In the Shadow of Dume: Part 2

Written by A Pinch of Bazel

Illustration by Justhidges

Tiarun: “Look, I didn’t mean anything by it, alright?  I just-- you said it yourself.  ‘The Toa Stone knows.’  That implies that there’s something…well…different about you.  Right?  A special kind of different.”

Toa Colqi: “Being a Toa is a duty.”

T: “Right, exactly!”

TC: “Just like any other duty.  Matoran serve the Great Spirit as well, in their own way.  So do we.”

T: “Sure, but…yours seems a bit more important.”

TC: “We’re tailored to our duty, just as you are.  That doesn’t make us better.  When I made my glasswork, I received all kinds of commissions.  Decor, statues, trinkets, but they each filled a tailored need.”

T: “Right…”

TC: “And meeting that need was what made them important.  Not the size, not the task, but that it met someone’s need or want at all.”

T: “The ‘Will of Mata Nui’ seems like a slightly greater need than a schmuck like me wanting a desk toy.”

Chronicler’s Records

“And then came the darkest, most dreadful days, when the endless forces of the Barraki swept across the land.”  Lygari slashes the air to punctuate.  In tandem, a wave of sand sweeps across the Amaja Circle.    As it clears away, the tiny Dume still stands, resolute as ever.  “The impious lords sought the machines of the East, craft of devious craftsmen ready to oblige their machinations.”  He twirls his hand downward.  The crowds gasp as a bulky figure takes form.  It floats to meet Dume as an imposing equal.  “But this, Toa Dume would not allow.  And so the Lord Carapar marched to meet him.”

Dume mutters something to himself.  I’m no lip-reader, but the tone and ire seems to shoot a pretty telltale “Oh please.”

Lygari thrusts his two hands together, giddy as a Muaka kitten with its toys.  The two figures fly into each other.  Any distinction or form is lost to a flurry of sand.

“The lands did shake, the mountains did quake, as the two did battle.  The torrent of the razure only chorus to their operatic clash!”

Now I know he’s talking out his posterior plating.

Carapar gestured a hand to his Steltian guards.  One of them inched forth, tentatively stepping into his lord’s shadow.  “Are these the two jesters that sent you running?”  His mockery was as blunt as it was piercing.

“Y-yes, sir.  That’s them.”  The Steltian kept his posture as stiff as his spear: stark, upright and eerily proper.

“And you ordered the retreat?”

“Only when all else failed.”

Carapar nodded.  “Of course.”

Carapar swung around a heaving fist, front to back, punching a hole straight through the Steltian’s chest.  His armor shattered on impact - no better than plywood some lazy Ga-Matoran had strapped together and called a canoe - as Carapar’s claw tore through chest, muscle, and spine.  The Steltian’s eyes widened, gawking at the column of amber metal now embedded in his torso.  It’d happened so fast he could barely register the act.  His shock was shared by guard, Toa, and Matoran alike, all left dumbfounded but unable to respond, with neither action nor word.

The Steltian’s head swayed, tilting downward.  He locked eyes ahead with Mataku’s, the only thing below with which he could.  Wide, unblinking, their stare held.  As if all the world were spinning beneath the soldier’s feet, and the Matoran, of all things, was the only visage that could anchor him.  The Steltian gazed intently, every emotion that had dwelled in mind and soul desperately pouring through his optics in an undammed deluge.  Nostalgia, joy, surprise, denial, despair, rage, resignation, all laid bare for at least one to witness.  And for one moment, that one silent moment of intimacy - in their dual abject sensation of shock, awe, and horror - they were kin.  Until his eyes faded, his heartlight with them, and his body fell.  Vacant.

“‘No place for the weak, in battlefields or forces, only left and made part, put among the corpses,’” Carapar quoted.  He let the Steltian’s body slide off his arm with unceremonious disgrace.  As the heap of scrap hit the ground, he flicked his hand side to side to disperse any clinging fluids or shrapnel.  “Just a proverb of ours.  I hear it’s a favorite.”

Whatever shock had stayed Dume’s feet before quickly slid away, replaced with a silent rage carried by burning eyes.

“He served you...” Dume growled, disgusted.  A few seconds ago Mataku would’ve figured there was more sympathy in those words than perhaps due.  Carapar rolled his eyes.  

“Grunts aren’t worth much if they can’t take a punch.”  He shot a glare to his other underlings to ensure the message was sent.  Stiff salutes reciprocated.  Satisfied, he cracked his neck to the side in one smooth stretch.  “Must admit, I thought he might’ve been exaggerating.  Toa, alone, out here, shooting fire and ice like wasted Kanoka.”  He snapped a thoughtful finger.  “And yet it all makes sense, doesn’t it?  Pah, to think they thought Matoran were giving the shipments so much trouble.”  

“Have I got the disappointment for you,” Aidau muttered, unheard.

“And now here you are!”  Carapar gestured to Dume in all his majesty.  There was a surprising lack of mockery in his tone.  The excitement sounded almost genuine.

“And?” Dume asked, the earnest not fazing him remotely.

“I’ve conquered many places, Toa.  And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that a conquest is never finished until the strongest joins the fray, and is…how’d it go again?”  He pulled something from his back: a silver flail, black handle bound in chains leading to a cruel piece of spherical metal, enshrouded in spikes of protosteel.  “Oh, right, ‘put among the corpses.’”

Dume brandished his hammer in kind.

“I’ve had enough of you,” Dume said, no intent of giving the Barraki the dignity of a direct retort.  “Of all of you, with your toy castles and armies of flaccid iron, playing king.  I will only say this once, Barraki: it’s your choice how you return to your little castle.  Whole, or broken.  But you will leave this place and its people be.  That, I promise.”

“Oh ho, a promise!”  Carapar’s armor rumbled a small clangorous storm in his fit of laughter.  “Careful fire-spitter.  Best to make ones you can actually keep.”

Dume let his hammer reply, driving its blunt ends into the ground.  A burst of fire erupted, shooting forth to encompass Carapar’s hide.  One swing of his flail batted the flames away, their path only good enough to light the smirk on his face.  He turned to his soldiers.

“Call the rest.  Every camp of scrap-meat around.  And bring them here.”  He stomped forth, daring Dume to try the same trick again.  “This deserves a crowd.”

Aidau braced his scythe alongside his brother.  Dume shook his head and gestured away, as Carapar’s guard darted for the hills.

“No!  To them!  You need to stop them!

“What?!” Aidau asked, wide eyes matching his incredulous tone.  “Dume, I’m not—”

“Brother listen to me.  If we don’t keep those camps in position this’ll all be for nothing.  Go!”  He shot an emboldening glare to the two Matoran behind him.  “That goes for you too!  Now!”  

Aidau and Kamate obliged, the Toa launching himself on a column of ice to intercept his quarry, the Matoran darting back for the tunnel hatch.  Only Mataku remained, frozen and stiff at what was about to transpire.  Kamate had just enough time to shoot him a disgusted look before he vanished into the dark below. 

Run! Mataku’s sterner voice thought to himself.  He couldn’t.

“I said go!” Dume repeated, giving further voice to Mataku’s thoughts.

Carapar laughed from his side of the soil.

“Maybe your little servant thinks whatever scheme you’re cooking isn’t going to bake to much.”  He swung his flail idly in his hand, its end revolving in deadly hypnotic circles.  “And maybe he knows, deep down, there’s only one side worth serving.”

“He’s not my servant.”  Dume spat that particular label with the care of bile.  He did his best to hide Mataku in his towering shadow.  “And he’ll never serve you.  No Matoran will.”

Carapar shrugged.  “The offer stands ‘til death, little one.  All are welcome to serve us.”  His free hand grasped his flail by the chain.  He pulled it taut, anticipation stretching his face into the devious smile of a predator.  “As all eventually shall.”

Dume’d had enough.  He thrust himself forward in a crimson flash, swinging his hammer upward as he did.  It caught Carapar’s chin right on target, a thundering uppercut that would behead a lesser enemy outright.  The Barraki stumbled back at the blow…only to catch himself in three feet.  His face shot back up into place, grin apparent even through the dented helmet.

“Alright then.”  He was ready to play.

He tossed his flail forward, straight for Dume’s head in a violent retort.  The Toa ducked to the side and clasped his hammer steady.  Perhaps another target was due.  He flung the hammer into Carapar’s left array of ribs, then his right shoulder, then his chest, his back, anything he could land between swings of the Barraki’s flail.  But each strike barely fazed him.  His armor held, and his posture was deterred none, a well-rooted weed in the earth.  It was as useful as hammering a mountain.  A mountain that could catch your hammer mid-swing, as this one soon did.

Carapar boredly eyed the thing as he clutched the upper hilt, its end only inches from striking his face again.  “Hmph.  I think I’ve taken your measure little fire-spitter,” he sighed.

He kicked Dume away, the Toa finally losing grip on his weapon.  Carapar held it softly in one hand like a plaything, almost pitying it.  What had been so mighty in Dume’s hands looked so puny in his.  He lifted it overhead, clasping either end.  Biceps, triceps, whatever kinds more lurked in Carapar’s frame flexed in unison across his arms.

No… Mataku thought to himself.  He can’t…

But he could.  He had taken Dume’s measure.

“And found it wanting,” Carapar finished.  With that, his claws snapped the hammer in two, metal handle sporting the stamina of a twig as it gave way.  Mataku was almost worried that for the first time, he’d see a Toa show fear.  Not so.

“That was a mistake,” Dume rasped, climbing to his feet.  

He charged, every care taken to maneuver another strike from his opponent’s weapon.  It sailed into empty air overheard as Carapar made another throw, giving Dume another opening.  A kick to the shin, a punch to the side, two three four, another kick for the neck— until Carapar batted it off with his forearm.  The parry knocked Dume off his balance entirely.

“I’m sure you’re acquainted with many,” the Barraki spat.

With that, another toss of the flail, this time striking Dume dead-on in the chest.  The Toa’s body was sent flying, until his armor found dull impact in the dirt a dozen feet away.  Satisfied, Carapar turned to face an unattended Mataku.

I’m not afraid of you, his bolder, angrier voice wanted to spout.  But Mataku wasn’t one for lying, least of all on the spot.

“And you, littler fire-spitter…my offer still stands,” Carapar murmured, almost a whisper, threatening as it was tempting.  “As does its point of expiration.”  The Barraki let the end of his flail drop to the ground, leaving its due crater in the earth, and his point made.

Words became lodged in Mataku’s throat.  The dreaded two, the ones he swore, to Kamate, to Atu-Koro, to Mata Nui, that he would never utter.  And yet, if all else were going to fail…

“I…I surr—”

“Leave him be!”  Dume was already back on his feet and in full sprint, ignoring the undoubtful pain that had to be throbbing in the gash across his chest.  

Carapar rolled his eyes and gave his flail another toss.  All the pain in the world didn’t hinder Dume’s reflexes just yet, dodging its path once again.  The Barraki lazily braced for another round of would-be blows…but Dume’s path wasn’t to him.  It was to Mataku.

He scooped the Matoran up in passing with one arm, as easy as a ball in play.  With the other, he bore an outstretched hand.  The weapons and tools of Toa served only as a focal point for their power, not the source.  The elements could be wielded just as easily without them, but there was always a risk.  What came was always unfettered and unrestrained.  It could be aimed, but seldom controlled.  But in circumstances such as these, to Dume, that was a risk worth taking.

A wild inferno erupted from his palm.  It engorged itself on the surrounding air, blooming into a massive circle of flame around the Toa and Matoran.  Its ferocity was enough to make even Carapar back away, arms raised to repel its heat and light.  But the gaze behind them said it all.

This won’t save you.

The bonfire well-founded, Dume gave himself a moment to breathe.  He dropped Mataku and let his body fall to its knees, reprieve embraced.  Could be its last chance for any, after all.  He let the moment hang, until his deep heaving settled into light, rhythmic huffs.  Then he looked to his distressed damsel.

“You…need…to go,” he murmured slowly, breath still not quite caught.

Mataku sat on the dirt, knees clutched fetally to his chest, as wrapped upon himself as a Dermis Turtle sensing tomorrow’s storm.

“I can’t.”


“I…I can’t do it.  I shouldn’t be here.”

Dume pondered.  He reached out a comforting hand, as he had for Kamate earlier.  “You made it this far—“

“I never asked to be here, alright?!” Mataku shouted, recoiling at the undeserved affection.  All his festering bitterness from thoughts prior poured out, unchained.  It no longer mattered to him who it was unleashed upon.  What else mattered at all?  “I was…I let myself get talked into it.  Tricked into it— no, no I let that happen too.  And now people are—“. His voice cracked, too disgusted to finish.   “I don’t belong here.”

“I see.”  There’s a steady, unnerving air of understanding to Dume’s tone, something much deeper than mere sympathy.  Mataku wasn’t yet sure if that comforted him.  “And why do you think that is?”

“Because I’m a coward.  Because I’m afraid.”

“Of what?”

“Of dying, what else?” Mataku scoffed in shame.  “It’s…it’s stupid.”  He held his knees closer.  

Dume shifted in front of him, resting on crossed legs.  He let a soft but insistent posture say the rest: Whenever you’re ready.

“A long time ago…an avalanche hit our village.  I’d called the day off.  I wanted a quick…just a quick break, to myself.  So Kamate had another assistant make the day’s delivery.  We met each other on the road, him on his way to another koro, me just getting some air, on a stroll.  We said our hi’s and pressed on.  And then...the mountain started shaking.  The earth...the earth itself rained down on our heads.”  He gazed up, at the wall of flames encompassing the pair.  He let the gaze rest, the ebbs and flows of the fire easing into a patterned rhythm.  “One moment he was there.  The next he wasn’t.  One moment his eyes w-were bright and full of life, the next…”  Mataku’s gaze finally fell from the fire.  There was only so much their dance could soothe.  “Nothing alive should ever look that empty.”

“That’s not a foolish thing to think.”

Everyone dies.  I’m not special for getting worked up about it.”

“Perhaps.  But all the more reason to—”

“You don’t understand.  When I saw that…that void in his eyes, I was—”  He choked.  A lump of disgust and self-hatred lodged itself in his throat.  He coughed it down.  “I was happier that it wasn’t me.”  He slammed a fist into the dirt.  “First thought in my head.  Not ‘How tragic,’ not ‘How sad,’ but ‘How terrifying.  That could’ve been me!’” he paraphrased, the memory recalled in a whiny, petulant falsetto.  He relinquished the fist back to his curl of limbs.  “It should’ve been me.  Kamate thinks so.”

“He doesn’t.” 

“You don’t know that.”

“I see it.  He wants the best of you, hoping it’ll be all the better for you.  But there’s one mistake that clouds him.”

Mataku looked up from his pit of self-loathing, unconvinced.  “And what’s that?”

“He thinks fear is something to be ashamed of.”

Mataku lowered his knees.  “Isn’t it?”

Dume shook his head.  He held a hand to his chest, just above the mesh of cracked armor Carapar had left.  “I’m afraid.”

“What?  No you’re not,” Mataku said rearing back, incredulous.

“Why shouldn’t I be?”

“Because you’re a Toa.  What do Toa have to be afraid of?”

Dume chuckled.  He gestured a hand to the wall of fire, to the Barraki pacing like a starved Muaka just outside it.  “He’s not the first of his kind.  And he won’t be the last.”

“But you’ll beat him, won’t you?  Make it all right?”

“I certainly hope so.  But that is never a guarantee.  I’m afraid of that, little one.  Not just for what will happen to the rest of the world, but I’m afraid for myself.  For…the end.  As you said, fearing death is hardly unique.”

“Sure, but—”

Dume raised a hand, then took a deep, solemn breath.  ”Left untempered, fear undoes the mind and stays the body, but it keeps the heartlight honest.”  He taps a finger to his.  “It reminds what binds us, Matoran and Toa alike.”  He placed a hand on Mataku’s shoulder.  He didn’t recoil this time.  “We fear, and we fight regardless, together.”

Mataku’s head lowered again, what little spirit rising only sputtering out.  “But…but it just won’t stop...”

“You can’t hide from fear.  It comes as do the suns, or the tide.  Would you expect the suns not to rise, or the tide to lay still?

“No, but I—”

“And should Mata Nui be ashamed the world moves in such a way?”


“The suns, the skylights, they try to burn us and blind us.  And the tide, it tries to drown us.  But we can also make them light our way, or push us to the shore.”  His hand clasped the Matoran’s shoulder ever tighter.  “That is our power, Mataku.  Fear is not to be feared.  Only understood, and made companion.  Whatever comes.”

“And then what?” he asked, less tentative now.  He yearned for a real answer.

“And then we stand.”  So he did, hand pulled away from Mataku.  “And walk forward with it.  Hand in hand.”  He turned to the fire, and his awaiting enemy beyond it.  And marched.

Mataku was left in the dirt, only to watch.  Carapar watched too, now noticing the Toa’s approach.  Dume marched on, straight for the fire.  He raised an open hand, steeled glare locked with the Barraki’s behind the flames.  With prompt resolve, the Toa closed his fist.  The wall of flames let out a hard FWOOM as it was cleaved in two.  Its halves swept to either side, a narrow path now open between their curvatures.  Dume marched on, tread steady through the parted infernal sea.  Disobedient flames lapped at his arms and legs from the walls.  Trickles of melted armor started to drip wherever they caressed.  But Dume marched on.  Carapar awaited at the end, weapon in hand, grin upon face.  And still Dume marched on.

With one last wave of his arm - final conduction to his fiery orchestra - his fist unclenched.  The wall was whole once more; but further back, beyond Carapar’s gaze, a new path opened.  Far to the rear, where Mataku still rested.  Peering through its expanse, the Matoran’s path became clear: the tunnel hatch, lying exposed and open at the end.  It was now or never.

Mataku chanced one last look at Dume.  He and the Barraki remained locked in eye.  The two continued to stare, even as clouds moved in overhead.  The rays of light opened by the Toa only minutes prior soon became shrouded in darkness once more.  Carapar smirked at the sight.  A sign from the Great Spirit Himself, surely.  He raised his arm to the side, flail in hand.  Without another moment’s hesitation, he let the weapon leap from his palm to the dirt.  He wouldn’t need it.  Not for this.

Dume made the first move, as usual.  He raised a kick to Carapar’s left, one he was already bracing to catch.  But— no, a feign!  Dume quickly stamped his leg to the ground, its leverage ample to swing a fist into Carapar’s right.  Whether out of surprise or the pure strength of the blow, the Barraki stumbled back, genuine shock lighting his eyes wide as clenched hand met shoulder.

Something looked different now of Dume, at least from where Mataku stood.  Certain details stood out more starkly.  A grimace in Dume’s fist as it returned from its strike, stifling pain from bruised knuckles.  A tremble in his arm, as waning strength made every move a feat.  A persistent worry in his eye, an uncertainty in self and victory.  And yet, as Carapar rose back into place, rage pushing his fists forward in shaken pride and stirred fury, Dume caught them with his own, holding the two in a tight standstill.  Despite everything, at this, he would not relent.

But he’s still a Toa, Mataku thought to himself, turning and darting into Kamate’s well-worn tunnels.  What can I do?

Toa Colqi: “In the eyes of Mata Nui, all duties and destinies move in equal stride.”

Tiarun: “I’ll believe that when a trader’s cart levels a fortress.  Or a poem lifts the sea.”

Chronicler’s Records

“That’s enough!” Dume shouts.  He’s doing his best to keep polite but let’s be honest, it’s no secret to anyone how bitter his tone sounds.  It won’t stop bouncing off the walls for one.

Lygari immediately shrivels at the sound.  The sands of his great tale fall to the ground in a collective pathetic hiss.

“A-apologies, great Toa,” he stutters.  “I-I do believe I’ve offended you in some way.  Please, enlighten me.  Lay my sins bare.  Leave nothing—”

“Just—” Dume catches himself before he lets another shout echo down the halls.  “Enough.”

“Please, dear Toa.  What bedevils you?”

“It’s wrong,” Dume laments, shaking his head the way you would if protodites were stubbornly buzzing about.  “All of it.  Wrong.”

“We can consult my sources if—”

All of it,” Dume emphasizes firmly.  He looks to the crowd now.  He sighs, no doubt embarrassed to make this such a scene.  “No one appreciates what you’ve worked to honor here more than I, but…this is not how I wish to be remembered.”

“And how is that, great Toa?” Lygari inquires.  He tries to keep the tone neutral, as if his great idol weren’t undermining hours of rehearsed histrionics.

“Alone.”  He locks eyes with Oroka, and the rest of his former team.  The Apocta still four strong.  “I was never alone, as Matoran or Toa.  And during that wretched war most of all.”  A solemn memory darkens his eye.  For a moment it’s heavy enough to weigh his gaze downward, away from his audience.  He doesn’t let it hang there for long, bringing his eyes back to them, more stalwart than ever.  “There are those not here today that ensured that I am.  My story is theirs.”

In better spirits I’d smile and nod in solidarity, but right now I’m sure my eyes are as morose and dead as his were.  No one knows the truth to his words more than me.

After all, I was there too.

Aidau fancied himself an efficient warrior.  No strike wasted, no power put to needless use.  Steltian bruisers were a hardy bunch, but the right strike in the right place always rendered their limbs manageable slabs of ice.  The only problem was, they had a bad habit breaking back out of them.

“This is getting old,” he whispered to himself as another soldier wretched his arm free, ice flexed off by his muscles and left in watery splinters.  

They were five in total, more than enough to multi-task and send a spare or two off to carry out their master’s whim.  But they’d all taken to circling him together, a swarm of Ruki fish homing in on shared, singular prey.  Perhaps they all wanted a piece of the fun, or thought it’d simply be quicker to break him together.

Too bad for them, Aidau thought to himself, twirling his scythe for another bout.

A massive dome of flame erupted far on the horizon, a dazzling frieze for the flat earth.  Too far to hear or feel, but its light alone was enough to pause the fight at hand, all participants struck with awe.  Something told the Toa of Ice his fire-spitter of a brother was the culprit, subtle as ever.  Wasteful as ever.  

But then again…  Aidau glanced about his surrounding opponents, their stupefaction already beginning to wear off.  Their eyes were drawn back to him, ready to resume their confrontation.  Maybe now’s not the time for subtlety.

Much further away, even underground, the rumbles of battle shook Mataku to his protodermic core.  He tried not to think which quake belonged to which combatant, or what it might signify: victory or defeat, and for whom.  No, that was their business, and this, this was his.

He’d made quick note of Kamate’s footprints as soon as he thrust himself down here, and made for the opposite direction as soon as he did.  With any luck they’d meet each other on the other end of the loop soon enough.  In the meantime, casting aside every stone on the trail was its own small task.  Mataku wasn’t sure how much space a Toa’s power really needed to move unabated, but best not to leave things to chance.  Same went for the network’s many offshoots, interconnected redundancies made to link the web and leave its users the means to get anywhere at any time.  But this time, there was only one path that would need to be taken, and that meant blocking everything else.  Thankfully the rocks cleared on the former mission made for adequate blockage to serve the latter.  Good and tidy.

Mataku didn’t carry a map on his person as Kamate did.  But then, he never really needed one to begin with.  The resistance had put the Ta-Matoran on so many bombing runs in the past that he practically had the whole array down by heart.  It wasn’t like he had much else on his mind, outside of fear for his life.  Why not this?  It made him useful, if nothing else.

Minutes and hours blended together as Mataku pressed onward.  Soundscapes of war faded away, and he prayed it was only distance that made it so.  Another rock on the left, another path to stow on the right, so on and onward.  It became a pattern to him, and as patterns were wont to do, it helped put his nerves at ease.  He needed any reassurance he could get right now, and if that had to come from the mundane certainty that one stone here could dam up another tunnel there, so be it.

Another rumble shook him ragged.  It’d been so long since the last one that it actually managed to startle him this time.  He looked about, head back on its slick anxious swivel.  Surely he hadn’t made it back to Dume already?  No, this was different.  It sounded closer to the tunnel, as if striking the tunnel itself.

Maybe it is, Mataku nervously thought, as another quake shook his feet.

A wiser Matoran would take this as a sign to turn back.  No one had foreseen this.  Best to call it quits, run, think another plan, fight another day.  Who’d blame him?  Mataku wasn’t known for his bravery…but then, he wasn’t known for his wisdom either.

He pressed on.  Another quake, followed by a yelp this time.  The scene was becoming clearer in Mataku’s head: the tunnel wasn’t being attacked, someone in it was.  Another quake, another shout.  Mataku recognized the voice now.  His pace quickened.  Another quake, reaping a shout and gasp more.

The scene was laid plainly as he rounded another corner.  A burley blue arm wretched a claw into the subterranean dirt, raking blindly at stone.  And its target, tucked against the wall just barely out of reach, was Kamate.  A cowering Kamate, lodged at such a precarious point that any inch more to either side would surely put him in his hunter’s grasp.  So there he remained, cowering.

Why do I keep thinking that word?  It felt judgemental - petty even - to Mataku, that he would ever attribute such a word to the Onu-Matoran.  Hadn’t he proven himself more than above it?, Mataku knew what strategic self-preservation looked like.  What a patient brace for a decisive counterattack looked like.  And more than anyone, he knew what cowering looked like.  And when he looked past the swinging column of Steltian armor, when his eyes found Kamate’s locked so wide and frozen at the sight of his encroaching attacker, Mataku saw something he never thought he’d ever see: a reflection.

A reflection of fear.  A reflection of terror, pure and binding and steadfast, as it locked one’s arms to side and feet to ground.  Even the mind was unable to dwell on anything else but the moment, and the threat it bore.  No counters or plans, just the anxiety that whatever action taken would surely be in vain and speed the end.  Mataku knew the feeling, and against all curious odds, it seemed Kamate did too.

Or did he always know? Mataku wondered.  Know, but walk and fight despite it.  And if he could do that, for so long…  He wasn’t Kamate - he’d never be Kamate - but the gap between them had to be more palatable than what yawned between him and the Toa, it had to.  And with all this laid in mind…maybe that gap was all that more possible to cross.  

But who is he to cower now? a more selfish voice thought deep in Mataku’s head.  To his chagrin, he still recognized it as his own, if tainted with more cowardice than usual.  Who does that leave to fix this mess?  Me?!   I’m only here because of him!  Why does it have to be me?  What can I do?  The thoughts overwhelmed him, a paralyzing venom that seeped into his feet, leaving them as still as Kamate’s.

“Can’t hide forever you little borer worm!” a voice shouted above.  “Make it easier, and I’ll make it faster!”  The Steltian’s claw flailed deeper.  The ceiling itself cracked with strain, sweating dust.

Stand, another voice whispered.  Mataku recognized it too, from so many moments of doubt before.  The steadier him, the him that never was.  Stand with him.  Stand for him.

Why should it be me?! the other voice cried.  Don’t I matter?  He doesn’t want to die, too bad.  Neither do I.  What makes him so special?

But that was beside the point.  Kamate had a life back home.  Atu-Koro, his work there, it was everything to him.  He had something to live for.

But what about me?!  Don’t I?!

Yes.  He too had something to live for.  The breeze of the mountains blowing down a kiss of snow.  The sense of warmth at absorbing the energy of homegrown berries, their tang running up his arms.  The smile of a grateful customer when he made a delivery.  So many cumulative little things.  And moments…yes, moments, like when Kamate held his hand steady to shape the curves of a shovel for the very first time.  When he and Kaiwhi kept hiding all the wood for the forge to the point Kamate thought himself insane.  When he pushed himself to venture past the village gate for the first time in years just to watch the skylights dim atop Mount Atu’s cliffs, even when the distant roar of a Kikanalo was enough to put his heartlight still.

But all these, too, were beside the point.  And yet, lent something to it all the same.  Because it’s not about me, the sterner voice insisted.  Or him.  It’s about us, all of us.  

And the thought became clear: the one thing he feared more than losing his little things in life, or losing the life with which to experience them…was others losing theirs.  Mataku felt his hand moving, down, to his belt.  It clasped a handle, the hilt to his dagger, the one Kamate had given him when he dragged him into this war.  Now unused.  Useless, as he was.  

It doesn’t have to be. I don’t have to be.  His hand gripped it tight.  We all stand where the other falters.  Together.  It’s why I’m here.  It’s why I belong.

The coarse note sung when a rusted dagger finally leaves its sheath is a deafening sound.

Toa Colqi: “You’re not taking this seriously.”

Tiarun: “C’mon, it’s just…something had to’ve felt different, after a turn like that.”

Toa Colqi: “Well of course.  Suddenly I had a lot more to prove.  No one expects much from a Matoran, and…honestly?  That might be our biggest mistake.”

T: “Mistake?”

TC: “Yes.  You’d be surprised what we can do.”

Chronicler’s Records

“And you were right about one thing, Turaga,” Dume admits, a moment’s reprieve from his retelling.  The crowd’s left hanging on his last word.  I can tell they’d wait a century just to hear the next.

“About what, mighty Toa?”  Lygari’s hurt pride seems to’ve subsided a bit.  If nothing else he sounds genuinely open to Dume’s answer.  I’m sure he’d like to be right about something.

“Lands did shake.  And mountains did quake.  But it was never about them.”  He holds up an emphatic hand.  “It was about those that had to make their way through them, and pick up the pieces.”

And so he continues.

“Damned Matoran!  Sneaky Matoran!  Stupid Matoran!”

Mataku backed away as fast as he could without tripping on his own feet.  By his side, his dagger dripped gray internal protodermis.  To his front, its bleeder, a Steltian marching and cursing uncivilized vows for payback.  He still clutched his wound, a deep gash at the center of his ankle.  It’d make pursuit difficult; or at least that was the hope.

The corners of Mataku’s eyes could barely catch their surroundings: the interior of a small cubic fort, walls the dull gray of cheap metal, the grounds carelessly dotted with weapon stands and huts of canvas.  More than a few other warriors occupied it, and his presence wasn’t a secret to any of them.  And yet they all just…stood there.  Watching.  He might’ve even caught a chuckle or a smirk in the audience.  Seems they were amused, and curious how a proper one-on-one could play out.  Great Spirit knows they had nothing else to entertain their days.

Just as well.  Mataku wasn’t confident in his chances as it was.

Dume wished he could voice superior faith on his end.  In truth, Carapar had him on perilous ropes.  Melee was no good, and his list of tricks was running thin.  His latest in the line, a whip of fire extended straight from his palm.  Keeping any elemental construct so solid and precise was taxing without a proper weapon, but not impossible.  It couldn't afford to be.

Dume’s mind was weathered, a cliff ashore carved by relentless waves into a sharp concavity fit to collapse, but he still had a job to do.  They all did.  So he’d hold his flame, lash his whip, lasso his foe, throw him, pound him, again and again, as many times as it took to bring Carapar down.

But he, like any Barraki, could always smell weakness, as surely as a Takea shark smelled blood in the water.  And it only took one clasp of the whip with his own hand, searing pain ignored, to turn Dume’s tactic on its head.  One lash in reverse sent the Toa deep into rubble without another thought.

Another trick off the list it seems.

Further still out in the field, a lance of ice pierced a Steltian in his right shoulder, cleaving armor and muscle just enough to make his mounted Kanoka launcher as good as slag.  Aidau gave his hand a sharp swipe to the left.  The tip of the lance followed, its end veering into a hooked curve.  It wasn’t leaving its victim just yet.  

Aidau puppeted the ice one step more, thrusting his arm to himself.  The ice, too, followed, guided towards him, and carrying a very unwilling Steltian in tow.  Aidau let the train of metal pass, its new destination one of the warrior's comrades, who’d picked an unfortunate time to try and sneak behind him.  The two collided in a cacophony of scrap and fell for the hills.  Aidau almost felt proud of himself.


Aidau cursed himself, even more than he cursed the Steltian that had just sucker punched him in the gut, or his two pals closing in on either side.  His groove was gone, and they were just finding theirs.

Aidau let his breath find its way back into his lungs.  The precious moments to do so allowed his enemies another few feet of ground.  They grew closer, bolder, no doubt certain they’d struck the critical blow that’d bring their stubborn Toa down.

Here’s the part where I disappoint them. 

He twirled his scythe in hand, faster and faster in expert rotations.  The air chilled, adding an extra hoarse whistle to his scythe’s circular dance.  The Steltians slowed; should they stop this?  Could they?  Or would that only make it worse?  An explosion of frost ensured they wouldn’t need to worry about that any longer.

Mataku caught his breath behind a tent.  He hoped he’d earned himself that much a reprieve.  He couldn’t keep this going for long.  To some extent he always knew that, since the moment his knife found Steltian flesh - a memory already unreal in his head, product of some other sneaky, stupid Matoran.  But what he didn’t know was how much longer Kamate needed to finish the mission.  And so this would go on as long as it needed to.

Inelegant claws ripped through canvas.  What little shadow the tent cast upon Mataku fell away, its form slave to his Steltian pursuer now, draping his person in sandy cloth.  His unhappiness hadn’t improved.


Mataku stabbed his other foot before a better idea could take root.  The Steltian howled.  The Matoran ran.

Fear guide me.  Fear push me.  Fear do something.  Just keep me ahead.

Time for a dirtier tactic.  Dume hadn’t wanted it to come to this, but his options had long since been exhausted.  Even the color of his armor was noticeably dimmed now, etiolated as blossoms strangled by drought.  A glaring symptom of elemental subsidence.  This was all he had left.  And he hoped, and frankly was quite sure, that these creatures would appreciate the opportunity.

He raised a flattened hand overhead, its edges glowing orange with a restrained heat.  He sliced it down, cutting air and chain in equivalent ease.  At last, from their chariot and decades of service, the Rock Lions were free.  They huffed and sniffed about, investigating this new sensation the only way they knew how.  It was strange, alien, and that begged the question: what to do with it?

The growl of a rampaging Barraki provided a possible answer.  Carapar climbed to his feet not a few yards away, batting off soot and rubble from another in a long line of failed assaults his fiery opponent had wrought.  His dents shallow, his strength unemptied, he had plenty of fight left to give, which suited at least one of the Rock Lions just fine.  

And suited Dume even more so.  The lions’ release was only part of his plan, the distraction to cloak the goal.  The shattered remains of his hammer laid just a ways to the left, towards Carapar.  Not an easy mend even for a skilled craftsman, but Dume’s Kanohi Kiril - a Mask of Regeneration - had a habit of defying such things.  If he could reach it, he could repair it, and if he could repair it, this fight may yet yield favor.  He only needed the opening, which the lion was more than ready to give.

It charged, its mane bursting back to life with a vibrant cornucopia of flame that honored Dume’s patronage.  It roared, years of toil shirked off in one triumphant gesture of sound and fury.  And it leaped, claws borne, straight for Carapar’s throat.  Dume couldn’t dream a more fitting end.

But dreams, of course, seldom matched the reality.  This reality being a very angry Carapar catching the lion midair by the throat, beating it senseless aloft, and tossing its broken corpse aside with candid indifference.  The other lion eyed the body of its sibling, then the taunting eyes of its killer.  In that silence, in those eyes, a choice.  

Defy me or join him.

If vengeance ever crossed the lion’s mind, it never showed it.  Not for the Barraki at least.  Now Dume, it had a few choice words for.  It pounced for him, mane ablaze with cerise.  He could barely duck away in time, the lion instead planting itself firmly between him and the hammer.  Another dirty tactic then.  

The Toa thrust out an instinctive hand, fingers arched and crooked to claw an unseen edge.  The lion’s newfound glow slowly faded, its flames fluttering into tepid sparks.   Confronted with his own element in play, Dume had himself another Toa trick to call upon.  When lacking, power could come from anywhere, or be reaped from anything.  The lion shook its head profusely.  It could sense the transaction, fire ebbing and leaving a telltale trail in its wake to the buyer.

It turned enraged eyes on Dume, and charged once more regardless.  It had no idea how the Toa was doing it, but it required few guesses as to why, and had no intent of being made a pawn any longer.  But new strength already surged through the Toa’s frame, instilling healthy luster back to his dulled hues.  He thrust both hands forward now, outstretched, and carried with them a torrent of flame.  A Rock Lion’s hide could endure heat of any measure, but the sheer force of the blast was enough to knock it right off its feet and send it into a tumbling roll, all the way to back to its master.  

Carapar made no effort to hide his disdain.  No mew or yelp from the pitiful creature would sway that.  Nor would it sway the heavy foot he placed on its head, or the flex in his thighs as he pushed down with merciless force.  The giant wad of broken hammer smashing into his chest, however, may be better suited.

Dume threw its remaining hilt close behind, straight and true as a javelin.  It found a new home in Carapar’s shoulder, thrusting him off his already dubious balance and back to the ground.  The Toa nodded to the creature below as it opened its eyes, a little surprised the end hadn’t already come.  Not a word of Matoran lurked on a Rock Lion’s tongue, but such a gesture was immediately understood even to it.  And it ran as fast as its paws could carry it.

“Nothing is sacred to you, is it?” Dume observed, weaponless once again.

“Says the low-blower siccing beasts on their own master,” Carapar growled, climbing to his feet.  He plucked the broken handle from his shoulder, and crushed it to splinters in his hand for good measure.  With any luck, the Toa’s spine would be next.

Dume steadied himself into a stauch pose that hopefully better hid the fatigue weighing his arms down.  “If all their loyalty rested on was an unbroken chain, you were never their master.”

Carapar could be quite fast when he wanted to be.  And Dume’s thin illusion of vigor held little stance before a shrewd eye.  Carapar broke through it with ease, and wrapped an annoyed claw around the Toa’s throat.

“It’s funny.  You remind me of my boss,” he spat to a gasping Dume.  “I hate my boss.”  He threw Dume into the ground, leaving a Toa-shaped print in the dirt.  He kept his grip on the Toa’s throat tight.

“This…will not…avail you…” Dume whispered.


Dume thrust a bent leg between them, high and hard enough to implant a knee into Carapar’s face.  It dazed him just enough to slacken his grip.  A push from Dume’s other foot broke it entirely.

“No.”  Dume shifted himself back, buying more precious space between them.  “You keep making the same mistake.”

Carapar rubbed his chin, more amused now.  There were only so many more ways this could go.  “And what’s that, fire-spitter?”

“The same mistake your kind always makes.”  He began to circle him, eyes still trained. “That strength comes from domination and rule.”

Carapar rolled his eyes.  This again.  He remained still in Dume’s circle - his paltry attempt at assertion - only following his moves with a patient gaze.

“And let me guess.  It really comes from coddling the weak, swathing them in little Matoran cradles, put to sleep with lullabies of false promise, blah-dee blah-dee blah.”  His disgust made itself no secret.  “It’s like you Toa share a script.”

“It’s more than that.”  Carapar cocked his head to the side, curious.  “It’s about giving them a chance to be more than what they are.  There is no ‘the weak,’ Barraki, only the strong, and those that haven’t yet found their strength.”

Carapar scoffed.  “What is it you think we do, Toa?”  He gestured a clawed hand to the fields, to the undoubtable armies of brute lying in wait.  “Do you think those bruisers had a life before we found them?  A real life?  We uplifted them!  We gave them power!”

“The only power you ‘give’ anyone is the power to take…and that is no power at all.”

Dume tried to punctuate the statement with a twisted kick to the head.  Carapar caught it as easily as he had the last dozen.  It was swatting a fly at this point.

"Is that right?”

He clutched his ankle tight and pulled him overhead.  As his body found impact at the end of the arc, Dume’s mask decided it’d finally had enough.  It wrested itself from the Toa’s rattled face and plopped into a safer patch of dirt a few feet away.  His weak body went even limper without a Kanohi to empower it.  And yet despite it all, his voice held firm.

“It’s a farce, Barraki, and it will fall,” Dume growled.  “As every empire of glass idols has before you, and will after you.”  

He did his best to upstage whatever meekness he could with defiance.  Carapar dropped the rest of him, letting the Toa lie in the dust.  Such a pathetic sight alongside such bold words was almost worth a laugh.  Instead he opted to humor him.

“It’ll last as long as it suits us, and it’ll be remembered long after.  And our name…our very name will be synonymous with conquest itself.”  He looked away, higher, to the darkened sky, as if its lights still twinkled just for him.  “And when we’ve risen high enough, Mata Nui Himself will see us.”  It was as unabashedly sentimental as his voice had ever sounded.

Dume had to stifle his own laugh.  His body wasn’t in any state to handle one.  “If Mata Nui ever had that pleasure, He’d spit on you.”

Carapar placed a foot on Dume’s head, a fine enough substitute for his rogue beast of burden.  “Let me worry about that.”  His muscles tensed, beginning to press.


A blast of ice cut the act short, colliding into Carapar’s back and launching him a few yards over.  Its sender stood tall behind him: a very weary but victorious Aidau, steaming scythe in hand.  Carapar pushed his humiliated face off the dirt and scowled at the interloper.  One strong push of his shoulder blades cast the ice from his back.

“You Toa never learn.”  He charged.

Aidau twirled his scythe, letting parallel streams of ice fly.  They coiled themselves at different targets: legs, arms, and chest.  From impact, expansion, entombing the Barraki in a growing cocoon of ice.  No limbs left to carry him, he tumbled to the ground mid-run.  He wretched.  He fought.  But every space made, every crack rendered, was immediately undone with fits of icy growth more.

“You’d be surprised,” Aidau replied, surely but tired, and too tired to even hide it.  He plucked Dume’s mask from the dirt, and shook off any debris that hurt its sheen.  He let his brother find his own way to his knees, only kneeling down to meet him halfway.  “I think this works better on your face.”

Dume clasped it, and thrust it back to his face unceremoniously.  “Thank you, brother.”

Aidau smirked.  “What else are we for?”

Dume returned it.  “Shining my boots, polishing my hammer, but this will do for now.”

Neither laughed, but they didn’t need to.  The heart of one was felt, in tone, in smile, and in tight embrace as they grabbed each other’s wrists, Aidau hoisting Dume back up to steady feet.  Silence was all they needed.

“Toa!  Toa please!”  They turned.  The moment was gone but in its stead came someone much more important: Kamate, body shaking, lungs gasping.  He barely had enough energy to stop safely at their feet.  “We need…it’s time…we…he…”  The Onu-Matoran’s breaths were taking heavier priority.

“Easy miner.  Start slow,” Aidau comforted, less attitude in his tone this time.  It was hard to say whether it was sincerity or fatigue that kept it at bay.

Kamate let a deeper breath enter.  It stilled the shivers in his armor, if nothing else.  Dume looked up, to the hatch Kamate’s footprints led back to.  He seemed hopeful for another sight, and simultaneously expectant that he wouldn’t find it.  All the same, it beared asking outright.

“Where’s Mataku?”

“The skittish one?”  Aidau asked, surprised the Matoran was even relevant.  “I thought he ran.”

“He did,” Kamate confirmed, his voice finally finding some clarity.  “To the tunnels.  To…to me…”  Dume placed a hand on his shoulder, guiding the Matoran’s gaze up to his.

“Kamate, answer me.  Where is he?”

Kamate shook his head.  “We need to finish this.  We need to finish it now.

“But what—“ Aidau tried to interject.

“You don’t understand!  He won’t hold out forever.  It has to be now!”

Dume finally understood.  More bitterly, Aidau did too.

The Steltian grew tired now.  Leaking fluids, sheer pain, plain exhaustion, something slowed his feet, and it filled Mataku with the first oasis of relief he’d felt in quite some time.  At long last, his pursuer fell on weary knees, his weight enough to shake mountains.  Mataku wondered if now was worth a cheer.

Then he was somewhere else.

He was on the ground now, and his arm…why couldn’t he move his arm?  Something felt wrong, an entire body built improper.  Metal and muscle tucked into uncomfortable places.  Made that way, by…by…

Someone hit me.

Mataku’s head still moved, and his eyes still worked, and with both he could see; another Steltian towered over him, interchangeable as the rest, separated only by the cold boredom on his face.

“That got old,” he said plainly, as if he’d done something as mundane as switch up a tune at the bar, not brutally cripple a Matoran with one blow.

A finality dawned on Mataku, more real, more sure than any time his nerves had tried to insist it before: he was about to die.  And all he could do was laugh.  It hurt to laugh.  It was more of a cough.  His lungs felt too misplaced to manage a proper one, but still he laughed.  The bored bruiser cocked his head, perplexed.

“If that…got old…” Mataku rasped, answering the unasked question.  “...have we got the show for you.”

Dume and Aidau placed parallel hands upon the ground.  Their entire bodies tensed and arched with concentration.  A few feet away, Carapar managed to roll his cocoon over to face them from behind.  His still-free head darted about, trying to make sense of what was about to happen.

“W-what do you think you’re doing?”

Dume smiled to himself.  “You said you wanted Mata Nui to see you.”


“And He will.”  His fingers dug into the soil, glowing red with elemental power.   “He could use a laugh.”

Aidau’s hands matched them.  In one smooth motion, their muscles released all at once.  Their actions synchronous, their duty synonymous, the two Toa moved as one.  Their power poured through the soil, twin streams of fire and ice bursting to life and snaking towards the tunnel, and diving into the shadows.  Deep inside, the two coalesced, letting a bubble of whistling steam gather between them.  Building, fuming, until they were fit a good POP to propel each either way.  And the rest was torn asunder.

Columns of red and white shot into the sky across the plains.  Forts all around fell away to rubble, ice impaling some with frosty spikes, fire melting others to pools of magma and slag, as their streams surged throughout the tunnels.  The earth laid itself bare, its wounds raw and free, as ruins flew for the sky.  Soldiers not already tossed away in the maelstrom were left only one choice: run.  Carapar roared in anguish as his halcyon shrines fell to ash around him.

Mataku could only see so much from his resting place, merely the columns piercing the clouds.  But he knew what it meant, and even now, could feel the flood of elements coursing below, destined as much for this place as all the rest.  The Steltian felt it too, the quakes strong enough to rattle even him.  His panicked eyes turned to the Matoran for some sort of comforting answer.  He had none to give.


He did.  Right out the gate.  His fellows soon followed.

Mataku let his broken body lie back, as relaxed as his state could allow him.  He watched as the towers of fire and ice stabbed the polluted heavens.  Their wake cast aside the smog and ebon clouds, bracks at first glance expanding forthwith until, at last, all the sky shined with light.  The fort and ground shook with a growing finality.  This place, too, would soon part the sky.  Mataku closed his eyes.  He couldn’t wait.  Nor would he need to for much longer.

For someone so quick to dissuade others from a lost cause, Kamate always seemed to find himself flag-bearer to one or another.  At home it was for the simpler things, forging a launcher last minute for the next hunt, catching a bovine Mukau despite it being well out of reach.  Later it was the war, already cast as the underdog with the odds stacked only higher with time.  And now it was searching for anything living amongst a smoking desolate pit, where nothing living could possibly dwell. 

But a Matoran was out here - a neighbor, an employee, a friend - and he was only here because of him.  Despite sending everyone else packing, he’d singled him out to stay.  Perhaps not by force, but Kamate knew all too well the power of words and coercion.  No one would say it, but this was his fault.

“Mataku!” he cried, hands vainly cupped for further volume.  He’d done so many times already to the same silent result, but he wasn’t ready to give up now.

Dume and Aidau followed behind him.  Their efforts were less vocal, but their strength proved useful parsing the rubble littering the place.  But not even they had found anything, living or…not.

“Mataku!” Kamate cried again.  They had to be here by now.  The land was almost unrecognizable, but his map still had enough left to work with.  This had to be where they parted.  Where Mataku had saved him, and stayed to keep it so.

Dume loomed behind him.  His arm was bent but restrained, unsure to stretch a comforting hand.  There would be a finality in that act, and he knew the Onu-Matoran wasn’t bereft of hope just yet.  But for Dume…it dwindled.  He and Aidau hadn’t held back, and he knew what they were capable of.

Something gasped in the rancid air.  Kamate bolted for the sound, Dume and Aidau close in tow.  Dume almost dared to hope.

“Here!  It came from here!”  Kamate gestured to a small patch of broken metal and burnt canvas.  Dume and Aidau nodded to one-another, their tasks already assigned.  One clasped an end of the metal fragment, the other another, and together they lifted the wreckage.  Held high, they tossed it to the rest, to reveal its guarded treasure: Mataku.  Battered, misshapen, heartlight flashing faintly, but it was him.

“Ka…mate…” Mataku whispered, voice distorted.  Despite his state, he inched his head to the side to properly face him.

“I’m here, Mataku.  I’m— it’ll be alright.”  Kamate grabbed a hand and held it in both of his.  His grip was tight and constricted, as if the effort alone could keep the life in him.

“Yes…it is…”  Mataku’s head rolled back, eyes facing upward to the clear-blue sky.  “Blue…”

“Yeah, it’s…it’s blue now.  The skylights can shine for you.”  He held Mataku’s hand closer, against his heartlight.  “We did it.”  

“Red…I see red too…up there…red…like they say the suns set over Metru Nui…red…lovely red…a hearth…bright and warm and…Kamate…it’s…”

“Hang tight.  We can fix you.  We just need— we need…”  He looked up to Aidau, to Dume, for an answer.  They had none.  He looked back down to Mataku.  “Home.  W-we’ll get you home.  To Atu-Koro.  Remember home?”


“What?” He sounded hurt.  You would think Kamate had offered all the riches of the world, only to be refused.

“...warm…red…hearth…” Mataku whispered for the last time.  His heartlight faded to black.

Kamate clutched the Matoran’s body to himself without a word, every muscle begging some higher power to bestow life back to it.  Dume only watched, while Aidau watched him.  He wouldn’t say it aloud - not here, now, in front of the Matoran - but the accusatory look to his brother said all it needed to: This is your fault.

Chronicler’s Records

The crowd remains silent.  What do you say to something like that?  Cheer?  Sigh?  Thankfully Dume clears the air with a few more words.

“The Barraki escaped in all the…commotion."  He seems lacking a better word.  "He gathered what forces remained and returned to his allies to the south.  I’m sure he hoped to bring them all - strike back with a vengeance - but the Makuta had rallied us in kind.  It all came to a swift end after that.”  He looks down, probably less proud of what came next.  “Aidau and I…we never spoke since then.”

Lygari hobbles over to provide some much-needed conversation.

“But…but the Matoran made his choice, did he not?  Made his choice and stood.  A-a noble choice, through which…even you still stand.”

Dume nods.  “Yes.  But to some, there are sacrifices too great to make.”  He reaches into his satchel.  The red Toa stone resurfaces, shining as ever.  He peers into its glow.  “But they loom all the same, and if we wish to protect those around us, we must choose to make them.  That duty holds as true for Matoran as it does for Toa.  We stand by one-another.”  He looks to his chosen Matoran, gathered around the Suva.  “As you will stand by each other.”  He marches to Lhikan first, and places his stone carefully in the Matoran’s shaky hands.  He pulls out more from his satchel, announcing each once their owner is bestowed their respective color.  “Lhikan.”  The red.  “Naho.”  The blue.  “Colqi.”  The white.  “Doucasse.”  The green.  “Motara.”  The brown.  Only one of black remains.  That’s when he looks to the crowd, and once again sees me.  He smiles.  “And Kamate, old friend.”

For a second I think my heartlight stops.  I can’t think.  I can’t…I can’t even speak, but a hundred prying eyes remind me I should probably do something.  My legs do the work, put on automation and marching me to the stage.  They carry me all the way to the Suva, and Dume before it.  I bow - frankly I can’t think of anything else to do - before Dume places the stone in my hands.  I finally return his smile.

“I’m honored,” I mutter, only soft enough for us to hear.

Lygari swoops in before the momentum can stall.  No time for sappy moments I suppose. “Behold, Dume’s chosen, Mata Nui’s chosen!  Toa of our glorious tomorrow!  May Mata Nui’s will shine through them!”

“May Mata Nui’s will shine through them!” the crowd echoes.

They file out soon after.  I notice Motara makes a particularly quick break for the boats.  Guess some of us can’t keep from work for long.  I envy him.  The other “chosen” linger a bit longer to absorb the festivities, but one excuse or another pulls them to the exit not far behind.  No doubt they bear their own duties to attend to, back home.  Best to get one’s dwelling in order before uprooting their life entirely for one anew.

The rest move more gradually.  A few pats hit my back from interchangeable faces, telling me how honored I am, how proud these strangers are of me.  It’s all a little surreal to process.  I let them pass, thank them in kind, and remain, until the temple is left in silence.

I breathe.  I flex my fingers.  I remind myself that this is real, that the stone in my hand is real, and all not some figment of a dream gone wild.  I’m going to be a Toa.  I’ll be able to move the very earth with my hand, my mask will finally be enabled the power to see the unseen, and my village…Atu-Koro will never know danger ever again.  But I need one more thing before I go.

I find him on a balcony, overlooking the silver protodermis sea that spans the temple and the city.  It already carries so many ships homeward bound.  It might be the only chance most of their passengers will ever have to be here, at Metru Nui itself, and yet…this one little ceremony was all they needed to be satisfied.  Dume seems less so.

“Plan to stick around a little while longer?” I ask.

“For a time.  Lygari intends to arrange a list of island governments in need of new leadership.  ‘Fresh protodermis,’ as he put it.”

“Maybe this place could use some of that.”  I’m anything but subtle.

Dume chuckles at the prospect.  “Perhaps, someday.  But even I will have things to learn before affording that much ambition.”

“Pfft, Lygari’d probably just give his seat to you.”

“My point exactly.”  He gives me a knowing look.  “Such power is earned, not taken.”

I look down at the Toa stone in my hands.  I give it a soft press to remind myself it isn’t just some painted lightstone.  It still doesn’t feel quite real…and yet a weight lurks in there too, pulling it down.

“Did…did I earn this?’ I finally ask.  Dume doesn’t answer.  I’m sure he thinks he doesn’t need to, that I should know him better than that.  But still, even after all this time, a thought remains.  “It should’ve been me.”

Dume turns to me with a disappointed scowl.  “He made a choice, Kamate.”

“Only because I refused to make mine.”  I hold the stone up to my eye.  “You know what first went through my head when he stepped up like that?”

“You were proud of him.”

“That too, but, something…something ugly inside felt almost…relieved that it was him.  Him, and not me.  And that never went away.”  I lower the stone, and glance down the yawning abyss that leads to the sea below.  The stone’s lurking weight pulls harder.  “Dume…how can I be a Toa with a thing like that inside me?”

Dume stares at Metru Nui’s twinkling skyline, kios of labor in continual lustrous motion.

“I never desired to be a Toa.”

I have to double-take to ensure I heard him right.  “What do you mean?”

“I was content as a Matoran.  Without any Toa to rely upon, we relied on ourselves, and each other.  Entire militias came to be under my eye, and we defended against anything that came to do us harm.”  He looks down.  “It was not until we’d made a name for ourselves that we were worthy of a Toa’s attention.”  He infuses more malice in the word than I’ve ever heard from anyone.  It feels wrong.

“And…then you became a Toa?”

“I was offered the title, yes.  And it sickened me.”

“But you wanted to protect your people!  How better to do that than as…as a Toa!”  I don’t know why I’m getting so invested.  Why should this bother me?

“At the time they were worthless to me.  Powerful, yes, more so than any Matoran could dream of, but also a hindrance.  A permit to stagnate, to shirk greater duties and resign yourself.  Why be better when Toa can be better for you?

I look him up and down, as if I need reminding of what he eventually chose.  “But you became a Toa.”

“I was tricked into becoming one.  I won’t name him, for the sake of whichever poor fool that reveres him, but he saw something in me.  ‘The heartlight of a Toa, too large for the meager trappings of a Matoran.’  We argued for some time when I refused.  I thought that’d be the end of it.”  He held up his larger Toa hand.  “But in the end he didn’t leave the choice to me.”

“I’m…I’m sorry.”

“Nothing to be for.”

“Not for that, just…I’m happy you became a Toa.”

“As am I.”  I think he can tell my Kanohi's starting to spin.  “After a time.”

“What won you over?”

He winks at me.  Maybe I don’t need the answer spoken.  All he is, who he’s touched, it should speak for itself, but still…

“Is that it?”

“Inspiration is a powerful gift, more so than any feat or colored stone.  It’s an honor to give, the greatest we can.  You should know.”

My other hand clasps a hilt at my side.  I pull it, raising a dagger to my chest.  It’s frayed, but just clean enough that I can make out my Akaku staring back at me through the stains of rust and gray protodermis.

“Yeah…maybe I should.”

Dume taps my shoulder, gesturing to the docks below.  Only one ship remains.

“I believe it’s time.”

I sheath the dagger and gaze at the Toa stone one last time.  I hope it makes my embrace around Dume’s legs that much tighter.

“I don’t think ‘Thanks’ will ever be enough.”

Dume wraps one arm around in an awkward attempt to return it.

“It will not need to be.”  He kneels down, putting us level.  “When we meet again, it’ll be as a cross, old Turaga, and a very noble Toa.  Of that, I am sure.”

He rises, and yet, not so much as to tower over me.  The gap between us feels all the shorter.  What I wouldn’t give to see how Mataku would look in comparison.  To see the shadow he’d cast over either of us.

With that we depart, below and above.  Futures set, and much work to do.

To Turaga Dume, Chieftain of Metru Nui,

It has come to my attention that some of these entries may perhaps be too…liberal, with the details they divulge.  Of yourself in particular.  Are there any revisions or detractions you’d wish to make before my entry’s publication?  It’s no trouble, of course.  Make notes at your leisure.  I’m sure there are more than a few things you’d prefer left out.  Just submit them when you can.


Kodan, Chronicler of Metru Nui

To Kodan, Chronicler of Metru Nui

No.  It stays.  All of it.


Turaga Dume

Take heart, Spirit-born,

Both smallers and greaters,

For both share the light,

In the eyes of Creators.

--Afterword to Tiarun’s Toa Talks and Travel Thoughts, Issue #459, written by Toa Colqi