somehow walked into a trap?
They may be people just needing shelter, but if they find two Tenpravihns sneaking about their ship, they may change their minds about how peaceful they want to be.
“We have to hide,” he whispered, pointing towards an empty cabinet sizable enough for the two of them. He began to lunge toward it, but Caamley grabbed his arm to stop him.
“No,” Caamley shook his head. “I have a worse idea. We need to know.”
“Who’s here?” groaned a figure from the hallway. “Back from Kokuviki already?”
“Who is that?” Caamley asked, trying his best to pull off an Utywan accent. “I didn’t think anyone stayed back.”
“It’s Cenolb,” the dark figure groaned. “Would have loved to go, but I’ve been too sick to even leave the ship. Did you bring any food back?”
“No. There wasn’t anything to bring back,” Orkahm chimed in. The figure in the hallway shifted.
“I came in to see if there was anything in here,” the Utywan replied, “but I should know better by now. I’m too weak for this. I’ll see you in the morning.”
That had been enough for them to see for one night, and Orkahm was more than grateful when they were descending the ladder back to their canoe. Cenolb was the only Utywan they ran into on the ship, thankfully, and Caamley had gotten enough for him to be convinced to go back. Readying their oars, they rowed back in silence, the darkness feeling more like the lightness of morning now, but the air hung heavy with Caamley’s brooding.
“Wasn’t what you saw enough proof?” Orkahm grumbled.
“I still don’t trust them,” was the Ta-Matoran’s reply. “They may just be sick, but there is something still about them that I just don’t feel right about.”
Orkahm shook his head as they rowed back to shore.