Updated: Mar 24, 2022
The following text is my first-hand experience on the island of Kadrah, the first of its kind officially documented and verified by a Chronicler of the Akutana e-Metru Nui.
I had taken this journey to the island of Kadrah in no small part due to the rumors surrounding it and its supposed inhabitants. I've heard tales from many Matoran of the powerful beings known as Aijuka, said to possess the power to cure any ailment. Some say they are towering beings as tall as a Ko-Metru Knowledge Tower, but if that were true, I doubt that they would fit on a small island in the southern chains. Despite some outliers, the tales told to me were consistent enough that it warranted an expedition to see these intelligent "Rahi" for myself.
After our previous misadventure trying to reach Kadrah, the rest of the journey proceeded without incident. The crew of the boat were more than thankful for that. However, they too had heard the tales of the natives, and were afraid they'd be going from the furnace into the forge. To ease their weary heartlights, I indulged in another tale I’d heard: supposedly the Aijuka's single eye can see the innate good or evil inside someone, leaving those they deem peaceful unharmed. I left out the part about the "eye" being a fake that hid two real eyes, because those versions of the story sounded a bit too far-fetched even with everything else surrounding them. The legend did calm my companions down, but they still opted to wait on the shore with the ship when we finally arrived on Kadrah.
And so it was just me taking in the sights, carrying a small pack of supplies including some food and a hatchet. Kadrah is far more inviting than the other island. It has a similar layout of a sandy shore that is surrounded by trees leading to a grassy inland, but more of a forest as opposed to a jungle, which makes things a bit easier to navigate. As I made my way through the woods, I heard a distant booming getting closer and closer... For a moment I wondered if these creatures really were as tall as a Knowledge Tower; then I made it through the end of the forest and into the mainland. That's when I saw it: a gargantuan Tahtorak with a being riding on its back!
Upon closer inspection, the being matched the verbal descriptions of the Aijuka. They have somehow been able to tame one of the largest Rahi in the universe! No wonder others thought they were giants if all they heard were the thundering footsteps and an intimidating silhouette. The Tahtorak noticed me, eyeing me with a curiosity, likely pondering me as a meal. Thankfully, its rider gave it a pat on its side with the blunt end of his spear, and it reluctantly sank to its belly. The Aijuka pointed to a second seat on its large saddle, indicating he wanted me to ride with him. Despite not saying a word to each other, it was as if he already knew what my goal here was. I clumsily climbed aboard his giant mount, and was taken to his village. That's right - I got to ride a Tahtorak! I don't know how many Matoran can say they've done that without being in a hole in the ground or turned to paste. It's probably zero.
It was exhilarating to be riding this creature, even if it was for a short time. Each step was another several bio long - a leisurely stroll for the Tahtorak had it moving faster than most beings could run! In what felt like minutes, we were at the village, which was rather spacious (more than likely to make room for their legendary steeds). From up on the Aijuka’s mount, I could see their homes; they were large huts made from sun-dried clay or mud, filled with Aijuka busy doing tasks for their village. For what many considered Rahi, I could see that this was not the case for the Aijuka. I mean, when’s the last time you heard of a Stone Ape using scaffolding?
I was helped down off the large lizard and pointed towards a particular Aijuka flanked by two others. The one in the center carried a shield that seemed small compared to the rest of their body, and a blade that was sheathed on their back. I didn’t have much to go off of, but given that this was a specific Aijuka I was pointed to, and he had what looked like a guard of two next to him, I made the safe assumption that this was their chieftain or something of that nature. I remember trying my best to keep my nerves at bay as I walked up to them; I’m not sure how well I did.
When I was finally face-to-face with the leader, he looked at me for a long moment with a single red eye. Much like the Tahtorak rider, it felt like he was staring into my very being. Suddenly he pounded his fist on his chest, making a large, resounding clang; then, he actually spoke and said one word in a low, guttural voice: “Keetongu.”
I was so taken aback that he spoke that, as I mimicked the action of introduction, I hit my own chest rather hard. But instead of a proud, dominating sound, there was a dull clank as I sputtered and wheezed from the impact. I hoarsely told him my name, “Demak”. After a few moments, Keetongu and his two guards began to laugh. It didn’t sound antagonistic, but rather amused at my attempt to introduce myself with the same presence that he carried. At the very least, it proved I’m entirely harmless to them. Keetongu settled down, and uttered another word. “Welcome.”
I was led through the village by Keetongu and his guards, and I was able to get a glimpse of their culture and society. I saw a blacksmith crafting weapons and tools for farming, a shepherd corralling Mata Nui Cows and Husi birds into a pen, and a large ring where two Aijuka warriors sparred. Despite being a friendly training match, I could see the power behind their blows. Each strike of metal against metal rang out like thunder, making these titans feel like an element of nature in and of themselves. I shudder for anything that tries to harm this island for any purpose - they’ll be given a battle that would rival fighting Mata Nui himself!
Our destination was a hut that was more ornate; the exterior was draped in large banners depicting a Tahtorak head held high above a figure of another Aijuka. Was this a rite of passage for the leader of the tribe? Or was this a feat only accomplished by Keetongu himself? Either way, I don’t doubt this depicts the reason he leads their people. He sat down on a platform in the center; poles near each corner held weapons much older and ornate than ones used by the guards. Were these Keetongu’s? How long had he been leader of these Aijuka? The interior of the hut had ornate carvings of past battles. One that I could understand was the taming of the Tahtorak. Others depicted conflicts with beings of many shapes that I didn’t recognize. Perhaps some of these were truly legends.
Keetongu was only now at eye-level with me by sitting cross-legged on the floor; each time one of the Aijuka looked me in the eyes, it felt like my entire being was written on my mask for them. Keetongu leaned forward with interest as he spoke to me. It sounded like it took great effort for him to speak in my language - that might be why he didn’t say more than a sentence at a time to me.
“You come here. Why?”
I spoke slowly, choosing my words carefully. “I have heard many tales regarding your kind, and I am of a people who desire to know the world around them. We want to preserve what’s come before, and what will come after. I want to preserve the legend of your people.”
Keetongu pondered on this, then asked the same question. “You come here. Why?”
It took me a moment to understand the meaning behind it. “I come here because I don’t see you as myths or mindless monsters like others do - I see you for the wise warriors you are. I come here for you, Keetongu.”
The Aijuka smiled; he must’ve known all along what my purpose for coming here was. But I didn’t lie or deceive him, I was as honest as he saw in me. He motioned to a space on the floor in front of him. “Sit.”
I obeyed his instruction, sitting in the same fashion as he did.
“Ask,” he stated.
“Ask.” He motioned to me, then put a hand to his chest.
“Oh! I see, alright.” To make this easier for both of us, I kept it to yes or no questions. “Have you always been the leader of your people?”
He shook his head.
“Has it been a long time since you were first made chief?”
“Thousands of suns and moons,” he confirmed.
“Have you had explorers come here before?”
“Were they peaceful?”
“Afraid,” he put it simply.
“Ah...I see.” Perhaps it was good the crew of the boat didn’t come with me, fear tends to lead to rash actions…
“Do your kind venture outside of this island?”
He shook his head.
“Is there a reason why?”
“Together, strong. Alone, exploited.”
“I see.” The ability to heal any ailment would be a score for any Kuna-oil salesmen in the Northern Continent, and as strong as the Aijuka are, they could certainly be overwhelmed if hit with something like a barrage of weaken Kanoka or Rhotuka. This led me to my next question.
“You have the ability to cure any poison, correct? That’s why your people are sought after aside from your strength?”
Keetongu gave a slow nod. I took his word, as it wouldn’t make sense to lie about something that puts his people in danger, and I didn’t exactly have any poison on hand to test it out.
“Is living here difficult? Is it hard being the leader of your people?”
He seemed to ponder on that one, looking around at the carvings of past deeds to his ornate, battle-worn weapons. “Never easy. Always needed.”
He put a hand to his chest again. “I ask.”
I didn’t expect this, honestly. I’m used to having my experiences written down, not asked of in genuine interest.
“Of course! Go, ah - Go ahead! I’m an open tablet!”
“Where?” He asked simply.
“Well, I’ve lived in Metru Nui for most of my life. The City of Legends is what some call it - it’s said to be where the Unity of the Matoran inspires the Great Spirit the most.”
“Yes! You know of him?”
He pointed to his eye, then to me. He saw the good in everyone as the Great Spirit working through us.
“Where before Metru Nui?”
That one was a little harder to answer; even now, I hesitate to etch it to stone. But it was important to what happened next... “I came from the Southern Islands, one of the few Matoran tribes to live there. Our Turaga was killed by a pair of Dark Hunters, along with most of the tribe. I was lucky, one of the handful who got a boat and risked the waves. I was rescued by a cargo ship after about a week. I still don’t know if I’m the only survivor...”
Keetongu was quiet for a minute, taking in my tale. Suddenly he said, “Trade.”
He picked up one of the weapons resting on the pole - a shield much like the one he held, albeit with a different pattern on it. He set it down in front of me, who was completely taken by surprise. “You want me to have this?”
“Trade,” he reminded me.
“Of course, of course! I don’t have a lot on me, but I can see what I can do.”
“Map,” he said, again surprising me.
“You want the map I used to get here?”
I dug it out of my pack, giving him the tablet containing most of the charted islands in the area. The southern islands I knew of were etched in by me, with the rest being unknown. Keetongu took the map and examined it; it looked so small in his grasp.
“Why do you want my map?”
“Knowledge,” he stated. I suppose if the worst should come for the Aijuka, looking for a new home would be vital. There are many powers vying for control in the world, and one of them may deem the Aijuka a valuable asset...or a dangerous threat.
“And...why are you giving me this?” I hefted the shield; it was surprisingly lighter than I expected, though still had a weight to it that I’d have to get used to.
He leaned over and pointed to my chest, “You have the heart of Aijuka.”
“You see Good and Evil, the spirit within.”
“What do you mean?”
“Those who brought you here, they are afraid?”
“Yes, we had an...encounter before arriving here. They’re a bit rattled.”
“So, you come alone?”
I remember almost jumping from my spot in realization. “I see what you mean now…I can read others and get what they’re thinking even if they don’t say it?”
Keetongu gave a slow nod. I could see his pleased smile as I put the pieces together. “The heart of Aijuka,” he repeated.
After this conversation, Keetongu escorted me through the village to a large pasture that held Tahtorak steeds. The one he approached was his own, helping me up onto it and taking me back to where I had encountered the first Aijuka.
“I suppose this is goodbye, huh? I’ll see if I can’t come here again - I still have maps to get here if I want to.”
Keetongu looked at me, smiling. “Some day, we will meet again.”
I disembarked from the Tahtorak, the thundering footsteps growing ever-distant as I made my way back to the camp made by the crew. They were all happy to see I was alive, though I noticed some grumbling later on. It turns out they were betting on whether I’d come back at all, and only the Captain and the Navigator had bet I’d survive. While I’m flattered they had faith in me, the fact my fate was something for them to put a number of Widgets on was a little morbid.
My visit to Kadrah was short, but informative. I didn’t want to stay long for a few reasons. The crew was already exhausted and I didn’t want them to leave me for dead. I also didn’t want to overstay my welcome with the Aijuka, though I may make another trip in the future given the Chief had taken a liking to me. The shield I was gifted will be kept by me, both to study and to use as an Aijuka intended. With all the adventures I get up to, a little protection is always useful, right? If another Chronicler ever wishes to visit the island for themselves, make sure you ask me to come with you!