Orkahm and Caamley sat outside their home amongst the treetops, not quite sure what to make about the events of the last day.
A heavy silence sat in the trees around the pair. Every mind in the treetops was heavy with fresh memories from the disasters at the waterfalls. Jungle natives had opened their homes to the new refugees, Tenpravihn and Utywan alike, who sought shelter now that their homes were rubble. Some came into the jungle homes with thanks spilling out of their mouths, bringing about wild tales of the evacuation and what the Toa had done to help them. Others simply arrived quietly, too shellshocked for words.
The quiet of the evening was broken by a noise from the village center, not far from the pair’s dwelling. The cries sounded dire, and the two Matoran looked at each other, picking themselves up. This sounded like news.
It was a group of Ko-Matoran from Bioaku whom were making the commotion, to everyone’s surprise. Swarms of jungle villagers had gathered to hear the tale that they brought from their snowy mountain. It took the Ta-and Le-Matoran companions a few moments to figure out exactly what was being said, but when they did, they were taken aback. The scholars of Bioaku were not ones to rant incredulously— they stuck to facts, and in fact were horrible conversationalists because they preferred to talk of nothing else. So as they told a tale of what had just happened at Bioaku, the two Matoran’s eyes were wide with shock.
“Still siding with them?” Orkahm asked Caamley. The Ta-Matoran looked even more distraught than he already had moments before.
“I…. don’t know what to think.”
“We did say we would only be able to host them for a little while,” Kamen reminded her.
Gali nodded, and swallowed hard. “Yes, but…after all that has just happened, can we really do that to them?” she asked. “If we send them away, we are sentencing them to death.”
“Yet if we let them stay we are sentencing our own people to death,” Kamen reminded her. A paper slid across the table. “We are still in the depths of winter, and the Utywans are creating a massive drain on our food stock. With your village in the state that it is…”
“I know,” Gali spat, staring hard at the itinerary scroll from the food stores. “But don’t we owe Kopaka for saving our lives? Saving your life? Without him and Peck helping the evacuation the way they did, many would be dead. You would be dead, Kongu. Is this how we express our gratitude for their help?”
“Yet look what he did right after he did that,” Kamen reminded her. “From what I’ve gathered, they left right from the disaster at your waterfalls to Bioaku.”
“They won’t necessarily be cast out into the ocean to die,” Kongu said. “There are other places we can send them. I know you’re thinking of Kopaka, but it is time to think of yourself and your people, Gali. They’re the ones who need you. The Toa Nuva of Ice has always fared well for himself.”
Gali turned to Kamen. “Tell me again what happened when you arrived.”
The Toa of Stone frowned. “It did not look good, Gali. The Utywans are already are not trusted by many of the villagers, and to see them attacking Shaktar… it really did not look good. But our fellow Tenpravihn looked as if he were doing more than defending himself…” Kamen trailed off, unsettled by the memories.
“I know what he’s done, but there must be more to it,” the Turaga of Water insisted.
“Shaktar did not approve of this decision from the beginning. And with everything that has happened…he does prove his point,” said Kamen.
“They made a mistake,” Gali said, swallowing.
“We all make mistakes,” Kongu reminded her. “And there are consequences for them that we have to live with.”
Her argument was lost. She had nothing else to say, and bowed her head, giving in to Kongu. None of them wanted to do what was about to happen, but it was something they had to, as leaders.
Kongu disappeared into the growing eve outside the hut to check on his villagers leaving Gali and Kamen inside in silence. Gali knew what was about to happen, but she dreaded it all the same.
Kopaka and Peck stood at the beginning of a path in the jungle, their wrists bound in front of them by vines. They looked out into the depths of the forest beyond a ring of torches that surrounded them, where darkness was falling fast.
Behind the pair stood a cluster of Tenpravihn guards, armed with spears in hand. The spears were of the most primal kind— the Utywans would barely have to exert any effort to disarm them— but the two thought provoking any more fights with the Tenpravihns wouldn’t help their situation at this point.
“I failed you,” Peck said to Kopaka. “I failed all of Utywa.”
“You did not,” Kopaka reassured him. “Think about it— You helped us cross the endless sea, and kept us fed all throughout the winter. You simply felt something here wasn’t right and went after it, in the best interest of your people. If we didn’t have you leading us, something would worse would have ended us long ago. If you think about it, that is the furthest thing from failure.”
“But who knows what will happen to us now,” Peck tried to reason.
One of the Tenpravihn guards jabbed their spears at Kopaka, but it was unneeded. The sound of a drum in the distance told the pair it was time to go to the end of whatever path they were on. Kopaka looked over to Peck’s worried face.
“It can’t be worse than what we’ve already been through,” the Toa of Ice said.
Together Kopaka and Peck began to walk down the path.
The torches the Tenpravihn guards carried lit the path before them. But it was the beat of the drum in the distance that seemed to guide them. A single strike would echo throughout the forest. The wood would grow silent for a moment as the beat faded, only for another to boom forth. The two paced onward as the beating reverberated around them, drawn to the vibrations. Twigs snapped under the feet of their guard, but Kopaka and Peck paid no attention to those sounds, only noting the single throng ahead which continually resounded.
The forest began to thin and the ground began to slope downward. Brush and shrubbery gave way to dirt and dune grasses, and before long, they were surrounded only by the night. Kopaka looked up. In one part of the night sky, the Red Star hung low. In another, the full moon shined down, pale light illuminating the empty Utywan ships anchored out in the middle of the bay. For a moment, the Utywans had found shelter, some reprieve from the brutality of the winter seas.
But that moment, however long they had stretched it into, was over, Kopaka knew.
Another boom of the drum sounded, and Kopaka and Peck found themselves pacing a beach, on a long path away from what had been the waterfalls and Gali’s village. The two of them trudged their way through the soft sand, listening to the boom resounding clearly through the empty night.
Turning down the beach path revealed a bonfire, and the pair could see three figures standing in its flickering shadows, pounding out in unison the low thundering note that drew the Utywans. Sensing the approaching party, their beat began to evolve. Soon a rapid pattern emerged, until it was a full performance that the three elders— Kongu, Kamen, and Gali— played out in full. Neither the Skakdi or the Toa Nuva knew what its purpose was; with the guards forcing them to halt a few feet before the bonfire, they simply stood vigilant and listened.
The drums stopped with a single thunderous boom and the scene suddenly becoming still. The throng of the drums faded to nothingness until there was only the crackle of the bonfire. It was only then did the guards abandon their posts, stepping forward to take away the drums from the elders.
Gali was the first to speak.
“Kopaka and Peck,” she said, “you have been charged with assault of an elder of Tenpravih.”
“We sought to put an end to something sinister brewing in the depths of your home,” said Peck. “This is our charge. What of the charge of Shaktar, who wished to spread disease amongst both our peoples?”
“Shaktar will have his trial with us,” Kongu informed them. “But we are here tonight to deal with the consequences of your actions. What you did… it really does not look good.”
“And leaving that… monster… up in his laboratory, that doesn’t look good on your part either,” Peck pointed out.
“We have had Shaktar’s promise of surrendering his old agenda for centuries now,” Gali said
“But you have also given him the freedom of no supervision,” Kopaka reminded them.
“He has been using your trust to still conduct his Brotherhood experiments up in that library of his,” Peck said. “You believed the lies he told you.”
“You could have come to us with what you found, and we would have settled it with him,” Kongu cut him off. “You may be a Toa Nuva, Kopaka, but it gives you no right to do as you see fit. What the two of you did was vigilante justice. If you had brought the matter to us, we would have taken care of it as the rightful law of the land.”
Kopaka frowned. Kongu’s point was fairly sound. He was not an elder, not the law here. He had not been the law on Utywa either, just a Toa with powers. Back in the Kingdom, even on Mata Nui, he had the authority for this. But not here.
“We were wrong for overstepping,” Peck agreed. “But dire circumstances forced us into taking action. We mean the three of you no harm, you know that. It’s just that—“
“You ask us to believe your word, despite your actions” Kamen said. “You two are making a hard argument to accept.”
“So how do we continue from here?” Kopaka asked. “We know we were wrong— but we did what we did and there is no going back from it now.”
“We can’t let tensions escalate any further,” said Gali.
“Then what will you have us do?” asked Peck.
“We did not promise you indefinite refuge,” Kongu said. “With all that has happened to our home, we must do what is in best interest of our own people.”
“I’m sorry, brother,” said Gali. “But we must ask the Utywans to leave Tenpravih.”
Standing next to the rails of the deck of the flagship, Peck watched throughout the afternoon as dozens of canoes ferried their way from the beach toward the awaiting fleet. Gali’s villagers assisted in the escort to the ships, as one final gesture from the Turaga. Her villagers would ferry them to their ships, and then… they would leave.
Where they would go he did not yet know. Kongu had provided them with rough maps of the coastline north of here, and villages that may be a small voyage away. There was a small conference with the pilots of each of the ship debating which to explore first, but Peck said little else during the day. He simply watched as canoes crawled back and forth from the beaches, climbing their way back to what was meant to be their temporary homes.
“First Utywa, now Tenpravih,” the Po-Matoran Bour cried as he trudged across the deck. He looked at Peck, sorrow in their eyes. “How many more places will we view like this?”
Standing nearby the Skakdi, Kopaka frowned as he heard the villager’s inquiry. He locked eyes with Peck. They both knew the islander meant no offense on their leader’s part. But the question hurt, for Utywan leader had no answer for them.
As the last of his people were loaded onto the Utywan’s ships, Peck walked up to the cabin and gave the signal. He watched with heavy eyes as the shores of Tenpravih vanished, and they were soon surrounded by the open ocean in the night.
There had been little motion visible on the mountainside for hours, but Kongu finally saw shifting colors as a figure came in to focus. Shaktar had received his summons, and now made his way down from Bioaku.
It had been a long while, but Kongu’s patience Kongu to take account of, after a long while he finally glimpsed motion in the mountains. The tall, proud figure of Shaktar could be seen descending the mountain path, answering his fellow elder’s summons. Kongu greeted him with a nod as he arrived at the mountain’s base.
“A surprise, this is,” Shaktar said. “What matters bring us to speak, brother? Has something happened since the travelers have left? Are there stragglers to be taken care of?”
“Just a sole-single loose end before we put this foul-nasty business behind us,” Kongu confirmed.
Shaktar opened his mouth to ask what it was, but the blow to the back of the head sent him crumpling to the ground.
He looked to the sky to see Kamen looking down on him. The Toa of Stone wasted no time, creating a seal around the Toa’s hands that would prevent him from using his powers. The Toa of Ice resisted, snarling at the ambush.
“What is this?” he demanded. “What are you two doing?”
“The Utywans breached treaties of peace and simple trust,” Kongu said. “But the treaty of trust you violated was much worse, brother.” He spat the term as if it were vermin.
“You asked me to uphold this ecosystem, and I did!” Shaktar howled. “I did only as I told the three of you I was going to do.”
“You did keep this environment together, yes,” said Kodan. “But you conducted your own experiments along the way. You have done more to this island than just what you’ve asked. You did your work in service of the Matoran here, yes, but you ultimately did the work in the name of the Brotherhood.”
“What are you going to do then, execute me?” Shaktar mocked, still struggling against his bonds. With only a small bit of concentration, Kodan willed barbs of stone to form in the cocoon, bearing their way into Shaktar’s midsection. The Toa of Ice winced, though he tried not to show it.
“We were thinking banishment would be a better fit.” Kodan replied.
“With those Utywans? I would rather die.”
Kongu laughed. “Switch-opposite, actually. You’ve spent so many years up in that thick dark library of yours. We think it is time for you to go spend some time in the sun.”
Shaktar’s eyes went wide. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Yet present-here we are,” Kongu said.
“You’ll be given supplies and a Mahi to ride out,” Kamen informed him. “But you are on your own after that. You are to leave Tenpravih and spend the rest of your days wandering the deserts of Del Vienvi. If some other far off place out there decides to take you in, so be it, but you are no longer welcomed here.”
“I could make that palace of yours up there crumble with the snap of my fingers,” Kodan reminded Shaktar. “But there are Matoran up there, and your library can be repurposed. I helped you build it, remember? Just think, all of that knowledge, tens of thousands of years, tumbling down the mountainside.”
That was enough to make the ex-Toa Hagah stop fighting. All his work exposed to the elements and lost along the mountainside? He could command the snow and ice, but even with his powers, that would be a lifetime of searching the mountain for every scroll and tablet.
“If it means a matter of Bioaku’s survival,” the Toa growled. “Then you win, today at least, Kongu.”
Though they had spent a very long with him as their brother, they were not sad to see him go. Their hate for the Brotherhood transcended that. They watched him with hate in their eyes, as the Mahi took him over the dunes and far into the deserts beyond even Kodan’s farthest village post.
“What do we tell Gali?” Kodan asked. Kongu shrugged— at this point he really did not care.
The steed trekked slowly through the beginnings of the desert. With no urgencies from its rider, it simply walked, no worries to get to any post in a hurry.
Shaktar glared out at it all as he rode the Rahi, a mix of bitterness from the earlier encounter and the brightness of the sun. Having spent most of his time indoors, the sunlight of the open outdoors was a slight pain. His eyesight was weak. The long rays of desert sun almost stung his eyelids under his mask.
He had left with nothing in his pack. All of his viruses, all of his research, everything was left in the library. He should have anticipated an betrayal like such, and kept a few on his persons at all times. The situation he was in now was quite alien and uncomfortable predicament.
He would leave as they requested, keeping some honor to his name. No doubt Kamen and Kongu would be patrolling the northwestern borders of their regions to uphold their banishment they now imposed. He would venture out, as requested.
But he also knew he had to get the viruses back. They were the only important thing, more important than anything else than the scraps left of the old universe. How he would get them back he did not know, but he knew that he would have to figure out a way.
Those travelers, they blew everything, Shaktar thought. Tens of thousands of years of survival and study, secrets all kept. And all this hiding to be discovered by nomads. He was angry, though more at himself or the Utywans he could not decide. His seethed as he rode the desert Mahi steed, his vision reddening almost to the shade of the Red Star that hung even in the high afternoon skies.
When he would come back this way he did not know. But he knew that he would have his revenge.