The Many Deaths of the Toa Ofobo, Part 1: The Monastery of the Silent Peak
Written by WKschull
Preface One (note 1) (note 2) (note 3)
I set this record in metal such that it may not be lost to time. I worry, now, that my stories shall be forgotten (note 4), for I sit, awaiting my ultimate fate, on the eve of battle. In spite of the wishes of my masters, I have never been a soldier, and so do not entertain much hope of surviving.
My name is Misaiz, and I am a noble scion of the Paxorak. I am a poet, a traveler, an exile and a scholar. And, I fear, tonight is the last night of my life.
But, in order to understand the path that led me here, I must start long ago, in the days when I earned my name: “Strange Traveler” (note 5).
I was once a diplomat in service of the chieftain Urprar, traveling to other tribes to do his bidding. However, when the Barraki began to tighten their grip in preparation for their betrayal, Urprar (note 6) chose to stand against Great Carapar, and was soon slain for his arrogance. Before he was killed, however, I chose to leave his side, unable to abide his rage and pillaging any longer. Instead, I continued my travels, ranging far and wide through the Six Kingdoms. The story of these travels, for which I have set aside these tablets, ought to begin, I feel, in the Monastery of the Silent Peak (note 7), on Gavira.
Gavira, that largest island of the Four Sisters. Home to many Monasteries, and, some would say, the center of Layamat culture. All I knew about it was that their weaponsmithing was held in high regard in Hakori, that Urprar held some of their art in high esteem, and that Matoran and Layamat lived in greater Unity than the rest of the Primes (note 8). For these reasons, and many others, it was my first destination after leaving my home.
I had arrived on the island on the boat of an Augafi merchant. Her anger was impressive and unquenchable, for I would not deign to purchase her wares. Nor would I sell her my memory crystals, nor my prized Kanohi Ceveli. Perhaps because of these, she rejected my request to capture a memory of her and her boat, to my disappointment. Many years later, I learned that her boat had been commandeered, and sunk, with her still aboard. She, like so much else, will be forgotten.
I had come to Gavira in search of Toa Paniki, a Ko-Toa whom I had met once in the court of Lord Pridak, though that itself is a story for another time (note 9). When I arrived, I was told that Paniki had left the town, beginning a pilgrimage inland, taking with him several Matoran, and three other Toa. I was content to follow in his footsteps, if it meant finding the help I needed. In trade for supplies, I bartered an Honor Mark (note 10) that had long ago been taken from a Layamat Monastery, and began my own journey.
I shall not bore the reader with the details of the struggle against the Rahi of that island, of the terrible storm that dashed my guide from the cliffs and left him dead on the rocks below, the bitter cold that bit through the warm robes I had carried with me, nor the loss of an Honor Blade (note 11) when it fell over the edge, lodged firmly in the side of a beastly Rahi. When these things are set into writing, perhaps they seem more interesting than the story I will tell, but, I have had enough of the senseless chaos and violence that that story suggests. The loss of my guide and the Honor Marks and the savage chaos of the Gavira wilds are too similar to the later chapters of my own life to be worth describing now, at the beginning of my tale (note 12).
Suffice it to say that the trip was long and difficult. As I neared the top of the mountain, weathering the blizzard around me, I could understand why they had called this trip a pilgrimage, for it was no simple trip. Why, I found myself wondering, had Paniki brought Matoran with him? While, yes, a Toa of Ice like himself would be able to spare them the worst of it, there could be no reason to bring those fragile beings, when the hardy Layamat were so much more accustomed to these conditions. And why here? That question plagued me then, but, alas, it would be some time before I learned the grim answer. Had I learned sooner, been quicker…but no.
That climb was one of the last times I would underestimate the Matoran, though not the last time I would question the motives of a Toa. I only wish that this experience of mine had been shared sooner…but, it is too late for regret. I die in the morning, and there are many stories left to tell once this one is done.
As I climbed to the top of the mountain, the blizzard making the stone steps carved underfoot slick and hard to mount, I saw lights piercing through the storm ahead of me, and heard a low vibration split the air. At first, I feared an avalanche, but, then, I climbed the final few steps, and emerged above the storm. Before me stood the Monastery of the Silent Peak, a mighty temple dedicated to both the Great Spirit, and the concept of the Suffering required by Duty.
How to describe the Monastery? It was tall, yet narrow, worn by the winds. From far away, it seemed that the surface glowed, but as I approached, I could see that the surface bore no light, but instead, the light came from within. At that moment, I realized the source of that vibration. It was a song, played so low as to almost be below hearing. As the wind picked up again, that sign rose in pitch and tone, and I saw the building seem to flicker, many of the lights going out before regaining their brightness.
It was the Song of the Peak: that maddening, endless whistling of the wind through the holes in the Monastery’s walls. Hearing it, I came to understand the name of the Monastery, for who could speak with such a song dominating all sound? It would be enough to drive one mad, and yet a great number of acolytes lived here nonetheless. They suffered for their Duty, it seemed, at all times. The Layamat have always struck me as a bizarre people, so dedicated to their ideals. Even so, I could admire the determination of these priests. And, with hindsight, see the dangers that come with such fanaticism.
I approached the doors, and two Tahazeki (note 13) stepped from their hiding places to the sides, their glaives extended to bar my path.
“State thy business,” (note 14) the one of the left intoned, his voice seeming thin and reedy, with the song of the Monastery surrounding us.
“I seek Toa Paniki,” I replied, and the two exchanged looks, before stepping aside, and retracting their glaives.
“Thou’rt fortunate, stranger. Had ye come but an hour later, t’would be too late for thee.”
“Too late?” While I had not seen Paniki in decades, he had been, and always will be, my closest friend, and the thought of some ill befalling him caused me great concern. “Why? Is he in danger?”
The two exchanged another look, before the one on the right shook her head, and gestured me forward. “It is best that thou enter, and seek for thyself the answer.”
With that, the two faded back into the shadows, and I stepped up to the door, pushing open the massive slabs. The weight of the doors worked against me, but as I strained, the wind itself seemed to seek to prevent my entry. Finally, during a lull in the wind, I was able to push hard enough to crack the doors, and slip through. Almost as soon as I did so, the wind strengthened again, and the doors were slammed shut behind me.
Have you, dear reader, seen a Layamat Monastery? I worry that, in your time, they may be forgotten (note 15). I will attach to this a memory crystal, containing what images I can. The Monastery of the Silent Peak was, in many ways, an exemplar of that time, what some still call the peak of the Builders’ work in the East.
While outside the Monastery it bent to the demands of nature, the stones worn by the winds and smoothed by the carvers, inside it was replete with sharp corners and lush decorations. Many would say that it is the Paxorak and Augafi who hoard treasures and precious metals, but those who say such things forget that the Layamat were the first to decorate in gold and chrome (note 16).
Great tapestries were hung on the walls, with threads of gold depicting scenes from both the history of the island and the history of Silent Peak. Golden lamps held candles, burning clean and warm, their flames shedding light and heat into the room. Overhead, the high arches of the building were decorated in tiles, mosaics continuing the story told by the tapestries, though many here depicted scenes of the Great Spirit in his Aspect as a mighty Kanohi Hau, and his many Orders who reside in the Four Sisters. Scenes, of course, of Duty were given particular prominence, with Toa and Layamat dying horribly, or Matoran working until sent to Karzahni, as was befitting a temple dedicated to Suffering for one’s Duty.
But that was not all the luxury the Monastery held. Gilded instruments stood around, and a small number of acolytes plucked their strings gently, accompanying the howling song from outside. Gilded chalices stood on tables, electrum candelabra sat in brackets, and memory crystals of the deepest purples and the most vibrant pinks were arrayed on shelves.
I must admit, much to my chagrin, that my plunder-lust began to rise, looking at that wealth. To think, such wealth was hoarded by the Monasteries of Gavira! Think of the Honor Marks that they would make if I could claim them! Think of what knowledge must be contained within those crystals…But I was not there to raid and plunder. Even had I been there to do so, I would have stood no chance in battle against the Tahazeki. Even a simple priest, with their mastery of Kayi, would have been able to overmaster me. I have, as I said, never been a warrior (note 17).
No, I was here to look for Paniki, and so I shook the snow from my coat, and looked for a place to hang it. As I did so, snow slowly melting into a puddle beneath me, one of the priests came over, and gestured for me to follow. I did so, and he led me to a small chamber off to one side. There, I found a space to hang my coat, and was offered a set of robes in their place: not the white and gold robes that the priests wore, but a set of plain grey robes, with long sleeves, and a deep hood.
I thanked the priest, and donned the robe, making sure to transfer my few remaining Honor Marks (note 18) to my arm hooks, where they would not disrupt the shape of the robe. By the time I had finished, the priest had vanished back into the Monastery, leaving me to find my own way forward.
The further I explored into the Monastery, the quieter it became. The tapestries on the walls seemed to deaden sound, and the carpeted floors absorbed the footsteps of those who walked. Even the instruments seemed to be replaced by quieter varieties further in. It seemed that the priests wished to be able to explore multiple kinds of silence, though, as I continued, I began to find myself missing the whistling song of the wind. The complete silence in its place was oppressive and stifling.
Still, I needed to find Paniki before it was too late. After all, much of the hour had already passed.
Finally, as I was turning down a side passage, I saw an open door ahead of me, and, through it, that familiar white-armored shoulder. I hurried forward and, in my haste, did not think to knock, instead bursting into the room.
Paniki knelt, head bowed, hands stretched out before him. Before him sat six bowls, each on its own stand, and filled with sand. His hands twitched at my intrusion, and he withdrew them, turning to face me. His eyes widened in surprise, and then he stood, reaching forwards to pull me into a hug.
At first, I stiffened, after all this time apart unused to a hug being a gesture of friendship, rather than an attempt to grapple, but then hugged him back.
“Toa Paniki, it has been far too long. Forgive my curtness, but I have need of your assistance.”
“Misaiz.” His eyes were sad as he pulled back to arms length, looking me over, before gesturing for us both to sit. We folded ourselves to the floor, his long legs fitting cross-legged while I simply sunk into a crouch. As I twitched my muscles, locking my thick carapace into itself and taking the weight off my muscles, I looked over Paniki in turn.
He had changed. Not much, but I could see it in his posture, the way he held himself. Gone was the brash and confident Toa who had saved me from perilous assassins. In his place was a Toa who was tired, one who carried the weight of the years on his shoulders. Had it only been three decades? To count solely based on Paniki’s countenance, it must have been three full centuries of life.
He, too, wore robes, though they were unlike the ones both the priests and I wore. Instead of the full robes with sleeves and a hood, he wore a simple garment that hung down his back, with two long ribbons down his front. It was simply adorned, with a few small symbols, but nothing matching the adornment of the priest robes.
Finally, I looked up at his mask, the thing I had been avoiding. We made eye contact, and his smile grew sad, too, as he reached out, and plucked my Ceveli from my face.
“Do you still hide behind your mask, Misaiz? Do you still fear the world will judge you without it?” “Toa Paniki, you know me too well. I can hide nothing from you.”
“Not even with your mask.” His smile lingered for a moment, before falling away. “I cannot help you, Misaiz. I am sorry.”
“But, you have not even heard what I need your help with. Please, Paniki, I-” (note 19)
“Misaiz…I cannot. The world is changing. Don’t you feel it?”
“I do. That is why-”
“And, it’s time that I change with it. Or, so I have been told.”
“Told? By whom? And what is this ‘change’ you speak of? Why can you not help me?”
Paniki shook his head, and turned back to the bowls. Finally, I noticed, beyond them, another tapestry. This one depicted a being—a Toa—standing before six Matoran. Light streamed from the Toa’s hands, into the Matoran, and, below that, stood six Toa, and one Matoran - no, one Turaga (note 20).
“Oh.” At the time, the sorrow that took us both was unexpected and unexplained. Looking back on it now, I wish I had been supportive, had blessed his new journey. But I was too much a true Paxorak, then, to see the honor in putting down the blade, and too sad at the thought of being unable to rely on Paniki’s aid in Mohra to realize I could rely on his aid in any other way.
“Yes. I have been told that it is time for me to step aside, and raise up the next generation.”
“But, Paniki, surely it is not your time yet. I…I.” I knew that I was being foolish, and selfish. Here I was, thirty years wiser, acting as I had three thousand years ago. And Paniki, as if he were two centuries older.
“I am sorry, Paniki. I…know you always chastise me for being irrational, and I have been again. I owe you an apology. I have come and imposed—”
“Misaiz, never apologize for needing me. And, you are not incorrect. My time, surely, cannot be here. And, who will guide these new Toa? They are so immature, Misaiz. More so than we were at Lord Pridak’s court. And, as you said, the world is changing.”
“…Who told you that it is your time, Paniki?”
I wracked my brain, and was tempted to slot a memory crystal, before I remembered. “Lord Kalmah’s spiritual advisor?” (note 21)
“Indeed. He said that my time as a Toa was nearing its end, and that the time of a new generation has come -- that us older, more experienced Toa must step down, and give ourselves to the making of new Toa. But, I remember how it was. I myself was sent into the field right away, with barely any training. I made constant mistakes, and without Toa Rakuru, I would have fallen many times.”
Paniki paused, and we shared a smile at the memory of his mentor. Rakuru had been a fierce and wild Toa, always flying into a rage, and shouting at us for one thing or another. He had saved Lord Pridak’s life, while Paniki had saved mine, all those years ago, though Rakuru had given his life to do so (note 22).
“I miss him, too.” Paniki smiled at my kind words before continuing.
“But, these new Toa…I am to make six Stones, and give up all my remaining powers to form a full team. And then what? Who is to guide them? How are they to learn to not make the mistakes that I did, without me there?”
“They will learn, Paniki. It is what we all do, when placed in these situations. We learn, and we thrive. Did you-?”
Paniki was already shaking his head, and the dancing candle light caught in the grooves of his mask, seemingly setting fires in the hollows of his face.
“No. Prelate Vezaki chose them himself, or so he seemed to imply. What little I know of them, I do not trust. They are so immature, Misaiz. So unwise, and reckless.”
“We were, too.”
“We were, weren’t we? We truly were. I-”
Paniki stopped abruptly and stared at me, his eyes wide, his hands grabbing for mine. “Misaiz. You came here asking for my help, but, now, I must beg yours instead. You are wise, and experienced. You were with me through many of my early years as a Toa. You helped me, then-”
“We helped each other”
“-and you can help the Ofobo now.”
I paused, shaken. I had not expected this. To this day, I still wonder why he asked me. I am not the noble scholar, the wise paragon that he thought me. Sometimes, I wonder how differently my life would have been had I said “no”. But, I had never been able to say no to Paniki.
“You wish me to travel with them, and guide them.”
“Take up the role of their Chronicler (note 23). You can travel with them. You know so much. Your library of memory crystals holds knowledge that will help them. Your experience can guide them. You can steer them through the dangers of sudden power, and the chaos and darkness of a battlefield. Please, Misaiz.”
I almost denied him. I almost explained to him how I was not who he thought I was. But, to hear that Paniki, the one dearest to my heartlight, thought that I was someone like him? Someone who could guide these six young Toa to be worthy of the title? It opened a hunger in my chest far greater than the lust for Honor Marks, and I could not speak.
Finally, I gave the only answer that I could, and Paniki smiled, the sadness finally lifting from his eyes for the first time since I had arrived.
“Thank you, Misaiz. Perhaps they can help you with your problem.”
“Misaiz, I am truly grateful for your friendship. It has been so long, and, yet, when I was about to falter, when I needed you most, here you are.” He leaned forward, and lightly rested the forehead of his mask against my dorsal crest, and his eye lights began to flicker. “The Great Spirit is kind.”
We sat like that for a long moment, two beings who had missed each other for longer than we had ever known each other, before he pulled back, and smiled that sad smile again, before reaching up, and replacing my mask.
“It is time.”
He turned, and raised his hands once more. As he did so, light began to pool between his fingers, and then flowed into the bowls. The sand began to whirl and writhe, shifting and turning, and as it did so, it began to change color.
I watched, fascinated, my mask’s memory crystal recording all that I could see and hear, even the smell of the burning incense, the faint chill that suddenly filled the air, the taste of power at the back of my tongue.
Six bowls. Six colors. Scarlet, grey, green, auburn, white, and azure. When at last the sands stopped their swirling, Paniki leaned back, exhausted, and I reached out a hand to steady him. He nodded in thanks, then gathered the bowls, and stood.
He bid me to follow him through the tunnels of the Monastery to a larger chapel, far beneath the surface. Here, the silence was almost deafening, the weight of all that stone and cloth above us tearing noise asunder (note 24). Paniki gestured to one of the pews, and I took a seat near the front.
In front of me, a hextet of Matoran sat with just as much uncertainty as I held in my own heart. They seemed nervous, but excited. Even the silence of the chapel did not dull their chatter, earning them glares from the priests waiting along the walls.