A while ago, I was sitting down, trying to study for finals, when I opened up a few files on the old desktop (we have a new one; Mom took out the old one for me to use for typing, since it doesn't have Internet). One of the stories I pulled up was an old request by Japoro – Toa of Ice (the original got eaten in the BZP Server Burp, and I haven't really gotten around to reposting it), a songfic called "Believe". I looked at it, figured I could do better than that, and got this.

Disclaimer: Story belongs to me, song belongs to Staind; anyone under the delusion that I own Bionicle must get a reality check in the shape of a sledgehammer to the skull, pronto. The original request came from Japoro – Toa of Ice, so creds for the story idea goes to him. Warning: This does contain spoilers for the sequel to LST, so read with caution.

Believe

Stiaye sat alone on the hillside that overlooked her village, staring into the brilliant pink, orange, and indigo sunset. It was times like this that made her ache to have her easel and paints beside her. She was an artist by nature, longing to capture the beauty all around her, be it a sunset, the islands around the one she sat on, the ocean, and even the murkiness of her dreams, which were usually forgotten by the time she woke up but still tried to immortalize on canvas and stone. Increasingly, though, her chances to let color flow from her brushes had become thinner as the years had flown by.

I sit alone and watch the clock

Trying to collect my thoughts

All I think about is you

Thin cries came on the salty breeze, blowing up from the coast, and the Xi-Matoran sighed as she stood up, stretching her too-relaxed muscles and brushing heather off her armor. As Turaga Reya's left-hand Matoran, she was responsible to help tie up the boats in their harbor for the night – though as time went by from that horrible night, over 1000 years ago, she had sensed herself becoming both the left and the right hands.

Shaking the thoughts from her head – and squelching the memories they were bound to surface – she began running towards the cliffs.

And so I cry myself to sleep

And hope the devil I don't meet

In the dreams that I live through

After the last skiff had been moored in Amara's shallow harbor – a job that left her biceps aching and her spine rigid – Stiaye leaned inside the walls of Xi-Koro's wall, stretching out her tired muscles and hearing some satisfying pops from her stiff joints. Once she felt somewhat better, she walked back to her hut, situated in the southeastern part of the village. The original architects of the village had planned out the village's shape to echo the symbol of the Three Virtues, and this had been reflected and respected as new homes had been built over the millennia since the Amari Islands had first been colonized, near the beginning of the universe and the rise of the Great Spirit Mata Nui.

Believe in me

I know you've waited for so long

Her home reflected her usual state of mind – busy – and was cluttered with half-empty bottles of paint, brushes crusty with dried paint on their bristles, and paintings in various stages of completion. Instead of taking up her work again, though, she reached beneath her bed and rummaged through the boxes, feeling around for a certain painting. Despite her efforts to forget her prior thoughts, they had lingered in her mind, and they had made her urgently want to look for something in particular.

With a low cry of triumph, Stiaye freed a piece of artwork from other finished products, blowing the thin layer of dust off its surface and examining the paint that had been melded to the stone. It hadn't been her favorite thing to create, but she felt it had to put it in paint, though she took great care in not showing it to the others.

Believe in me

Sometimes the weak become the strong

The vast majority of the painting was red, the color of blood, beside orange, gold, and other fire colors – representing the torches that had been lit the night Toa Stara had been exiled from the Amari Islands for murder. In the center of the piece that recollected memory, the Toa herself was painted. She had deliberately made her portrait to be slightly like a caricature, but looking into the Toa's soulful green eyes, somehow hard and soft at the same time, cold and warm, the Xi-Matoran couldn't recall why.

Because she's a murderer, she told herself sternly. Come on, you know better! We're better without that Toa in our islands. Quit thinking about her.

But she couldn't help it. Despite her exile, Stiaye couldn't deny the fact she and Stara had been the best of friends before she had been turned into a Toa and all Karzahni broke loose. And even over a millennium later, the Matoran of Lightning couldn't change that she still wondered if they'd missed something along the way.

Believe in me

This life's not always what it seems

A loud banging on the door tore Stiaye from her thoughts, and she hastily shoved the painting back under the bed as she called, "Come in; it's unlocked."

Scylla opened the door, grey eyes curious. "Something up, Sti?" she asked, calling the other Matoran by her nickname.

Stiaye shook her Matatu-masked head; she didn't want to tell her friend what had been on her mind. Not yet, at least. "Nothing, Scylla. You just startled me, that's all."

"Oh. Well, the Turaga wanted to talk to you in her hut tomorrow morning," the other Xi-Matoran said, and she quickly withdrew from the hut before their conversation became even more awkward, which a lot of the conversations had been since Stara's exile. Stiaye couldn't put her finger down on how she knew, but somehow the exile and the freezing of the village's people emotionally were connected; the only question was how she knew, and how to restore themselves to their normal selves.

Believe in me

'Cause I was made for chasing dreams

Those were thoughts for later, though; she felt sleep creeping up on her, fuzzing up her mind. Yawning tiredly, she crawled beneath the light sheets on her bed – the Matoran of the Amari Islands never had to buy heavy blankets for their houses, since the temperature was always comfortably warm, even at night – and laid her head down on the pillow, letting her dreams take her where they would.

But where they took her was strange: to an island with a smoking mountain, covered in trees she had never seen before, in this tropical archipelago: darker, with prickly leaves, and reaching up to heights their native plants never could. And on this island, she ran, hearing noises up ahead, but never getting close to pulling back the branch that would reveal what it was.

And when she woke, she remembered none of it.

All the smiles you've had to fake

And all the shit you've had to take

Just to lead us here again

Morning found the artistic Xi-Matoran in the hut of her Turaga, sitting across from her and beside Sekmet, the right-hand Matoran of Reya. Like most of the days after Stara's exile, the other Xi-Matoran looked rather withdrawn – which, given that two of her best friends had been murdered by Stara, was rather understandable. After all had been said and done, Sekmet – who had been looked upon as a future Toa, before Stara had been unwisely chosen instead – had been left still a Matoran, minus two friends, and her heart crushed. With her increased introversion, Stiaye had found herself doing both sets of work – her own and Sekmet's, whose position seemed completely ceremonial by now. She was just surprised that Reya hadn't retired the Hau-masked Matoran from her position before now.

"Anything new?" she asked, taking her thoughts away from the path they were on now.

The Turaga shook her head, the reflective face of her Noble Iden shining in the sunlight leaking through the windows. "Unless you count Selvan sending a letter – she's planning to come and visit in a few days, so we should get the hut ready for her. She's not planning to stay longer than a week, though."

Now that her thoughts had been awakened, Stiaye could hear the impassiveness that filled Reya's voice; even the thought of an old friend couldn't give her more than the slightest quiver of joy and excitement. Fearful wonder filled her: what had happened to them?

She shook it off for later; she had to pay attention. "We'll do that." "We'll do that," even though she'd bet her paintbrushes that her statement would wind up being "I'll do that" before the Toa of Water came.

I never have the things to say

To make it all just go away

To make it all just disappear

Normally, visitors drew attention from the villagers of Xi-Koro, though it was mostly because it gave them an excuse to lay bets on which of them would be leaving the islands in a hurry. The vast majority of those that stayed for a spell were rich fool Matoran, who thought living in the Amaris was a breeze and they didn't have to do any work. Once they found out that wasn't so, a lot of the stuffier ones packed up and left a week later, but some stayed, liking the simple atmosphere.

Usually that was the case; these days, not so much. Still, they managed to become slightly more animated, since it was rare that a Toa visited: the travel from the wider world wasn't easy or convenient; only traders and snobby tourists made the trip regularly, and they were usually gone before long.

While Stiaye had seen paintings of Reya's old friend and teammate Selvan before, none of them had prepared her for the keen-eyed, tough-looking Water Toa that moored at the harbor the day she arrived. When the Matoran of Lightning had shaken her hand in welcome, she had felt flesh calluses under the armor, proof that she was no soft-hearted Northern Ga-Matoran, who would study all day and preach caution and peace until the Mahi came home and a battle was over: this was someone who was out working hard all day, not hesitating to fly at an enemy if a battle loomed. Stiaye respected that kind of person.

After introductions were made, Selvan eyed her with a look that made the Xi-Matoran feel she was being looked through, despite the fact the Toa was wearing a Rode instead of an Akaku. "We are well-met," she finally said; the Water Toa's voice had an unnatural harshness to it, like she had sand in her throat that she couldn't wash out completely. "Reya has told me great things about you, Stiaye of the Amaris."

Though she was pleased by the praise both Toa and Turaga had given her, Stiaye felt slightly uncomfortable by the words said, doubled by the scratchy voice of their guest. When she began leading the way to Xi-Koro, she made a point in putting some space between them.

Believe in me

I know you've waited for so long

Reya was waiting in the center of the village for them; over the last thousand years, she had been suffering a type of pain in her joints that made it hard for her to go very far these days. While the two friends exchanged formalities and discussed things that Stiaye had little knowledge or interest in, Stiaye herself loitered nearby, just behind a wall, waiting for a signal from either of them that she wasn't needed.

Just when she was about to leave on her own steam, she overheard something that interested her very much. "There is one thing I do not understand, Reya: you told me once how your people pass the burden of power down through your tribe years ago. Yet I have heard no mention of an Amari Toa from either the news of the sailors I have met or the gossip of your people. Can you tell me who she is, and why I have not heard of her?"

Stiaye cringed, beginning to slink away. She didn't want to hear what came from her Turaga's lips, but she didn't get away fast enough to evade hearing the reply. "Stara was our Toa, but she committed a crime against us: she killed two of the villagers. As such, we sent her into exile."

Those words, heartlessly reminding the Lightning Matoran's betrayal to her best friend, welled up guilt in her. That was natural; expected.

Selvan's response, though, was not.

"Why are you lying to me, Reya?"

Stiaye's eyebrows shot up her forehead in surprise, that surprise echoed by her Turaga's words. "Come again?"

Come again, indeed, she thought to herself, daring to peek around the wall to hear better.

Believe in me

Sometimes the weak become the strong

Selvan's Rode was glowing faintly in the mid-morning sunlight, staring Reya down. "I asked you why you were lying to me," she repeated in that rough voice. "Stara did not kill the Matoran you said you did."

Shock filled her, as Stiaye felt something in her give: they had been wrong? Had they been condemning the wrong person all this time?

Reya apparently shared her sentiments. "How do you know?"

"I wear the Mask of Truth, Reya," replied the Water Toa, her chin raised to reflect her full certainty in her words. "No matter how old the lie is, I cannot be deceived. Stara did not kill those Matoran; she is innocent."

The pain filled her with a new strength, and unwilling tears leaked from Stiaye's blue eyes. A choked sob threatened her composure. She had been part of a conspiracy she had believed, even though she had neither questioned the logic nor dared to speak out against Stara's exile, fearing being condemned as well.

All of that had been a lie. She had lost her friend for nothing, and the killers of Luxa and Narissa was still unknown.

Believe in me

This life's not always what it seems

A hand gently came down on Stiaye's shoulder. Through tear-streaked eyes, she saw her leader looking at her. Reya's eyes were a little watery, but her voice was steady and calm as she said, "We'll find out, Stiaye. We'll clear Stara's name. Go find the case file that detailed everything that happened, and we'll go over the evidence again. But be discreet about it; we don't want to rile up the village again."

Stiaye nodded mutely, taking a moment to brush her tears aside and regain her composure. Once she was calm again, she took off for the double-hut of Steena, the village Chronicler who contained all records of crime in the islands.

Once the footsteps of the Xi-Matoran faded, Reya looked back at her friend, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry that you're getting caught up in our mistakes, old friend."

"On the contrary," Selvan replied, smiling slightly, "I quite welcome this. It's rare that I get the chance to help crack a cold case."

Believe in me

'Cause I was made for chasing dreams

Stiaye shifted uncomfortably shifted in her chair, eyes bleary as she reread the records Steena had innocently handed her, then passed them over to Reya and Selvan. "Nothing," she said, frustrated. "The evidence is written there, but I can't pick out anything new from the carvings or the words." Edgily, she peered out the window, where she saw the Twin Suns beginning to set. The fact she had spent over half the day reading made her squirm even more: while she didn't mind reading, this set of documents had bored her to tears after one reading.

Still, she held her tongue about voicing her complaints. Even though she knew that the Turaga and the Toa would have sympathy, she didn't want to say that this was boring, since this was her friend's fate they were discussing. She wanted to stay around for any choice that was made in this.

The Water Toa scanned them again. "My Rode doesn't work on tablets," she muttered, a frustrated frown creasing her brows. "It only works on spoken words and illusions." She shook her head stubbornly. "But we can't let that stop us."

Both residents of Xi-Koro shook their heads. They owed Stara's memory more than this.

"Reya," Selvan added on. "Is the Matoran that discovered the bodies still around? Sekmet?"

The Turaga nodded assent. "She is. You wish to question her?"

"I would. But this can wait until tomorrow morning; we are cross-eyed from staring at words and from contorting our brains in different variations of scenarios." Selvan rose to her feet, the other females following suit. "For now, let us enjoy this night, and rest our minds."

Agreement was quickly reached – Stiaye was longing to get her hands on her tools to try and paint something that reflected her state of mind – and they left the Turaga's hut into the heart of Xi-Koro. The people were winding down on their day's activities, and had gathered near the suva, telling stories and jokes, reading, or else just hanging out. Stiaye noticed that there was a chill to the conversations, like she had noticed in her discussion with Reya a few days prior, and again wondered: What had happened to them?

It's my life

It's my choice

It was a new-moons night, one of those nights that they could be seen by the eyes of the living. They watched with cold eyes, casting their curse upon the village that had betrayed their Toa's trust. Yet they knew that it wasn't entirely their fault – the fault was caused by one of their own; the rest had merely been duped. Yet since they had played party to the falsehood, the entire village was playing host to the freezing of their souls.

But they were discovering the truth, slowly. Finally, the Toa was close to having her honor restored, no matter how long it may be until she found out. Yet if they let this secret investigation go on as it was, they would go nowhere fast – long enough to give the traitor enough time to discover what was going on and flee, if that was her wish.

It was time for them to take a hand.

Those years ago, they had watched as the Toa had been unjustly exiled, unable to help except by avenging her loss of face by freezing those involved. Not now. They could take a stand this time, and accelerate the events in their favor, make sure that justice was done.

And they would, as they prepared their entrance. It would terrify all that watched – and it would do what it needed to do.

Hear my words

Hear my voice

The burst took them all by surprise.

In shock, all of Xi-Koro watched as their stone suva abruptly erupt into flame, creating a tower of orange that reached for the dimming sky. Sparks spat out from the column, threatening the roofs of nearby huts, but the problem was quickly dealt with as Selvan blasted their tops with water, snuffing out the potential blazes. However, when she tried to do the same to the pillar that came from the suva, the Water Toa found her efforts doing nothing.

Then things got even more terrifying.

As Stiaye watched, feet desperately urging her to run but unable to make herself move, she saw inky blots appearing from the smoke cloud that was quickly forming above their heads. Those blots quickly manifested as coal-black birds, with ebony talons, ruby-red eyes, and beaks like bronze sabers, screaming into the ears of the gathered Matoran, all whom screamed with fear in reply. This was like one of the ancient myths they had heard of, and their fear of the unknown coupled with that knowledge to make them petrified.

Three more blots, bigger than the crows that swept through the air above their heads, appeared before the fiery suva, whirling in a circle dance with inky black, swirling like blood in the water. Despite herself, Stiaye watched, her artist's eyes memorizing them: despite the grotesque appearances of the newcomers, she would want to capture this event in paint one day.

Giant, black, ragged wings made hissing noises behind their owners as they spun in their wild dance, neon yellow irises glaring out at the people of Xi-Koro with red pupils, as the Matoran unwittingly inhaled the spores flung loose from the feathers. Talons tipped their feet and fingers, giant dagger-like teeth gaping from their maws, they screamed out words from another language that somehow made sense to the onlookers. They were the songs the condemned heard on their way to Karzahni, the last things they heard in the world they knew. The Xi-Matoran feared for their lives and sanity.

But as abruptly as they had come, all of it – the fire, the birds, and the three creatures – vanished without trace, leaving only lazily-drifting feathers and the stench of smoke to mark their presence. Yet they knew they hadn't vanished completely: all of Xi-Koro could feel eyes glaring at them from the shadows, seeing and unseen. It made chills fill them, like tiny, ice-cold insects had crawled up their spines and hidden in the back of their brains; almost like the reverse of a brain freeze.

Then the abruptly silent village heard soft shrieks, coming from amongst their number, near the back of the center square.

And just believe

The Xi-Matoran parted their crowd, heads and bodies turning to try and find its source. Reya, Selvan, and Stiaye pushed their way through to behold Sekmet, hunched half-in and half-out of a dark spot, arms wrapped around herself like she was in the freezing cold. Her eyes were flicking from side to side, like she was trying to track the motions of invisible beings, and her breathing was as ragged as a marathon runner.

Feeling like they were rapidly losing what little control they had over the situation, the Turaga of Lightning crouched down, wincing as her joints creaked in protest. Her keen ears picked up mutterings the Matoran as she breathed harshly and raggedly. "What is it?" she asked, gripping the shoulder of the trembling villager.

"They know," whimpered the female, eyes flicking back and forth, voice rising thinly. "They know!"

"Know what?" the Turaga demanded, starting to feel that she was losing what little control she had in this situation.

Selvan seemed to understand some of the villager's babbling. Her gold eyes widened in shock as her Rode glowed in the night. "You did it?" the Toa of Water asked softly, horror in her tone. "You aided it?"

Sekmet nodded rapidly, her breathing still harsh. "The Makuta," she sniveled. "The Makuta! She came to me, told me that I had been robbed by Stara, told me that she could help me gain what should've been mine! She said . . . she said to place her in a situation that would oust her, make her removed from the village, that would result in her power being mine!" Her voice had sped up, the words she spoke becoming harder and harder to comprehend. Cringing, like she feared punishment if she did not continue speaking, she kept rambling, ignoring the appalled looks on the faces of her people as they bore witness to her shocking confession.

"She told me to wait until Stara left the village, when there were no storms to get in the way. Told me to bring two of my friends into the mountains, where she would make Stara seem like a murderer. Didn't like it, but she told me it was worth it. But it wasn't . . . I never gained that power. Never became a Toa when she was exiled. Lost two friends for nothing; lost everything. She just wanted me as a puppet . . ."

As the Matoran dissolved into another fit of sobs, Stiaye felt sick inside. This was what had caused her to lose her best friend? A disgruntled Matoran, leading her friends to their deaths for her own advancement and to discredit her rival, at the goading of a Makuta? Shame filled her, as she wished desperately that none of this had happened – or better, that she had stood up for Stara all those years ago. She had felt that something had been wrong, but she had ignored those instincts – and it had cost them.

And just who was this scheming Makuta, anyway?

I sit alone and watch the clock

Trying to collect my thoughts

And all I think about is you

"Who was the Makuta?" she demanded to know, angry for Stara's sake.

"Kiria," Sekmet whispered. "She said she was Kiria . . . oh Mata Nui, I'm sorry . . ." Once again, she dissolved into senseless babbles, and the Matatu-masked Matoran heard mutters sweep through the crowd behind her. A look confirmed the similar anger and sickness at how easily they had been fooled, making them guilty in convicting the wrong person.

Yet they were ready to work again, in what was probably their biggest strength and weakness: they were always ready to take action, but this oftentimes blinded her tribe from thinking of other things – like possible, different explanations.

Selvan hauled the gibbering Xi-Matoran roughly to her feet, her face betraying her disgust. "What is her punishment, my friend?" she asked, no mercy in her scratchy voice directed at the one she held upright.

If you believe in me

Life is not always what it seems

She never got an answer. Another explosion rushed into the ears of the village, and the Water Toa – along with the others in close proximity to the condemned Matoran – were flung back unceremoniously from her, forming a large area that was quickly filled by the three figures that had set the suva alight mere moments earlier. Their eyes glaring out at them, they blocked the way for the people of Xi-Koro, forming a living barrier between them and the Xi-Matoran that had confessed. Their ragged black wings spread open, their long feathers interweaving until Sekmet was hidden from view.

The tallest one spoke, addressing the Village of Lightning in a voice that sounded like many voices speaking together. "You will do nothing."

"Who are you?" yelled one of the other citizens in the crowd, as they helped the Toa of Water to her feet.

"Who we are is of no concern to you," spoke the smallest of them, her voice a chorus of many that echoed the largest one's voice. "But this wretch is ours. Mata Nui has given us alone this right."

Before any of the others could speak out, the trio turned their backs on them, revealing the slit in their backs that revealed the hollowness of their bodies, then folded their wings and converged completely on the trembling Sekmet. But what happened next was unknown to the rest until the end of time, as the giant flight of birds then swept down and twisted into a cyclone of feathers and jewel-bright eyes around the four. By the time they flew away and into the night sky, condemned Matoran and collectors had vanished completely.

And as they stared into the empty space that had been heavily occupied just seconds earlier, the citizens of Xi-Koro felt a lightening in their hearts, as fetters of ice they hadn't known existed broke and crumbled, releasing them from the emotionless state they had existed in for nearly a millennium.

Believe in me

Reya wasted no time wondering. Wheeling as fast as her aging body would allow her, she addressed the village. "We have all heard Sekmet's confession, and she says that she was partly responsible for the deaths of Luxa and Narissa. She has said that Stara had no hand in their deaths. Is there anyone that doubts this?"

None of those present raised their hands, and mutters of anger swept through the crowd like wildfire. Most of the grumbles had to do with Sekmet, angry at her deceit, and their own irritation at how easily they had fallen for it.

"She had spoken the truth," Selvan assured her old friend, fully recovered from being flung. "I heard sincerity in every word she had spoken."

Reya accepted the unneeded confirmation, than addressed her people again. "Stara has been proven innocent. We must find her and ask for forgiveness from her – since we are those who condemned her, we must right our wrong. Who will go and bring our message to her?"

Stiaye glanced around; nearly half the village looked ready to snap their hands into the air and volunteer. She wanted this as well, and she would do what it took to find her old friend.

She stepped forward to join Reya. "I will. I will go find Stara and bring word of her reprieve."

'Cause I was made for chasing dreams

"Do you think you can find her?"

"It may take a while to pick up on her trail, but I'm positive that I can."

"Excellent. When you find her . . ." Reya choked on her words slightly, but managed to recover and continue on. "Tell her everything. I don't care if it takes you hours, or if you need to get down on your knees and beg for her to listen to you; just make sure she hears you out."

Stiaye was grave as she nodded assent. "I will."

"I will bring you to the Southern Continent; I must return there anyway," Selvan said, focusing on the Xi-Matoran. "But if our paths go different ways, we will be forced to part."

Stiaye wished it wasn't so, but she knew that the Water Toa's primary concern was to her homeland; she was taking a major risk just visiting the Amari Islands for a day or two. Selvan could help them decipher a cold case, but finding a wayward Toa she had never met wasn't something she could afford to be worried about. Her thoughts were turned to her home, the same way the Xi-Matoran's own were turned away from it.

"I understand."

"Good. I will rouse you when we leave tomorrow." Selvan looked at her sternly. "Get some sleep. You have a long journey ahead of you, and we sail early."

Whispers of encouragement and good luck from her people followed Stiaye as returned back to the home she might not return to for a while, Reya escorting her there. "Best of luck," she murmured, passing a bag of widgets to finance the trip. "And may Mata Nui guide your path."

Believe in me

I know you've waited for so long

Believe in me

Sometimes the weak become the strong

When the suns rose, their rays found Stiaye standing on the bow of Selvan's sleek water craft. Unlike most of the boats the Matoran of the Amaris – which were predominantly propelled by oars and sails – this vessel was shooting through the southern currents by an engine, heading north for the wider universe.

As many of her thoughts were now, she was thinking about Stara. Over one thousand years . . . there was no doubt that her old friend's newfound anger at her village would take so much longer than that to vanish completely. Assuming she was even alive now, would she allow Stiaye to speak? Would she forgive Xi-Koro of its betrayal – and Stiaye herself?

Believe in me

This life's not always what it seems

Have faith, she told herself, the same way she had when those thoughts had come up, giving those questions the same answer. It can overcome all.

Believe in me

'Cause I was made for chasing dreams

XxX

This is Part Two of a three-part series of Short Stories that foreshadow events in the upcoming third part of the Heroes and Halflings epics. The first was Hero, and the third is soon to come.

Stay tuned, and hopefully Japoro enjoys this. =)

-Inferna