The next chapter.
I've noticed that I'm not getting as much review flow as I once did, so I'm hoping to somehow boost that and gain back some demographic. If all of you guys who read this think it's good, recommend it to others who like Bionicle stories. I promise it'll get better and better with each chapter . . . at least I'll try to make it better.
As a group, Lewa, Kopaka, Tahu and I walked through the marshy forest of Le-Wahi to the fiery kingdom of Ta-Wahi. From what I had been told, it was a desolate place in which fire, smoke, and ash reined supreme. It didn't sound like a very inviting place to me. I had been raised in a semi-arid suburb of the South-West, and even though heat was in my vocabulary, I wasn't prepared to deal with the inferno that awaited me.
Worst comes to worst, I thought as we cut through a particularly dense patch of foliage, I could always have Kopaka freeze me solid.
Tahu was in the lead, cutting through every leaf and branch as if it were a momentary annoyance and each time Lewa had to hurry to stomp out whatever flames lingered on the greenery.
"What's his beef?" I muttered as I slowed my pace to be beside Kopaka. We both watched the unfriendly exchange between Lewa and Tahu.
Kopaka was quick to answer. "You stood up to him and accepted his challenge without reserve," he replied calmly. "I would say that had something to do with it." A small smirk tweaked the corners of his mask. "Not to mention you called him an ass. Nicely done."
I couldn't help but laugh. "Why did I think you would enjoy that part the most?"
"Well, it was quite amusing," the Ice Toa nodded. "I couldn't have said it better myself . . . And at least I have found an apprentice with a little wit."
I couldn't help but smile.
We tapered into a silence then, both of us going in our own direction of thought. Mine were on the impending battle between me and Tahu's apprentice. I didn't think there would be other humans here besides me and that one kid, Matt I think his name was.
Now that I think about it, I wonder what he's doing, I mused. I hadn't seen him since Lewa stole me away on the vines, but I hoped he was doing okay - and hopefully having a better time than me. He was probably having all kinds of cool adventures, meeting new people, exploring the farthest corners of the island, and battling all kinds of monsters - and I was stuck parading around with three Toa on my way to a brawl. Well, maybe the brawl part wasn't so dull. The next chance I got, I vowed, I would spring for an adventure that would even make Indiana Jones proud!
Still, even with the appeal of danger, it also set me on edge. While in my mind I saw myself taking down tigers with my bare hands and scaling mountains without a safety line, I could never really do it. I was always so hesitant when I knowingly put myself in danger; I was more likely to run rather than stand and fight! I then realized that presented a problem: Toa were known for being brave and daring, and what kind of Toa would I be if I were to lose my nerve? Would I even be worthy enough to be called a Toa?
Do I still have the chance to go home?
"What?" I shook my head, suddenly realizing I had been daydreaming. "What'd I miss? What?"
Kopaka rolled his eye and pointed straight ahead. "If you keep getting your head stuck in the clouds then you'll miss what is truly important. Look."
Following his direction I looked straight ahead and gaped in awe. The dripping forest had let out on the side of a rocky road leading straight towards the girth of a massive volcano. A steady stream of grayish-white smoke drifted in lazy tendrils from the volcano's gaping maw at its peak and shining veins of lava dripped down its serrated sides. I could barely make out blocky shapes located at the base of the volcano, probably buildings, but why anyone would want to set up home in such a dangerous place was beyond me!
"Whoa," seemed like the most appropriate word. My eyes scaled the slopes of the volcano again and again. "That's cool."
A couple paces ahead, Tahu smirked proudly, crossing his arms over his chest as if he were the king of the world. "It is anything but 'cool'," he boasted. "It is the mightiest volcano in all of Mata Nui, the Mangai Volcano. It is my home and the place in which my people dwell." He turned fully to me, eyes narrowed in a way that made me feel small. "Can you handle the heat, human?"
A tight frown perched itself upon my lips and my hand balled into a fist. This guy was seriously starting to piss me off. "Trust me, Fire Master, I have hardly experienced a temperature I couldn't handle."
Satisfied, Tahu gave me another grin and nodded. "Good, but you'll need all the luck you can get." Turning up to Kopaka and Lewa, he cocked his head and we all filed away once more, down the last stretch of grass to the pathway.
I couldn't help but let out a thankful sigh as we stepped onto the pathway. It was nice to be on firm ground rather than sinking marshes, but I had no time to celebrate. We continued straight away with no time to catch our breath, heading for the Mangai Volcano with all haste, though it seemed like Tahu was in the most hurry of us all.
The sandy dirt of the pathway gave way to the hard ruggedness of volcanic rock and the air became hot and choking. It was beginning to get hard to breathe and I fastened the collar of my shirt over my mouth and nose to act as a filter, but even that proved to have little effect. In only a matter of time my throat was sore and raw from coughing.
Lewa stopped in his tracks and turned back to me, summoning a gust of fresh air to clear the soot and dust from my eyes and mouth. I took in a large gulp of air and hacked up the smokey ash, wiping the tears from my eyes. "Thanks," I muttered, giving one last cough.
The Air Toa nodded. "No problem. It takes some time to get used to. The air quality isn't my favorite either," he grinned and I smiled back.
However the smoke and ash weren't the only things I had to worry about. A sudden increase in temperature had me sweating bullets before we were anywhere near the base of the volcano. The heat seared the exposed parts of my arms and face, drying out the skin and making out my lips so chapped they cracked. It was almost like being in a sauna, a very, very large sauna that threatened to make me combust at any given time.
"Can't we go someplace cooler?" I finally asked.
Tahu was the first one to reply. "Already giving up, human?" he sneered. "We haven't even scratched the surface."
Frowning tightly, I showed him my arms, which had become raw and pink from the intense heat. "Unless you're trying to kill me . . ." A hand placed itself upon my shoulder and immediately felt its coolness, sighing in relief and willing it to travel my whole body. Looking up, Kopaka stared back down at me.
"Relax," Kopaka nodded. "If you don't pay attention to it, you'll be fine." The relieving coolness seeped from his palm and trickled down my arms in silvery spiderwebs of frost, soothing the tender pink burns. Soon enough, my whole body felt as if it were trapped in a freezer.
I sighed, relieved. "Thanks. I feel so much better."
Kopaka nodded with a grunt and kept moving. "Let me know when it begins to wear off. You'll need to learn to get used to your new environment, and lucky for you, your species is extremely adaptable."
A ruefully smirk tweaked my lips. "Yeah, lucky me."
A short fifteen minute trek brought us to the gates of the volcano. Tahu had a few words with the guards perched atop the structure and the metallic gates were pulled open, allowing just enough room for us to squeeze through, Tahu leading the way and Kopaka bringing up the rear. The guards' glowing honey eyes stared down at us, muttering incoherent sentences amongst one another.
Through the walls of smoke and steam, a giant fortress loomed in the middle of the massive volcano, easily towering as high as the Empire State Building.
if not twice that. A sweeping sense of wonder and awe overpowered me and I nearly stumbled. The craftsmanship, the way each rectangular block of volcanic rock sat perfectly on top of one another, I had never seen such work before. The lack of building equipment that I had come to know, such as cranes and cement trucks, also added to the mystery behind the construction of the magnificent structure.
Pausing in my stride, I twirled on my heel, exhaling as a panoramic view of Ta-Koro made itself known to me. A smile stretched across my face. Even though it was extremely hot, it was pretty cool.
Suddenly, a Matoran trotted up to my side and poked my arm, snapping me out of my trance. Shaking my head, we both made eye contact, staring at one another in stunned silence for a few pulse-pounding seconds. What I found odd was that he was the only one that seemed to be wearing a blue mask.
"Whoa, another one, but a girl!" he exclaimed in awe. He stretched out a hand and clasped mine, shaking vigorously. "My name's Takua. This is how you humans say hello, right?" he gestured to our clasped hands.
Donning an awkward smirk I nodded and pried my hand from his grip, flexing the fingers. For such a little guy, he sure had a strong grip! "Yeah, it is," I nodded. "Nice to meet you, Takua. I'm Cheryl."
"Cheryl." He rolled my name around in his head, as if savoring a new flavor of food. "You humans have odd names, but then again I'm sure our names seem odd to you," he laughed and I laughed along with him.
"You're not kidding. A lot of things have been odd lately." I scratched the back of my neck, retracing my steps up to this point. They seemed too outlandish that I wouldn't have believed them if I hadn't lived them.
Takua gestured to himself eagerly. "Well, if there's anything you want to know, just come and find me. I'm the Chronicler, so I've been around."
A weight lifted from my shoulders and I relaxed. "That's good to hear. I'll need to know all I can, I have a feeling I'm going to be staying here a while." My eyes wandered to Kopaka and he turned away. How long exactly was I supposed to be here?
"You'll fit right in," Takua assured. "Just think of it like a vacation paradise . . . at least that's what Matt said."
I blinked. "Matt! Where is he? I haven't seen him in a while."
Takua opened his mouth to answer, when Tahu's chuckling cut him off. The pompous Toa of Fire took deliberate, authoritative strides as he approached us, a tight smirk on his mask. Kopaka and Lewa brought up his flanks.
"He's right here, human," Tahu replied.
Stepping aside, Tahu allowed Matt to approach and I did a double take as he stopped beside Tahu. The Toa placed a proud hand upon the boy's shoulder.
"Meet my apprentice," Tahu boasted, "and the best Toa of Fire that will come to exist."
Matt and I gaped at each other, stunned. "Wait a minute, you're Tahu's apprentice?" I gawked.
Matt nodded slowly, raising an eyebrow. "Yeah . . . who's apprentice are you?"
Kopaka came around then, standing by my side. "Mine." A chill rippled through the air, providing a temporary relief of the heat. Tahu wasn't amused.
Matt shook his head and looked at Tahu. "Hang on, you want me to fight her?" he asked incredulously. "I don't want to do that."
"And I can't fight him," I interjected. "I mean, he's an okay guy and I have no need to." I frowned as Tahu snorted.
"We're you the one who agreed to this match?" the Fire Toa seethed. "Don't back out of it now simply because you're not strong enough."
The corner of my lip curled up into a snarl and my eyes narrowed, fingers balling into a fist. I would have leapt if Kopaka didn't put a hand to my shoulder to hold me back. "And you're the one who engaged it, calling me worthless."
Tahu's orange eyes became enflamed. "That's because you are, you just don't know it yet."
My blood boiled. "You son of a -!"
All at once our conversation came to a halt as a bright orange staff slammed down between us, creating a loud crack and denting the stone ground. My face paled and Tahu took a step back, dragging Matt along with him. Squeezing between us was another person, though not Toa or Matoran. He was clothed in the colors of flames with a cloth shawl draped over his shoulders. His form was small and hunched with age, and there was no mistaking the sour expression upon his elongated mask.
"If you please!" he snarled, drawing back the staff. He righted himself as much as possible, but even then still maintained and air of authority.
Tahu dipped his head in apology. "Forgive us, Turaga Vakama," he muttered and was met with a sharp club to the head.
"It is not me you should be apologizing to," Turaga Vakama replied bitterly, "but her." He pointed his staff at me and I stumbled back, blinking. "You may be a Toa of Fire, Tahu, but you can't use that power to bully. That is not what being a Toa means."
The call out stung Tahu and he withdrew one more step, lowering his head in shame. Never before did I think someone could affect him like this, and I would be lying if said I didn't enjoy it. Whoever Turaga Vakama was, he certainly was high respected.
The elder then turned towards me, orange gaze slightly softer. "Forgive him," Vakama said, "sometimes the heat of the flames goes to his head." That same intensity returned to his eyes and I froze, my heart sinking. "However, I can't dismiss your behavior either. You may be a child, but you are a Toa's apprentice and shall be held to the same standards as any Toa. Is that clear?" He spared glances to all of us and we nodded in turn.
"Yes, sir," I nodded, swallowing. If I thought Kopaka was scary, an angry Turaga Vakama was even worse.
"Good." Satisfied, Vakama gestured for us to follow him. "Now, if you're all through squabbling, we have important matters to address. Come, all of you."
Together as a pack, Tahu, Matt, Lewa, Kopaka and I all followed the elder's lead towards the center of the fortress. Crowds of Matoran followed after us, curious onlookers eager to see what was going on. Vakama approached a platform and stopped beside a large half-sphere surrounded on all sides by stone pillars. Oval-shaped windows carved into the sphere bled the color of lava. The group pooled at the base of the platform and we waited for Vakama to explain his piece.
"It has come to my attention that an imposter of our own Toa Onua is roaming about," Vakama began. A murmur rose up amongst the Matoran. "He has helped Matt come into our world and who knows what other things he has done. What his agenda is, I do not know, but rest assured that I shall gather with the other Turaga and Toa to challenge this matter.
"Lewa, return to your Wahi and relay this message to Turaga Matau, then send a messenger to the others as well. The sooner we meet, the better." Terminating his speech, Vakama began to give orders to the Matoran, watching as they scrambled to get things done.
Turning to us, Lewa heaved a sigh. "Well, I guess this is goodbye-farewell for now," he said.
"Travel safely, Lewa," Tahu said. "Do not get into trouble."
Lewa smiled. "I'll try not to, but trouble always seems to find me. It must like my company." He held out a fist and Kopaka and Tahu clanked theirs against it in turn. He did the same to Matt and me.
"Hang-tight in there," Lewa encouraged in a soft voice. "I know they may seem like tough-bad guys, but you couldn't have been any luckier. Stick with them and you'll make a fine-good Toa someday."
Pulling back, Lewa gave one last farewell wave before shooting off into the air on invisible wings. His katana blades whipped out from nowhere and carried the lively Air Toa away on a loose breeze over the lip of the volcano.
And end chapter.
Sorry if I haven't updated in a long time. I'm going to try to upload at least 2 chapters of this and hopefully continue throughout the weekend. This story has been put on hold long enough.
I'm going to try to make the next chapter a little bit longer so just be prepared for that.
Until next time!