Battle had torn the landscape into a ragged heap of rocks and bodies. The fruits of war bore poison on the land, the sea, the air, and the nations that fought it. It seemed the planet itself was being sapped of life, and a dreary cloud smeared the sky. Few lone figures dotted the moor after battle, searching for survivors by prodding the lumps between the rocks with spears. The foe was stabbed hard; the friends harder still.
Over the battlefield, a place once known as the Valley of the Maze, overhung a mesa, where the strategists of one side, the one known as 'good', fought the ones known as 'evil.' One of these said strategists stood out from the crowded tents that huddled for warmth. He overlooked the battlefield with a harsh scowl from a face that had seen too much in its short time. As he watched from the tor, a word came to mind, which led to more words, ending in a poem.
A Toa stood on the battle field lone,
His valor and strife were alight.
He held watch over his own,
But none was left in sight.
The figure spoke to himself as a method of comfort. Therapy and friends were in short supply to keep a sane mind these days, and everyone knew how important that was these days.
"The epitome of war. This…this is horrible. It's almost as if we've lost what we've been fighting toward; the reunification of a planet, and the vanquishing of evil… no...no, I can't say that. There has to be something to believe for these days. Some form of hope…"
"There is hope, Aridike."
The strategist turned. Another had joined him on the edge of the mesa. The two figures were hard to make out in the dim light, but Aridike knew who had responded to him.
"Bayzon. Tell me, exactly. What hope is there. This war has been going on for years now. The Matoran, Agori, everyone is tired. Everyone just wants this to end. But it won't. Ever. The Elemental Lords are just too powerful. Their armies are inexhaustible. Literally!"
"'There is hope'… how utterly superficial."
Aridike turned back to the cliff, and Bayzon stepped forward. He placed a hand on Aridike's shoulder, a superficial means of comfort to face the turbulent sea of battles and fighting they had faced together. It was rough. Ever so rough. And the worst part was…
He was right.
The morning broke and brought with it a tired flurry of war; the administrators scurrying like rats, the soldiers circled by their campfire hearths for a taste of comfort. Their numbers were faltering in the siege and the early morning would soon wane, bringing yet another wave of invaders upon their soil. So it had been for many weeks.
Aridike was nowhere among these groups. He had spent the night on the cliff, a habitual meditation where he did not sleep, but reflected. His mind had become strong and his thoughts wise by this. It was a lesson few learned, like the strategies for Kohli. Most would rather hit the ball at full force at the general direction of the other goal, rather than actually plan trajectories and assistance from teammates.
He opened his eyes. The landscape had changed little from the previous night, but a subtle difference could be detected. Something in the air. A sense of trudging along slowly, but steadily, almost hopeful. A sense Aridike had learned to dismiss.
The voice pierced Aridike's thoughts. He rose from his seated position and turned to face this messenger. He seemed tired, being it so early in the morning, and the fact he had been running was made evident by his panting and darting eyes. This must be important.
"A new company has arrived."
Never mind. This was off no real concern to him. Aridike told the young Matoran to be on his way and inform him of when his breakfast would be ready, that was something he cared about, and he sat himself back down.
"…B-but, Sir…err… there were several…"
He paused to lick his lips and collect his words.
"Several persons of interest apprehended from this company."
Aridike turned back, still seated, and raised an inquisitive eyebrow to the Matoran.
" The General specifically called for your presence."
So maybe this would be something of importance for him. He dismissed the Matoran and arose to meet these 'persons of interest' that had been apprehended. Why would the General specifically ask for his presence here? Bayzon was more geared to interrogation than he was. He tried to remember back to any unfinished business of his past. Nothing came to mind. Well, nothing relevant.
Aridike made his way through the camp and spotted several soldiers of his own company, to whom he nodded in response to their waves. It had been a while since he had actually led any amount of warriors into battle, but he held them with the utmost respect and knew of their capabilities better than anyone. That's why he was one of the best.
He finally managed to reach the General's tent, an giant banner depicting the sword and helm of the Knights raised high above, billowing outward and made slightly transparent by the morning sun. A guard met him at the door.
"General Hrunek is in great need of your audience."
Aridike asked him specifically what for.
"I know not the details, merely that he asked for you. He is waiting inside for you."
The guard lifted the flap of the tent and Aridike ducked to enter. General Hrunek sat behind his table, analyzing maps and deciphering lines of code from the home front. Aridike made his presence known. Hrunek looked up and did not smile as he usually did, but instead held a taunt expression; a mixture of stress and anxiety dappled on his face.
The usual formalities were skipped and Hrunek rose to lead Aridike towards the second half of the tent, divided by a flap. Inside bubbling and the sounds of tiny struggles were made. Three water boarding tables had been set up, each in use at the moment.
Hrunek made a gesture and the Toa operating the machines each erected their respective tables to an upright position. Each of the beings, who had not moments ago been drowning, now coughed and spit and choked on air, gasping and panting heavily.
Aridike withheld the feelings of awe as he recognized the Toa.
"We found them sneaking about when the new company had arrived from Suva-Maras. They each claimed to be, well, you. All are currently held on suspicion of espionage, trespassing, and impersonation of an officer of the military. Seeing as it was specifically you they were all impersonating, at the same time, mind you, I would like to see if you had anything to add to this…this…I'm not even sure what to make of it. Nevertheless."
Aridike stood idly for a moment, the dripping bodies of the Toa in front of him beginning to realize their company and had now begun to stare at him. He asked for a moment with them alone. General Hrunek begrudgingly allowed it.
When they were finally alone, Aridike asked what the meaning of this was. His voice was calm, but he knew the gravity of the situation was grim, should these three Toa be here. The one to his left spoke.
"I can see you already know who we are. Good, saves some explanation. Now, please. Can we get out of these cuffs?"
Aridike remained stiff-faced and refused.
"…Alright. Well, I'll just do it myself."
The figure suddenly blinked out of existence for a moment and reappeared to Aridike's side, rubbing his wrists. The others beside him implored him with their eyes and he did the same for them. Aridike stood at his full height and crossed his arms. The Toa spoke again.
"Alright. Quick introductions: 503 is the half-and-half Aridike, 519 is the regal warrior, and I myself am 229. 547 was it? Right. The Halls of Time are under attack, and the entirety of the Tree of Time may be in jeopardy. We need your help to defeat Voporak, the menace behind this trouble. Now if you'll come along, we can meet the First for transport."
The figure, Aridike 229, turned and motioned for the others, including Aridike 547 to follow. The others filed in, but something kept Aridike 547 rooted to the spot. He stood with his head slightly bowed, his arms still crossed. Many a thought ran threw his mind, but one in particular yelled out against the stream of ideas.