Disclaimer: The Toa Rohaya and the story belong to me, Nuju belongs to Lego, along with Bionicle in general.
As usual, the main hall of the stronghold was too cold for Stara's taste. Coming from a southern island chain where it was warm for most of the year, if not all of it, she was extremely aware of the temperature of the northern-placed Rohaya, where the winters were very cold. Normally, the two Toa of Fire and the two Toa of Ice here would use their powers to affect the room and make the temperature for everyone.
This time, however, it was on purpose.
The rafters above Stara's head were adorned with icicles created by Calhoun and Crevan, the Toa of Ice, and the temperature of the room was just low enough to keep them from melting. Toa of the Green Matsu had outdone himself in coaxing his plants to grow – they were thriving well, even with the cold here and outside. Garlands of holly and ivy wound around the pillars, covering the stone imitations carved into the columns. Poinsettias by the dozen were sitting in the corners and on the tables where the Toa Rohaya sat at for meals. There was no sign of mistletoe yet, though there were rumors that Matsu had hung some up in various places. Stara sincerely hoped that she wouldn't be caught under it tonight.
The Toa of Lightning took a look around her. Toa of Sonics Baird was tucked beside Sirien at one of the tables, plucking the strings of the harp he had. Despite being vulnerable to his own element, it had never stopped him from playing music or telling stories, which was partly why had left his homeland.
A larger group of her teammates – about ten of them – were sitting together, drinking the berry drink that Toa of Water Amaya had helped Matsu brew weeks before. Those two were part of the group, laughing at a story that Ares was telling them. Stara observed the room, trying to find her team leader, but wasn't surprised the slightest when she couldn't see neither Kronus nor Eos in the room. A small smirk appeared on her face as she remembered how the Toa of Gravity acted around the Toa of Water. He was a smooth talker, able to slide into any conversation at any time without a hitch, but that skill always seemed to disappear when she was around.
Stara sighed. They were all together, celebrating the end of a year and the slow return of summer, but she was always on the outside, despite her being in the room with them. They didn't seem to know why she felt an aversion to these celebrations, save Kronus, and he would never to tell without her giving permission to do so first. But because of her exiled status, as a condemned murderer, she always felt as if there was a barrier between her friends and herself.
She began to leave the room to keep her discomfort from becoming unbearable, but was stopped as a group of four – compromised by Alvis, Hesprides, Althea, and Catriona – trooped in and made a beeline for her.
"Happy Holidays, Stara!" squealed Alvis, whose bubbly mood nearly made Stara laugh because of the contrast between them. While they both were Toa of Lightning, Stara had an emotional mask that echoed that of a Toa of Ice. Alvis, on the other hand, had a cheerful personality that was infectious to those around her – most couldn't help but be happy when she was around.
"Same to you, sister," Stara said, reigning in her amusement enough so it wasn't obvious, even as she continued to make her way out.
"Why are you leaving, sister?" Catriona asked, the Toa of Healing's light blue eyes glinting curiously as she examined her friend behind her Matatu. "Surely you wouldn't want to return to your room tonight, with what the celebrations for the year's end."
"I'm not," Stara said quickly, averting her gaze from her friends. "I'm … I'm just going outside for a bit." Before she could be questioned again, she brushed by them and all but fled their presence.
Outside, she climbed onto the parapet and walked along its length. The view here was a spectacular one, where one could see much of the island there. The volcano seemed to be celebrating the year's end as well as the Toa, since it was erupting with spectacular fountains of sparks and magma robustly, though there were no lava flows coming down the canals that Cargan and Demitrius, the Toa of Stone and Earth, had created years before, when they had first come to Rohaya. The snow that had fallen into the trenches hissed as it melted, turning to ice water as it went.
The cold here was numbing, but she didn't mind so much now, since she wasn't socially uncomfortable here. Alone … that was where she belonged, as an exile. On what should have been the highest of emotional highs this year, she was feeling depressed, since she knew that she shouldn't be here. The law stated that.
Stara gave a sigh of longing. What she would give, to just be someone who didn't have to be confined to shadows anymore … to be able to mingle with her friends downstairs without feeling like a crasher to a private party. Or better yet, to just feel like her old self. She sighed again.
A fiery-hot hand rested on her shoulder, and she automatically schooled her face into the hard mask she wore almost all the time as she snapped her face toward the other.
Toa of Fire Egan stared back at her, his deep blue eyes momentarily startled before he asserted himself again. "Althea was worried about you, she thought you could use some company …" he said, voice trailing off slightly.
Althea. Stara cursed the mother-Gukko-like Toa in her mind. The Toa of Healing, while she meant well, always seemed to hover over the other Toa, worrying when they didn't seem happy. And of course, she would send Egan to handle it for her. Egan had a feel of calmness to him that made others want to be around him, even her. It was something like Alvis's bubbly persona – something that spread to those around them.
Of course, the same could be said for Stara herself, during the times when she was brooding; times like now. Those around her seemed to grow more thoughtful, more insightful, when she was in her melancholy state.
"I'm curious, Stara," Egan said after a pause when the Toa of Lightning did not reply, "why do you always get like this during the holidays? I'm not trying to pry," he added hastily, like he feared he had offended her in some way, "but you never seem very happy during times when you ought to be happy."
Stara simply looked out at the volcano, saying nothing, avoiding his gaze, fearing it would give her away.
"Is it about that tribe?" asked Egan, referring to Stara's cover story that she and Kronus had fabricated to hide her true colors. The story had been that a tribe of Frostelus had destroyed her entire village in a raid, killing all but her, and she had struck out on her own, grieving her friends.
It was more true than the Toa of Gravity realized, though. Sekmet, that Toa wannabe, and her supporters represented the Frostelus in her mind, and they had killed off the aid that Stara's own small group of friends who had stayed at her side had provided her, forcing her out on her own.
Egan was right, in a sense. "Yes," she admitted, looking back at the Toa of Fire.
"Look, I'm not asking you to not mourn them, but I don't think they'd want you to be moping around on a night like this. They'd want you to be happy, just for one time, to not think too much of them and just enjoy yourself."
The other Toa had a point. Besides, the others in her village had gotten what they wanted: she was gone. So maybe she would always feel awkward because she knew more then she was telling about herself. Her past was there, and she couldn't change it, even though she hid it from sight.
Stara smiled – something rare – and turned to the other Toa. "Thanks, brother," she said, with real feeling in it.
Just as she said it, a burst of cheering came from down below. "Mata Nui, midnight already?" Egan asked to nobody in particular.
"Apparently," the Toa of Lightning replied, glancing up at the moons hanging directly over their heads.
On Rohaya, it was a tradition amongst the Toa there to give gifts to each other when midnight came on the last night of the old year. Egan now produced his and gave it to Stara, accompanying it with a soft "Happy New Year."
It was a large topaz, gold as the suns and as big as both of her fists wrapped around each other. The gem had no flaws in it, though its sides seemed suspiciously dulled – something that hinted that he had gotten it from the Razor's Edge. "It … it's beautiful, Egan, thank you." Rather guiltily, she added, "I didn't get you anything … I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I'll just settle for being your friend. Would that work?"
She smiled again. "Yes, if you want it." Even as the words left her mouth, something hit her in the mask, accompanied by a few snickers. Both Toa looked back at the entrance downstairs to see Toa of Air Washi and Matsu sprinting away.
Stara looked down at the ground where the sprig of mistletoe had fallen, suddenly feeling rather uncomfortable.
"Urm … we don't need to do this, if you don't want to," Egan said, sounding just as awkward. He rose his hand and pointed at the fig, ready to burn it out of existence if he commanded it to.
Stara shrugged. "Who cares? So we'll be on the receiving end of a few jokes for a day or two. What do we have to lose?"
The Toa of Fire smiled comfortingly at the female Toa in front of him as he moved in gently to kiss her …
Stara jolted awake in the dark hold. As she ran over the memories that the dream had aroused – for it had been just a dream of the past – a single tear slid down her face, mercifully not accompanied by lightning. Egan had been one of her closest friends, one of those who had seen something behind her cold mask and had tried to bring her out of it.
She had gained and regained so much now: her real home, her Toa pride, real love. But she had lost her team in exchange, which seemed too steep a price to pay to her.
She could sense someone in the room with her, and tried to contain her sorrow. The last thing she wanted to do was to wake that person up.
Too bad that person was already awake.
Hands, soft and comfortably cool, gently touched her face and brushed the droplet of salty water away. Stara felt more then saw it freeze into crystal and hit the floor farther away as her Toa of Ice gently slipped his arms comfortingly around her.
"What is it, Stara?" Nuju murmured in her ear, his voice a soft whisper of quiet concern. If she was forced to choose only one thing she loved about him, it was that he wouldn't pry unless she gave some signal that it was alright to ask.
Stara shifted in his hold until her deep green eyes were looking into his ice blue ones. "Nothing, Nuju," she replied truthfully – there was nothing she could do to the past, and nothing she really wanted to tell him about this particular part of her past. Egan had just been a friend who she had been caught under the mistletoe with, but Nuju might assume it had been more. It was considered bad luck amongst Stara's tribe to be jealous of the dead for petty reasons.
"Nothing," she repeated, closing her eyes and laying her head on his shoulder. "It was just a dream."
Hope you like it.
C&C would be appreciated!