Ternian heard the other Toa finish speaking and sensed them start toward her. She got to her feet slowly, turning to face them. She mentally braced herself for the questions that she knew they had.
“You already know what we have come to ask.” Gali phrased it as a statement, but her tone made it a question.
Ternian nodded. “You want to know who I am. Other than my title, you know little of me, saving that I seem to enjoy skulking in shadows.” She gave what seemed to be a hint of a wry smile. “I assure you, this is not usually the case. I will tell you—what I can—about who I am. And I will explain what you need to know.”
After the Makuta/Ekimu mask event, but before the Puwere – the Skull Spiders – came, the great spirit Mata Nui knew that Okoto had to be protected. He created six Toa: Earth, Iron, Water and Ice as one element, Fire, Air, and Plant-life... The latter being me. We did our Duty to Mata Nui and to the Matoran. We protected them. We cared for them. We were known as the Toa Rema—The word Rema, to the Matoran, means “Savior”, or “Salvation”. A savage irony, in my case.
Because then... then my Toa team was lost. They are still lost; I'm alone now. And it was—it is—my fault.
I stayed with the Matoran, and I did what I could to protect them. I became a healer, so I could do that much more.
But then the Rahi swarms came. I had to try to protect all of the Koros; not an easy thing. Finally, I removed the infected Kanohi from all except two Nui-Jaga. Even after I had taken the masks away, they acted the same way. Eventually, I was forced to trick them into falling into a crevice in the earth, deep underground. There was lava and molten protodermis in some places at the bottom; I doubt the Nui-Jaga survived. But the beasts had collapsed the opening to the cave, and I was trapped.
I couldn't use my Elemental Powers to escape; I had used them on the creatures, and they needed time... and sunlight... to recharge. After I was sealed in, there was no way for my power to return. I had time, yes, but like most plants I need sunlight to revive my energy, or physical contact with a naturally-grown plant.
Cut off from the sun and the forest, I didn't have enough strength to dig my way out or push the boulders away. For lack of a better term, you might say I 'hibernated' for most of the time, waiting for something to change that would make an escape possible. I was woken up more than once, but only to false alarms; Rahi passing just outside, weather, other things. I thought I was trapped in there for good...
Then today the cave was opened by one of you, and I owe my life to you; I am in your debt.
“Wait, how do you know it was one of us?” put forward Onua. “When I sensed something in the cave, I looked around a bit. If you had been watching, I would have seen the glow, so you must have had your eyes shut. Did you hear us speaking?”
Ternian dipped her head, appreciating the careful thought that went behind the question. “That, and I sensed it with my Kanohi; mine is the Kovoku, Mask of Intuition.” she said.
Onua nodded thoughtfully, filing the information away in his mind for future reference. Then Tahu spoke.
“And why did you not reveal yourself then? Is there something you're trying to prove?”
Ternian winced mentally at the latter accusation; it had struck too close to home. Outwardly, she was unaffected, and she looked at him evenly.
“I did not know what to think. I had just been offered freedom after ten years of imprisonment; light after a decade of blackness. I needed a while to realize that, after so long, I could be free. And, after being alone for so long, I wasn't ready—yet—to speak; to answer the questions I knew would be asked.”
Gali had been wondering over something that Ternian had said earlier, and voiced her question now. “You said that your team was gone,” she said slowly, trying to find a way to phrase it so as not to antagonize the Toa of Plant-life. She felt that mentioning that Ternian had claimed it her fault would be unwise, at best. “What happened to them?”
Ternian looked at her steadily, seeing through the tactful words. How I wish I could tell you, Toa of Water, she thought sorrowfully. And that I were strong enough to admit the truth—the whole truth. Aloud, she said, “It is enough to say that I was put into an impossible situation—made to make an impossible choice—and somehow, I made the wrong one. That choice cost them their lives. I don't ever want to make the same mistake again.” She turned to Tahu. “And I realize that appearing out of nowhere was also a mistake, but I assure you, if I had known that you were not—who I mistook you to be—I would not have done so.”
Tahu considered. Another Toa would help them to recover the island's ecosystem. On the other hand, on the small chance that this new Toa was not trustworthy, it made sense to keep her close enough to keep an eye on her. Eventually, he spoke.
“Very well. You knew no better. But,” he added, foreseeing a possible threat. “don't do it again, especially if Lewa tells you to. And never show him how to move like that.” He gave a hint of a grin.
Ternian nodded. “May... may I visit the Matoran?” she asked tentatively. “I would like to see them again, after so long.”
“Sure-fine!” Lewa interjected before the Toa of Fire could speak. “I haven't had a look-visit to Le-Koto for a long-while; not quite as long a time as you,” he added with a grin, “But I can take you to quick-visit, if you wish-like.”
Tahu gave the Toa of Jungle a look, but Ternian gave a slight smile, as if reliving a very pleasant memory. “Thank you.” she said quietly. “I wanted to go there first, if I could. I have an old friend there who I would like to see again.”
Lewa led the way, Ternian stopping only to reclaim her cloak, and soon the two green Toa had vanished into the trees. Tahu turned to Gali, about to demand why she had cut him off, then decided that he might as well ask a question that he could get a straight answer from.
“What does that green fool think he's doing? What if that stranger is out to hurt the Matoran? We can't just...”
Gali shook her head. “I don't know what Lewa was thinking—most likely he wasn't, as usual—but she doesn't mean any harm to the Matoran; I could tell that much. She really does want to see them again. And there was more...”
“Did you sense anything about her?” the Toa of Fire asked, remembering that Gali was sensitive to others emotions, and could often tell things about their character.
Gali hesitated. “Well,” she said slowly, “There was something about the way she looked... She was sad. No, sad doesn't seem the right word...” The Toa of Water groped for a way to put the emotions that she had felt from the female Toa. Lonely? Yes, but there was more. Disappointed? Somewhat, but not in the normal sense of the term. Then, she found the word she had been searching for. “She feels guilty. When she said that it was her fault, and when I asked her what had happened to her team, her feelings became very strong—as if she were grieving.”
She turned to the treeline that the Toa of the Green had disappeared. “She is holding much guilt in her soul. But what it is for, I'm not exactly sure. And she seemed almost to be—looking—for something.”
Tahu nodded. “She knows more than she's telling.” he said. “And we must be cautious.”
While the other Toa were discussing the turn of events, the Toa in question was heading toward Le-Koto with Lewa; one was walking, the other was leaping through the tree branches and dangling from vines.
“So,” said Ternian after watching Lewa swing from the branches for a time, feeling a need for someone to talk to, “You are a Toa of Air?”
Lewa let go of a final branch, executed a midair flip, landed near the other Toa, and began to walk with her. “Sorry-no,” he said, as if nothing had happened. “I'm Lewa, Toa-hero of Jungle. I call-command both the Air-sky and Plants, but the wind-breeze is my close-friend.”
Ternian digested that piece of information. “So, your Toa Team has one Toa that has control over both Air and Plant-life, but has a Toa each for Ice and Water, even though they are the same substance in different forms?”
Lewa shrugged. He was not the sort of being who thought about things like that. “Makes sure-fine sense to me.” he said, casually diving forward to continue forward on his hands, the normal way of walking becoming too dull for his hyper-active brain. “Was your Toa-team different?”
Ternian nodded. “We had a Toa of Air, as well as myself as a Toa of the Green, but had one Toa of both Water and Ice. My guess is that one who controls only one element has less options, but their power is more detailed and complex, so they can be more precise. The ones who control two elements can control both, but not as deeply or exactly.”
Lewa nodded, pretending he had been paying attention. He almost missed what the Toa of the Green said next. “One other question; How can you tell who's leader?”
Lewa paused mid-stride, balanced on one hand. “What do you mean?”
Ternian stopped also beside the Toa of Jungle. “I mean, looking at your team, half of you have golden armor. How can you tell who's in charge?”
Lewa laughed, sprung straight up and hung from his ankles on a tree branch. “Not really a worry-problem. I hadn't thought-noticed that the gold armor could be used for rank-telling. It has nothing to do with order-rank. It just...is.”
He swung forward, released his grip on the branch and flipped upright onto the ground again as he recognized the entrance to Le-Koto. He stepped forward, in front of the other Toa. “Here's where we give a little happy-shock to a Matoran close-friend of mine.” he whispered back to her, grinning.
A young Matoran who was sitting on the ground looked up from the flute he was carving, and started at the presence of the Toa of Jungle. He stood quickly and respectfully. “ToaMaster Lewa! What brings you to sing-song Le-Koto? Not that we're not happyglad to see you again,” he added with a grin. He was tall with bright green armor, and wore a blue Pakari over his cheerful face.
“No worry-trouble, friend Sanso, just a cheer-visit. We Toa-heros found a thought-lost Toa hidden in a closenear darkcave.” He began to slip instinctively into the faster Treespeak words that were used by all Le-Wahi natives. “Guessthought that you might surewant to seegreet her,” he added, stepping aside so the Matoran could see Ternian.
Sanso's eyes widened as he saw the other Toa. “By the Great Spirit,” he said, momentarily at a loss for words. “It's Toa Ternian!”
Ternian nodded a greeting to the musician while Lewa raised an eyebrow, something he had been wanting to do for a while. “Quickstop. You rememberknow who she is?”
But the Le-Matoran was already too exited. He picked up the mostly finished flute and blew a short series of notes, which Lewa recognized as a summoning call for a specific Matoran, but for whom he couldn't be sure. “She'll be wanting to hurry-see you again,” Sanso said to the Toa of Plant-life. Instants later, a female Le-Matoran healer came sliding down the trunk of one of the trees. She was tall, for a Matoran, and was wearing a medical satchel along with her blue noble Komau and light green armor.
“What's the worrytrouble?” she asked breathlessly as soon as she reached the bottom. “I heard the summoncall, and I...” She broke off as she saw Ternian. She stared for a few moments, then darted forward, leaped up and embraced the Toa of the Green warmly. “Ternian! Mata Nui, you're here-back! We had long-thought you were gone-lost!”
Ternian's face lit up, eyes glowing, and she laughed warmly at her enthusiastic reception. “Creala! My good friend, it's been true-far too long, and I've heart-missed you.” she grinned at the look on Lewa's face. “Creala was my apprentice and co-worker as a Healer, not to mention one of my closest Matoran friends.” she lowered the Matoran to the ground and knelt beside her, asking for news on her job and livelihood. Within moments, they were immersed in conversation.
“Well,” said Lewa to no one in-particular. “That escalated everquick.”