|Creeping in Our Souls|
|Setting||Mata Nui, Bara Magna, Karda Nui|
|Date set||In the End of Times|
|Previous||City of Legends|
Creeping in Our Souls
A white void.
There was nothing. But it was a good kind of nothing. The pure whiteness that would eventually become space and be powered by something known as time was like a blank page or a clear wall. There was much room to fill in with colors and all manner of things.
The Great Spirit Mata Nui had his hands clasped behind his back, admiring the pure whiteness that was before him. If he paid attention, he would notice that light didn't even exist yet. Shadows did not form around him or on him. He walked into the infinite, for a period of time that would later be determinable.
Mata Nui soon grew tired of the whiteness. He lifted his hand and snapped his golden fingers. Everything went dark. Darkness had been birthed, blindness as well.
"Ah," said a quiet low voice. "Perfect."
Mata Nui shook his head and smiled. "Makuta," chuckled the Great Spirit. "It's not your time yet, brother. It's only the Beginning. The Start."
"I know, but can you truly blame me for feeling excitement at an appetizer for my purpose?" asked Makuta in response.
"I suppose not," said Mata Nui. He closed his hand into a fist and squeezed tightly. Light emitted from within his collected fingers, enough even to light Mata Nui's form from within the fist. Opposite Mata Nui was his brother, the Makuta. He stared at the forming light, a disappointed look on his face.
The Great Spirit unrolled his hand and showed his creation to his brother. It was an orb of gaseous light. Flares erupted from its surface like geysers as it floated above Mata Nui's palm. The Great Spirit took hold of it and began tossing it in the air like a ball. "Beautiful isn't it?" he proudly asked his brother. "I think I'll call it a 'Sun'."
"I preferred it when it didn't exist," complained Makuta, crossing his arms.
"Alright," Mata Nui rolled his eyes. "I'll give it a lifespan. A long one but long lifespans tend to leave a better impression than short ones, don't you think?"
"Just this one?" asked Makuta, staring at the Sun.
"You suggested it," smiled Mata Nui. He turned away from his twin and held the Sun up to his Mask. He blew on the orb. The object burst into an infinite number of smaller clones. They spread around and floated freely in empty space before sticking to a spot like a bee on a flower.
The two divine beings looked at the newly formed constellations around them. Every star that Makuta glanced at flickered, threatening to go out. "Impressive," the dark being observed.
"And we have light," announced Mata Nui. "Now what to do for the next step?"
"Land," answered Makuta. "We need land." He extended his arm and twirled his fingers. A dust cloud formed the more the fingers moved. The Dark Lord closed his fist around the cloud then threw the dust upwards. As it rained down, parts of it collected until they were either cosmic clouds, asteroids, or meteors.
"Interesting form, brother," commented Mata Nui. The Great Spirit then took the cosmic clouds and a handful of asteroids. He paced around staring at them for what would later be dubbed "minutes". He then snapped to one of the stars that hung above.
Mata Nui placed both objects in one hand and reached out for the star. He took it and it enlarged as he brought it closer to his face. He then crushed the dust and clouds in his hand. A sphere of molten earth emerged from his palm and began rotating around the orb of light, quickly cooling as it did. The Great Spirit placed his hand under the two spheres and waved it to Makuta. The dark being stared at it for a while. "And we have land."
"I think I'll call it a planet," said Mata Nui. He then pointed a finger at the top of the orb of earth. Water poured out of the tip and engulfed the planet. Some of the lands that towered over others remained above the water. "And I will call those oceans."
"Oceans?" asked Makuta. "Why plural?"
"Might as well have some variety, don't you think?" asked Mata Nui. "Multiple oceans, multiple lands. What else?"
The two deities stood silent for a moment.
"People," said Mata Nui. He waved his hand over the planet. Moss-like material covered the lands. Other than that, nothing seemed to happen. "They'll come around. Unlike all of this, civilization takes time to develop. And soon, we'll have our own world to rule over, brother."
"Hm," grunted Makuta, staring at the planet before him. "Looking forward to it."
Book One: Dawn
- "Sic transit mundus."
- ―A Canticle for Liebowitz
The end of the world began with a gaze at the stars. Clouds opened up to Turaga Nuju as he looked into the lens of his specially designed telescope.
The Turaga of Ice stared long at the collections of stars above the village of Ko-Koro, searching for signs of the future within them. When he was a young Matoran, living in what was once the utopian city of Nynrah, he had taken an interest in astrology. He would often stare at the night sky, looking for constellations to tell fortunes with.
The interest continued on in his old age. Once he and the other Turaga had arrived on the island of Mata Nui, Nuju had commissioned Onu-Matoran engineers and Po-Matoran construction workers to build him a telescope to his specifications. Which angle it would be pointed in and where in his home it would be located was planned specially. Thus whenever the night sky was clear, Nuju would stare at the sky and jot down notes of what he suspected to be foreshadowing of future events.
In the same room as him was Matoro, the Turaga’s translator. He sat on a stool, his knee bouncing and his eyes darting around the room with hints of impatience. Any noise he made was clear to Nuju that the Ko-Matoran was eager to look into his telescope. The Turaga took small pleasure in forcing his assistant to wait. While Matoro was still impatient, Nuju noticed that Matoro was taking longer and longer to be fidgety.
The Turaga looked away from the telescope and took some more notes on a stone tablet nearby. He carved his observations with a small sharp-tipped firestaff invented by the Ta-Matoran. He put his staff down and stood from his seat. He looked at the young Matoran in his room.
“Go ahead, Matoro,” said the Turaga in his usual Rahi language.
Without a change in expression, Matoro leapt out of his seat and went to Nuju’s, practically sticking his eye into the telescope lens to look at the stars. Nuju had silent pride that the Matoran he had the most fondness for was picking up on his interests. But his pride was not his primary concern at that moment.
He looked at his stack of tablets and spread them across his desk. He stared at the various observations and notes he had taken throughout the recent months. He hoped the stars held answers for the meteorological phenomena that was happening across Mata Nui.
Onu-Koro was suffering from earthquakes that threatened multiple cave-ins. Several lightstone mines had threatened to fall apart with miners still within. While Toa Onua was present, the constant occurrences were alarming.
The waters near Ga-Koro was becoming violent. As time went on, the calm and relaxing waves that would roll across the waters of the village were slowly transforming into tidal waves. Toa Gali is doing her best at keeping them at bay, but it’s clear that sooner or later, the Ga-Matoran will have to evacuate their homes.
Swarms of insects were descending on Le-Koro. For years, the Jungles surrounding the village of Air provided for the Le-Matoran. But now, there was a sudden increase in disease-ridden locusts and other sorts of carriers. As soon as the tenth Le-Matoran fell ill from stings, Toa Lewa set up an air shield to surround the area. Like a type of bomb that exploded repeatedly, bursts of air would erupt from a spot in Le-Koro to drive away the swarms.
The Po-Matoran have endured in Po-Koro for years despite it being a desert. They persevered thanks to a well that was helped discovered by the Ga-Matoran. However, that well is apparently running dryer than the landscape the Po-Matoran dwell in. Soon, their supply of water will vanish and they too will have to emigrate to somewhere else on the island.
Mount Valmai has recently been threatening to erupt, engulfing Ta-Koro in a river of molten lava. Unlike the Po-Matoran or Ga-Matoran, the Ta-Matoran are not afraid of the threat, believing it to be simply a phase. No matter the case, Nuju believes that their primary source of hope was the watchful eye of Toa Tahu, who had done nothing but stand watch at the mouth of the volcano like a sentinel ever since the smallest trace of potential eruption occurred.
As for Ko-Koro, blizzards and aurora borealis came upon the village of Ice. Such weather is normal by Ko-Matoran standards, but the ones that had come this time were more than they could handle. To the point where when they came, Toa Kopaka would spend hours trying to shield the entire village from the snowstorms.
Why these strange events were happening Nuju was intending to find out, but nothing emerged in his research. The stars usually held answers. But they seem to be withholding at the moment.
“Turaga Nuju!” exclaimed Matoro, his attention still in the telescope’s lens. “There’s a comet!”
“Interesting sight, isn’t it?” replied Nuju, still focused on his notes.
“Wait,” said Matoro, his tone becoming increasingly nervous. “Its...I think it’s going to crash near here, Turaga!”
“What?” Nuju tore away from his writings and went to Matoro’s side. The Ko-Matoran stepped aside so the Turaga of Ice could look into the lens.
Nuju moved the telescope around frantically to see where Matoro was directing him to. WIthin seconds, he found it. Matoro was right, a comet was falling from the heavens, slowly turning to a bright meteor that was looking to be falling towards somewhere just outside of Ko-Koro.
The Turaga looked away from the telescope and went quickly to a window, with Matoro close by. Sure enough, a telescope was no longer needed to watch the fiery object descend from the sky. Nuju could see that, in the distance, what seemed to be a shooting star was crash landing in the snowy terrain in the outskirts of the village. The impact rumbled. The furniture in Nuju’s home shook with the crash. Outside his home, Nuju could already see that Ko-Matoran were stepping out to see what the commotion was. Even from within his dwelling, the Turaga could hear murmurs and conversations of worry spread throughout the village of Ice.
“Matoro,” said Nuju, his eyes still focused on outside his window. “Get Toa Kopaka. Send him to investigate.”
“I think he’s already on his way, Turaga,” said the translator.
Nuju saw what his assistant meant. A tall figure was skiing along the streets of Ko-Koro towards the plum of smoke in the distance.
Toa Kopaka used his power over the element of Ice to propel himself forward and maneuver through the streets of Ko-Koro. As soon as he cleared the village, he changed his mask from a Mask of X-Ray Vision to the Kanohi Kakama, the Mask of Speed. What used to take a couple minutes transformed into seconds as Kopaka was launched towards the crash site, the cold wind stinging the parts of his face that weren’t covered by a mask. He skidded to a stop as soon as he reached his destination.
Looking at it, it was a huge crater with heat that would make a Ta-Matoran feel at home if he was near it. Kopaka carefully tapped his foot on a spot within the crater, and pulled back when he felt a sting. It was too hot to step into. The Toa of Ice held up a gloved hand and slowly formed a fist. The heat within the crater mostly disappeared as a wave of cold washed over it.
The "mostly" part was odd to Kopaka, as he sworn he intended to take away all the heat within the crater. He stepped into the hole, and felt the remaining warmth of the heat he attempted to quell under his boot. He looked closer into the crater and saw something he felt he should be used to seeing by now.
It was a figure, unconscious and lying on its side. He wore golden armor, encrested with patterns that Kopaka recognized as being from Matoran lore. Next to him was a staff. Like the figure's armor it was golden, but had contained a floating crystal on the tip of its top. The crystal was blue, and its otherworldly glow cautioned Kopaka from trying to touch it lest he wants his arm to be disintegrated or worse. Kopaka carefully stepped towards the figure. The closer he got, the more he noticed that there were burn marks on where the body's spine blades would be. If he didn't know any better, Kopaka would think that wings had once been there.
The nearer Kopaka got, the more something in his mind told him to try touching the armored being. Despite his best judgement, Kopaka carefully reached out and attempted to roll the being onto his back. The touch was like an electric shock. Kopaka fell back, grasping his hand in pain as he felt it become numb. When he quickly sat up, he saw that the figure was now up on his knees. Kopaka now noticed that the being wore a mask that actually looked also like a helmet. From its brow emerged two long curving horns. The being's eyes were ancient and wise, but full of fear.
The being's gaze fell on the Toa of Ice, and he began weakly crawling towards Kopaka. The Toa of Ice, outwardly fearing for his life in a rare revealing moment, crawled backwards away from the being.
"Paradise..." groaned the being. "Torn asunder...He has him trapped...He..."
The being reached out to Kopaka. The way he did it seemed as if he was attempting to give the Toa something. But nothing was in his hand. With a groan, the being dropped like a bag of fruit, unconscious once more. Kopaka sat there for what seemed like hours, staring at the mysterious being. He had never encountered something like this before. It clearly wasn't an attack. It was a warning. A warning to what, though?
Kopaka created a slab of ice under the being and cautiously picked up his staff. The Toa could feel power coursing through its shaft, oddly familiar power. Much to his frustration, Kopaka had to make sure he kept reforming the ice under the being, as the heat from the fall persisted and kept melting the slab.
Kopaka would send a messenger out requesting a meeting of his fellow Toa. He felt that this being's sudden appearance was only the beginning of something big. It was only a prologue of things to come. Such things weren't usually good.
Pohatu pressed his mask against the surface of the big box he was lifting up.
"I got it..I got it..." he muttered through gritted teeth. With a big push and help from small mounds of stone under his feet, Pohatu finally managed to get the box of supplies onto the wagon. The vehicle shook when the box fell within. Pohatu tapped the side of the wagon as he went to Turaga Onewa and Hewkii at the front. "Is that everything?" the Toa Nuva of Stone asked exhaustedly.
"I believe it is so," nodded Onewa.
"Why didn't you just use your Kanohi Pakari to lift that up?" asked Hewkii.
Pohatu raised a hand and opened his mouth. But he froze and his eyes darted to the sides, as if a realization had just smacked in in the back of his head. "Hindsight is twenty twenty," said Pohatu.
"Do we really have to go, Turaga?" asked Hewkii, who was holding the reins that would steer the Mahi pulling the wagon. All three looked at the huge gathering of Po-Koro villagers behind them, who were all getting ready to move out. The looks on all of the Po-Matoran were all weary and sad. They were now forced to leave their home for hundreds of years.
"We have lived here without regret for many years," said Onewa. "But we have no choice. The well has run out and there is only so many supply runs that Ga-Koro can make. It's clear that we must all actually migrate to our friends' village if we are to survive. The deserts of Po-Koro has never been this harsh either. Something is happening to Mata Nui."
"It's pretty confusing using that name now that the Great Spirit's awake, isn't it?" asked Pohatu.
"Indeed it is," said Onewa. "Toa Pohatu, please travel ahead to Ga-Koro while we make our own way there. I pray that Nokama's village is still intact or at least its people are as we move."
Pohatu nodded before speeding away towards Ga-Koro. Trees were blurry images at the corners of his eyes, leaves smacked against his armor and mask and slipped off like flies desperately holding onto a speeding vehicle. Trees became beautiful grassy fields whose loveliness was hindered by the night sky. In this region of Mata Nui, it was raining hard. The grass beneath Pohatu felt slippery and mud sprayed from under his heel. The slippery surface was even more prelavent when the Toa of Stone skidded to a stop.
Before him, he saw the village of Ga-Koro. Instead of the sunny sight of a collection of huts settled on large lilipads and connected by shakey wooden bridges, it was the aforementioned being assaulted by rapid tidal waves. Pohatu was standing on the edge of a slope, and a small distance from the slope under a tree was a gathering of Ga-Matoran, including Turaga Nokama. The group was growing larger by the minute with the coming Ga-Matoran who were evacuating their homes. On the far opposite side from where Pohatu was standing, the Toa could see Gali, standing on the edge of one of the many lilipads and holding out both her arms.
Even from here, Pohatu could see that Gali was getting drenched by the collaboration of rainfall and wave splashes. Any cloth on her person was practically sticking to her body at this point. Pohatu saw a Ga-Matoran he recognized as Hahli running to where Gali was. The short Matoran was most likely going to relay the message that Ga-Koro had been cleared to the Toa of Water. A blur later, Pohatu was in front of Hahli, assuring her that he would relay the message while she makes sure she was safe with her friends. The Ga-Matoran, initially paralyzed by shock from the Toa's sudden appearance, nodded in obedience and ran back in the direction she came.
Pohatu raced to Gali, nearly losing his footing on the wet surface under him. "Gali!" he called.
The Toa of Water turned around suddenly, but quickly returned her attention to the coming waves. She was holding them back, and Pohatu nearly cost her her work in doing so. "That was too close, Pohatu!" scolded Gali.
Pohatu looked around. He saw empty huts and small furniture sliding around thanks to the teetering caused by the waves."Oh, no things aren't so good here, either?" asked the Toa of Stone.
Gali nodded. "These waves were once nurturing and life-giving. They brought us fish and other sea food so that we and the others may survive. But now, they've turned against us. Is everyone out safely?"
"They are,"replied Pohatu.
"Good, you better race back to the villagers. When I let go, it's going to be a rush."
Pohatu grunted in compliance before running back to the Ga-Matoran. Letting her arms drop, Gali let the violent waves rush in. All around her, huts made of large leafs were obliterated by the waters. Gali allowed herself to be swept up in the tide and rode it all the way to shore. Using her powers over Water, she created a large stream that carried her over the rushing waters and onto partially dry land, right in front of the villagers and Pohatu.
The Toa of Water dropped to her knees, panting. Pohatu rushed to her side and helped her up. "That took too much of my energy," Gali breathed. "I should be able to easily do this but those waves were too strong, even for me."
"The Endless Ocean has turned against its children," said Turaga Nokama, approaching the pair of Toa. "Once life-giving, but now life-taking." The three turned to face the group of Ga-Matoran. Indeed, all of the villagers were despairing over the loss of their home. This had been their residence for hundreds if not thousands of years, and in one swift move, it was snatched away.
"Then there's no hope," said Pohatu. "Turaga Onewa had planned for Po-Koro to come here due to the severe drought we've been having. They're on their way here now as we speak."
"There is always room for hope, Toa Pohatu," said Nokama softly. "This is a problem that I am sure you Toa can find the solution to. You simply need to look. But I fear that this problem is a difficult and complex one."
"Whoa, it worked!" said a voice. All who heard it turned towards it, and saw Kopeke of Ko-Koro, looking dumbfounded at where he was standing. "That crazy little bastard, this thing actually works!" His pleasant surprise turned into one of embarassment when he saw first the collection of saddened Ga-Matoran, then the exhausted Toa Gali, and then the flooded ruins of Ga-Koro. "Oh...sorry for intruding..."
"Kopeke, what are you doing here?" asked Pohatu.
"Well, I'm forwarding a message from Toa Kopaka. He's sent for a summon to gather all the Toa to Ko-Koro so all six of you can convene and discuss what he found near the village. Also, Kapura's technique actually works. It's just a matter of attention!" said Kopeke.
"He found something? You think this has something to do with all this weird weather?" asked Gali.
"Only one way to find out," said Pohatu.
Gali turned to Nokama. "Will all of you be alright?" She asked.
"We are stronger than we look, Gali," said Nokama. "We will find a new place to call home, maybe temporarily maybe permanantly. Like water, we will fit into whatever shape we find ourselves in."
Pohatu turned to Kopeke. "Are there any other messengers going out to spread the word?"
"There are," confirmed Kopeke. "But they might not be as fast as when I got here."
"Then one of us can go tell the others if Ko-Koro's messengers haven't gotten to them already," said Pohatu. "Gali, you want to get to Ko-Koro first or do you want to get to the others as well?"
"I'll head to Ko-Koro," said Gali.
Onua entered the healer's den and gasped when he caught sight of the golden being sprawled unconscious on a makeshift bed. Two whole extra beds had to be brought in to cover the entire body of the being, as it was taller than a Toa, who was usually twice the size of your average Matoran. In a corner of the room was Kopaka, who sat on a chair staring with intense interest at the being. It was only after a few seconds after Pohatu actually entered that he took notice of his comrade.
"Onua," the Toa of Ice nodded. "Where are the others?"
"Probably coming," said Onua quiety as he continued to gawp at the mysterious person in the room. "Who is this?"
"I don't know," said Kopaka. "But I can say this without uncertainty: the design of his armor matched a lot of people that were despicted on ancient Matoran artwork."
"So what, is this a time-traveller?" asked Onua snarkily. "Are we doing this again?"
"I hope not," shrugged Kopaka.
Right then, Gali entered the den, snow and the chilly winds coming in with them. Gali froze dead in her tracks when she saw the unconscious being on the three beds as Kopaka shut the door.
"Hello, Gali," greeted Onua. "Do you know who this is?"
"No," Gali shook her head. "No, I've never seen this person before. He...looks familiar though. He reminds me a little of Keetongu, actually."
The other thwo Toa exchanged glances from Gali to the ill person, clearly seeing what she was talking about. The armor was indeed ancient, with some choices that were obviously influential on Toa armor and even Keetongu's armor. It looked like a prototype for them. A first draft. Pohatu then arrived.
"Where's Tahu and Lewa?" asked Gali to Pohatu.
"Last I saw Lewa, he told me he was on his way after he made sure his timed air blasts functioned," explained Pohatu. "As for Tahu, the Matoran of Ta-Koro told me that he was worried sick of the possible eruption of Mount Mangai. Knowing him, he'll come."
"Yeah, he will," nodded Gali.
Lewa then entered the den. "Woo!" the Toa of Air yelled. "Even I think it's windy out there! Hey everyone." All present waved at their green friend.
"Whoa," gasped Lewa when he saw the mysterious being. "Who is that?"
"We don't know," said everyone else at the same time. The synchronized shrugging was very discomforting to Lewa for some reason.
Tahu then appeared, letting in more snowy wind into the room. "I'm here," announced the Toa of Fire. "So what's the--"
Tahu's eyes widened in pure shock and horror at the sight of the being laying in the room. Out of all the six present, Tahu was the only one who clearly recognized the being and knew his identity.
"By the Great Spirit," whispered Tahu. "Do you know who this is?"
"No," all present said simultaneously.
"This is Artakha," said Tahu. "The Archangel of Creation."
The wind howled as the room fell silent, if any noise was made. All eyes went from the Toa of Fire to the body of Artakha. They stared at the being of legend as if he was a pile of gold that miraculously appeared from thin air. The atmosphere felt more stuffy.
"Is he dead?" asked Tahu, edging closer to Artakha with caution.
"No," assured Kopaka, his sight remaining on Artakha as well. "The healers that work here did their best to examine him. His anatomy was unlike anything they've ever seen, so it was difficult. But judging from the damage on his armor and his weird breathing, they came to the conclusiont that he was seriously wounded in some kind of fight."
"How wounded?" asked Lewa.
"We think he's dying," explained Kopaka.
The room fell silent again.
"How do you know what Artakha looks like?" Gali asked Tahu.
Tahu took a deep breath. His eyes were closed as he reminded himself of what he went through years ago. He remembered the Swarm Wars with the Bohrok, and how close Gali came to getting killed by those insectoid creatures.
"Do you..." Tahu paused, hesitant to ask. "Do you remember when you were almost killed by one of those Bohrok years ago? We were picked up by that caravan driven by those Po-Matoran?"
"He's the reason you lived, Gali," Tahu pointed to Artakha. "He came during the night when I was keeping watch and healed you while you slept."
Gali swallowed and placed her hand on the spot where her near-fatal wound was. She inhaled heavily and remembered her pain during that day. She had trouble sleeping that night and felt the strain disappear later. She had always thought it was the miraculous work of Mata Nui while he dreamt, not one of his agents who personally healed her.
"This is unbelievable," whispered the Toa of Water. Tahu felt the same way. However, the main thing on his mind was what Artakha had told him. He remembered the Archangel telling him about his and Gali's destiny. The vague notion he implied that they were not meant to be together. It was coming true. Since the events of Nynrah and the traumatizing transformations they endured, Gali and Tahu had been drifing apart. They barely talked, and sometimes they would simply greet each other with nods instead of embraces. Seeing the Archangel here, vulnerable and potentially dying reminded him of that like an anvil weighing on his shoulders.
Onua slowly approached Artakha's body, curious and looking to look over the Archangel's body. "For an Archangel, he's missing some wings," observed the Toa of Earth.
"When I saw him, his wings were made of some kind of energy," said Tahu.
"I saw his back when I found him," said Kopaka. "There were two singe marks."
"A fallen angel," shrugged Pohatu, also staring at the being. He approached the beds and stood next to Onua. Gali, Tahu, and Kopaka approached the bed as well. Lewa entered the space between Pohatu and Kopaka and completed the semicircle that surrounded Artakha. It was a formation that they all instinctively felt like creating.
Suddenly, the Archangel woke with a rather violent start. A shockwave burst outwards from the being's body, knocking back the Toa onto the floor. All six's minds felt like they were being scrambled like eggs. The small shockwave blanketed their consciousness and made them feel as though they were too heavy to even look up. Sweat poured out of their foreheads before the pain abruptly ended.
The Toa slowly sat up, groaning and clutching their heads. They laid their eyes on Artakha who was now sitting up but still breathing heavily to the point of wheezing. "All six of the born," gasped the Archangel. "All here. Together."
"Uh yeah," muttered Lewa as he got to his feet. "What was that?"
"You unknowingly revived me temporarily," explained Artakha. "Thank you, in point of fact. Listen and listen well, children of Mata Nui. This is a time of disaster, of danger."
"What's happened?" asked Tahu, who also got to his feet. The other Toa followed suit, careful not to get too close to the Archangel after the previous incident.
Artakha coughed. The sound was very discomforting for the Toa, to see a celestial like him undergo mortal vulnerabilities. "The realm of immortals has fallen to chaos and battle," said Artakha. "Makuta's return has caused major schisms within the pantheon of Matoran deities. My brother, Karzahni, has turned against the Great Spirit. He has joined the Lord of Shadows' side. His army of the damned are now under Makuta's command.
"However, Makuta has not made any direct moves against his brother. He merely stays at his side, mocking him for being unable to stop what is happening to him."
"Why? What are you talking about?" asked Kopaka.
"The Great Spirit is dying," replied Artakha without pause.
The room fell silent. Even the wind outside seemed to have died down in shock over the revealing statement. Each Toa seemed to have remembered to breathe and began doing so manually.
"Impossible," whispered Gali, her eyes wide and start with horror.
"Why? How?" said Tahu, his voice trembling and trying to remain steady.
"The end of all is coming, Toa Tahu," answered Artakha. "It was foretold in what remained of the previous world, the one that was before Mata Nui and this world. The return of the darkbringer would herald the ending of everything. Makuta always desired his birthright before it was truly time. Before the last living being expires. Before this world is ready to pass. Because of his tampering with Time in order to return to the mortal realm, things have gone haywire. Even we are not sure if this present has the correct history."
Tahu shuddered at that report. He remembered back in Nynrah, where he and his fellow Toa had unwittingly traveled into a time distortion and were sent back to the times when the Turaga they knew were still Matoran and there were other heroes working in their places. After discovering the truth, Tahu had since always been wondering whether or not them being at that era was predestined or unintentional and caused major damage to reality. With the news of Mata Nui dying and a discontent unraveling in the other world, Tahu couldn't help but feel self-accusing. Maybe because of their unknowing interference in historical events, they might have paved the way for Mata Nui to become ill and slowly lose his life.
"I have fought my way through many enemies to come here," said Artakha. "As you can see, I am in no condition to recover. But I can still help you save the Spirit's life."
The Archangel held out his hand. At first, there seemed to be nothing. At second, there was still nothing.
"Uh, is it just me, or is everything sudden-warm--?" Lewa stopped talking when he looked at his armor and yelled in suprise. The other Toa made the same noises with their voices as they saw that their armor had changed. Instead of their usual Nuva armor, they were now equipping armor that would fit right into a battle in a snowstorm. Their hands were now covered in mittens, their shoulders and necks wrapped in fur, their boots now with cleats that allowed better movement in the snow, and their masks had altered into insulating cloths, the eyeholes now fitted with glass that acted like goggles.
Despite the similarities, each Toa had winter armor that accomadated their respective Elements. Most obvious being that Kopaka is the least changed of the six, being literally in his element. Pohatu took out his weapons out of curiosity, and saw that they too had changed. Instead of the climbing claws, he was holding a battle-axe, the butt of the hilt attached to a chain that trailed to Pohatu's side. The others' weapons had also altered.
"This is incredible," said Gali.
"This must be every blacksmiths' dream to make these," observed Lewa, who was looking over his newly aquired crossbow. He pulled back the retention string and found that a light construct of an arrow had appeared. When he released the string, the arrow disappeared.
Onua looked up from his new weapon, a gauntlet with a drill at the end, to look at Artakha. The Archangel's breathing was diminishing.
"Artakha...?" The Toa of Earth asked. His fellow Toa looked at Artakha as well, a look of inevitabilty in their eyes.
Artakha, with his final breath, wheezed out a final word: "Fight..."
His body went limp. In a matter of seconds, the body underneath all the armor faded from existence. The Archangel of Creation Artakha was no more.
And much to the Toa's dismay, he perished without telling them what to do.
Agony was what Tuyet would describe her current condition.
Not too long ago, she found herself shrieking and forcing bubbles out of her mouth as she emerged from a shadow on an underwater rock. And not too long before that, she was being consumed by the Makuta while he was in the form of a massive vortex of darkness. She remembered the pain of being burst apart into a hundred billion tiny pieces like it was yesterday. Unfortunately for her, her mind made it feel like it was only two minutes ago.
Worse now was that she knew what situation she was in. She knew that hundreds of years had passed since her title as Toa had been relevant. She knew that this body was not her original form. Tuyet was horrified and disgusted at feeling all those extra appendages wriggling around. Her body was as if her fragmented pieces were put back together crudely, and glued with a sentient adhesive that had now engulfed her body in an atrocious, vein-covered substance.
For some reason, she felt she was not the first to suffer this affliction. Tuyet's mind wandered briefly as she descended to the deepest part of the Endless Ocean floor. It wandered to a memory that she didn't recognize. She saw herself fighting heroes that looked like the many ceremonial statues and carvings that littered the temples and shrines of Nynrah. This memory was strange however. In this, she had a desire for revenge against these heroes and called herself
Ahkmou Virulent.. For a moment, Tuyet thought she witnessed her own death at the hands of a reptilian horror. Her logic reasoned that perhaps this Ahkmou Virulent was actually the previous incarnation of this form that she was currently cursed with.
Tuyet landed in a spot that she knew to be the deepest part of the Endless Ocean. A hushed voice in her head told her to come down here. Tuyet's eye twitched as she recognized these instructions as coming from Makuta himself. The monster that turned her into another monster that wasn't even an original creation. Tuyet wanted to defy the god and head to the surface. But two reasonsnot to popped up in her head. One was that in her current form, she would be an outcast. A creature shunned by those she once attempted to protect in the City of Legends. The second was a memory that flashed in her mind as she thought of defiance. A vision of a variety of Matoran around a variety of campfires simultaneously telling tales of the Mad Toa Tuyet. Interpreting and recounting how the Toa of Water fell from grace when she was corrupted by a piece of power called the Nui Stone and not only attempted to kill her own friends, but join forces with Makuta himself. The Dark God had made it impossible for Tuyet to disobey him by giving her very good reasons why she shouldn't.
Tuyet felt her will to live diminish as she looked around her. She was with in a circle, a very dim beam of light was illuminating where she stood. Surrounding her was six doors. All were wrapped up in rusty chains that she could easily break if she used her tentacles to pull them apart. What unsettled Tuyet besides her current condtion was the deathly silence. She didn't hear anything down here and the fact that there were doors that probably housed the worst things she could possibly imagine didn't help. The whispers of Makuta nudged her mind. Even if she unleashed whatever horrors might dwell behind those doors, it was better to be killed by them than live like this. With a grunt, she shot out six tentacles, one each grasping the chains wrapping the doors.
Tuyet pulled with all her might. Her knowledge of Water told her that the pressure down here must be immense. Even with the strength she knew she had, the doors were difficult to open. But she continued her efforts and after much strain, she finally pulled the doors out. Water rushed into the opened pathways that the doors covered. After a moment of believing that an underwater cylcone would appear, Tuyet felt everything halt and return to silence. She stood there, in the small beam of light as she darted her eyes to each opened doorways.
The former Toa heard whispered chanting. Despite being underwater, these voices did not feel muffled at all. As the chanting continued, Tuyet felt even more uneasy than she already was. The fact that looking into the opened doorways and seeing nothing but pitch black did not help. Tuyet stood there, listening to the chanting. She didn't recognize most of the words, but she heard Makuta's name. A prayer?
A voice spoke. The chanting halted. "We are awakened at last," said the voice. It was surprisingly soft. If Tuyet didn't know any better, she would expect this voice to be at home declaring speeches for election purposes. "The King of Endings has need of us. The Makuta has need of the Barraki once more to be his eyes, his hands, his weapons, his voice. The only mission is to see the end. The only purpose is to bring the end. Life's goal is death. End of all is everything."
"End of all is everything," repeated other voices.
"Behold, brothers," said the voice. Tuyet suddenly felt eyes fall on her from every direction. "The Night-Lord has given us a welcome gift. A present for our awakening."
Growls and hisses emerged from the doorways.
"The master is so generous for this gift," said the voice. "We thank you, our Dark Lord. We will feast upon this with full reverence and passion."
It was too late for Tuyet when she processed the final sentence uttered. Creatures suddenly sprang out from the doorways and set upon her body. From the brief glances she managed, Tuyet saw that her attackers were humanoid, but looked to be half sea-creatures. The squid-like one was the first to ensnare her with his own tentacles. She felt their fangs dig into her flesh and rip out massive chunks. Tuyet screamed as her and her killers' forms were engulfed in a red cloud.
It was a magnificent tomb for a fallen angel. All the Matoran on the island attended Artakha’s funeral. With the carving expertise of the Po-Matoran and the excavation knowledge of the Onu-Matoran, Toa Pohatu and Onua worked to create the best memorial for the Archangel possible. What they came up with rivaled that of Kini-Nui and Mangaia beneath it. They chose the tallest hill and dug deep into the slope. Underground, in the caverns, they created a chamber. Sacred Matoran scriptures were then added to the stone walls, a superstitious tradition following the many ancient temples and tombs that the island was filled with. Finally, all six Toa paraded with a casket containing Artakha’s armor within down a path into the tomb. Matoran from all over lined on the sides of the path to witness the funeral.
With the casket in place, Pohatu created a stone door that could withstand a thousand elemental blasts to secure it. Gali waved her hand and a spring emerged from the top of the hill and streamed down both sides of the stone door. Onua raised his hands, and created a life-sized statue of the Archangel, his staff in both hands and his head down. Pohatu then encased it in stone. Tahu followed suit by releasing a beam of fire that engulfed the statue until it crystallized; a shining statue that guarded the tomb.
With a moment of silence and respect, the Matoran departed back to their respective villages. Only the Toa and the Turaga remained to look over the newly constructed grave. The sky was cloudy, with threats of rain, but no drops fell. The wind rose, rustling the nearby trees of the jungle that surrounded the clearing they stood in.
“He gave us weapons to fight whatever was coming,” said Onua, looking at his armor. It had just shape-shifted into a jungle-themed cloth variety. The Toa’s chests were now protected by leather guards, their forearms by iron gauntlets, and their legs by iron greaves. Their sleeves had also been shortened, allowing for their arms to move freely. Under their boots were soles that allowed for ignoring muddy terrains. Hanging on each Toa’s sides was their Element-based weapons, now altered for the conditions they were in. These were perfect for maneuvering in dense jungle environments. “But he died without telling us what was even coming.”
“The Archangel gave you a warning?” asked Nokama.
“Incredible,” said Onewa, looking over the Toa’s armor. “Adaptive Armor, always changing to suit the wearer’s survival needs. Even the finest craftsmen can dream of smithing such items.
“Besides the point,” said Kopaka. “Artakha told us that Makuta was rallying his forces for a hostile takeover of Paradise. According to him, Mata Nui was dying.”
“Preposterous!” muttered Whenua. “It’s not possible. If Mata Nui was dying, then that would mean Makuta is close to his birthright. The End of all.”
“As distressing as it sounds, maybe that would explain the weather recently,” said Tahu. “But we need more information. Is there anything in Matoran lore that can shed more light on what’s going on?”
The Turaga looked at Whenua. The Turaga of Earth, when he was younger, had been a force of historical knowledge to be reckoned with. Whenua sighed. “As with any myth and legend, there are different ways to interpret them. But this one is the most vague and less detailed of all of our legends.”
“That’s saying something,” said Lewa. Silently, all the Toa agreed with that sentiment.
“I believe that there was mention of the End Times. The day where Time grinds to a halt, life itself has grown old, and there was nothing left to achieve. An army would then rise to cleanse this world. Like a laborer who cleans up the seats after an entertaining play. They will strip land, oceans, and the sky like paper stuck to a wall. Then there will be nothing.”
“Then clearly something’s wrong,” said Gali. “Not to be offending, Turaga, but this society seems far too primitive to be at the moment of the End Times.”
“You are not wrong,” said Vakama. “There were stories that were foretold, prophecies that have not yet come to pass. For some unholy reason, the final prophecy is the one currently in effect.”
“Oh, we had more stuff to go and search-find?” asked Lewa. “That’s just perfect. On the bright side, I think-believe that this End Times thing will at least free us from more Mask-Finding.”
“Lewa!” said Gali sternly.
“Sorry, sorry, you know how chatty I can get when I’m nervous.”
“Anyways,” said Whenua. “There is something I believe can help us.”
“Another mask?” asked Lewa.
“Another mask,” nodded Whenua. While everyone groaned, Lewa was the loudest. “But this one is the Mask to outpower all the Masks you have found in the past. This is Mata Nui’s original Mask itself.”
“Wait, Mata Nui wore a Mask?” asked Onua, suddenly invested.
“He still does, according to legends,” said Vakama. “In the before times, Mata Nui wore the Kanohi Ignika, the Mask of Life. After millennia of wearing it to perfect his craft of creation, he sent it to the Mortal Realm, replacing it with the Kanohi Ahvokii, the Mask of Light to counter Makuta’s own Mask of Shadows. They say that Mata Nui sent it to be hidden within Karda Nui, the Swamp of Secrets. Many Matoran adventurers had sought out this place before. They have failed.”
“So what gives us a chance?” asked Pohatu.
“You…you know how to get to this thing all this time?” asked Tahu. The Turaga nodded, all of them. Tahu shouldn’t be surprised after the Nynrah debacle with the Mask of Time and the Turaga’s hiding of the Matoran’s true origins from their people. But this was almost suspicious.
“We didn’t want to risk death,” admitted Nokama. “We allowed for expeditions, but towards places that lead to nowhere. We wanted them to come back safe.”
“And only us Toa-heroes can withstand this journey, eh?” asked Lewa, crossing his arms.
“Do not think you can just get over this trial, Toa Lewa,” said Matau, pointing at Lewa. “We would never tell you the true directions to Karda Nui if it wasn’t dire. In fact, how do we know if it is indeed the End Times? Weather has been this strange before, back before the Toa arrived. Makuta terrorized us often with weather abnormalities.”
“Yes, but never for this long,” countered Nokama. “But we haven’t confirmation yet, that much Matau has a point about. Don’t you think we are rushing to the most extreme, come to think of it?”
“But what if it IS the End Times, Nokama?” asked Vakama, small desperation in his aged voice. “Before we know it, it might be too late for the Toa to save Mata Nui.”
“Turaga! Toa!” A small voice cried out. The collective turned their attentions towards the source of the sound, and saw the Ta-Matoran messenger Kapura emerge from the jungles. He looked out of breath and panicked. “Toa, Turaga, there’s something happening. At where the Ga-Koro docks once were.”
“Settle down, Kapura,” commanded Tahu, kneeling next to the exhausted Matoran and patting him on the shoulder. “Now just slow down and tell us what’s happened.”
“Refugees have arrived, Toa Tahu,” explained Kapura. “Refugees from Nynrah.”
There were so many ships wobbling on the unstable waves of Naho Bay. There were so many that the Toa and Turaga couldn’t even count how many were arriving when they arrived. It seemed that all of Nynrah had evacuated to come to Mata Nui. However, while the exact size of Nynrah was unknown to the Toa, they knew that the amount of ships coming was too miniscule to be carrying every inhabitant of the City of Legends. They had no time to dwell on that however.
“They’ll never get everyone on board to land on their own,” said Gali.
“What do we do?” asked Lewa.
“Okay, this was hard before, but I have an idea,” said the Toa of Water. “I’ll try to make the waters stable enough for everyone to safely get to land. I’ll bring all the ships close. With any luck the Ga-Matoran can help me with this.”
“The ports are damaged by the tidal waves earlier,” said Nokama.
“Alright,” said Tahu. He turned to Onua and Pohatu. “Onua, Pohatu, you two are going to have to work together to create some kind of land bridge for all the Matoran to step onto”
The two Toa nodded. The Toa required to perform this task dashed to the shore that the ships were attempting to dock at. Gali looked at the violent waves. It was hard for her to stabilize before but now she was going to have to cover a huge area of the bay.
“Are you going to be alright, Gali?” asked Onua, noticing the worry on her face.
Gali took a deep breath and nodded. She unsheathed her shape-changed weapon, a harpoon. Gali felt it in her hand and thoughts swarmed her mind. In a matter of moments, she knew how to use it, despite having never used a harpoon before, as mildly ironic as it seemed to her. With a swift movement, Gali threw the weapon into the sea. A stream of water was connected from the back of the Toa’s hand and the end of the harpoon. Gali raised her arm. The strain was powerful, however. It was like lifting a boulder. But Gali knew it wasn’t because the harpoon hooked onto something heavy. Gali knew it was because the ocean was fighting her.
With a groan, Gali tightened her hand into a fist and squeezed. The spot where the harpoon was unleashed ripples. Onua and Pohatu watched as the ripples flattened out the large area the ships were at. The ships stopped their rocking. The Ga-Matoran onboard stared in disbelief.
“Whoa,” said Pohatu. He stared at his gauntlet. “What the hell would this do to Stone?”
“Don’t ask that just yet,” said Onua. “Gali, aren’t you going to bring them closer?”
“I can’t,” breathed Gali, her arm trembling. “Doing this is hard enough as it is…just make bridges to each of them. I’ll hold off the ocean as long as I can.”
“Wait, you’re literally fighting the ocean right now?” asked Pohatu.
“Just go!” cried Gali. Like the start of a race, Onua and Pohatu rushed towards the nearest ship. The minute they left land, a path of stone and earth formed underneath their feet. As they ran, they formed a bridge to the ship. They jumped on board and ordered everyone to head towards land through the bridge.
As they did this to the other ships, Gali felt the Endless Ocean at the end of her harpoon. The Toa of Water had been in these waters before. She had felt the purity of them as she traveled through them. Even in the times when she and her fellow Toa battled Makuta, the sea was still nurturing and life-giving, especially to the Ga-Koro villagers. But now, it felt tainted. It was like something had been released into the waters and poisoned it into becoming a darker version of itself. Something had made it so it had turned against her.
As Gali felt this strange anomaly in her greatest ally, she looked up from from her struggle to chance a quick glimpse of Onua’s and Pohatu’s progress. The majority of the ships had been safely evacuated. Branches of land and stone had connected the gaps between them as the two Toa rushed from vessel to vessel to ensure the safety of the Nynrah Matoran. They were now heading to the final two ships. For these, Onua and Pohatu had decided to split apart to make the final evacuations quicker. It was then that Gali felt something in the water. Something physical was rising up to the surface. That something burst out of the water, bringing with it one of the empty ships. Gali faltered when the creature appeared, briefly allowing for the violent waves to return.
“Onua! Pohatu! Hurry!” shouted Gali, her arm now shaking even more uncontrollably. Another empty ship was taken under by the creature.
“It’s the monster!” cried one of the Nynrah Matoran who can gotten to land. “The monster that’s been chasing our ships!”
“Wonderful!” yelled Lewa as he and Tahu ran to Gali’s side.
“Can you sense it?” asked Tahu.
“I can feel it coming, but I don’t know exactly where,” said Gali, sweat pouring out from her hairline.
As the Toa watched the Matoran cross the land bridge tensely, they waited for the monster’s next appearance. Once again, it was another empty ship. It was like the monster was trying to see which one had passengers on it. It was only a matter time before it realized most of them were crossing the—
The monster leapt out of the bay and fell on the land bridge, collapsing it. The Matoran screamed as the ground they walked on fell apart and they began falling. The Onu-Matoran from the ships rushed forward and created pockets of earth under the falling Matoran, saving them. Lewa leapt into the air, wings forming on his back. The Toa of Air went to each platform, returning to the mainland carrying as many Matoran as he could.
Tahu stepped forward and looked at the abnormally calm waters. “Time to see what this can do,” the Toa of Fire said before jumping down. To his surprise, he didn’t fall into the water. His boots transformed, and the soles were releasing pressurized air out beneath him, allowing him to hover above the water. “Well, I’ll be damned.”
Tahu then sprinted towards nearby platforms carrying Matoran, made mildly awkward due to the Toa of Fire’s inexperience with walking on air. Working with Lewa, Tahu began carrying Matoran to safety. Meanwhile, Onua and Pohatu watched their safe means of returning to Mata Nui destroyed. Worse still was that there were still Matoran to escort. Thankfully, Kopaka arrived, freezing the surface of the bay enough that it was safe to traverse across. The Toa of Ice approached the ship his friends were on and waved his hand. An ice slide formed, from the hull of the ship to the floor of the ice.
“Quickly now!” Onua commanded the Matoran. One by one, the passengers slid down the slide and ran across the ice to Mata Nui. When all Matoran were accounted for, Onua and Pohatu jumped off the ship and onto the ice.
“Nice thinking,” complimented Pohatu to Kopaka.
Suddenly, the ship they were on was swiftly dragged under. Splinters flew into the air as well as bay water as the monster rose to the surface seconds after. It was immense in size. It was some kind of giant sea serpent with a scaly hide. Each scale looked vaguely like individual Kanohi. As it chewed on the remains of the ship, he caught sight of the three Toa and fleeing Matoran. It roared in bloodthirsty rage.
“Run!” screamed Pohatu as the Toa began a mad dash back to the island. The serpent followed, smashing the ice behind them as it did. Kopaka spun around and a swipe of his sword sent a beam of Elemental ice at the creature. Upon impact, the energy encased it mostly in ice. It slowed the beast down, but it was still following.
At shore, Lewa and Tahu had successfully saved the victims of the collapsing land bridge.
“Look!” said Lewa. He pointed at the ice path Kopaka created and the many Nynrah Matoran fleeing. At slowly diminishing end of the path was Kopaka, Onua, and Pohatu fleeing from the monster.
“Gali,” said Tahu. “I think it’s alright to let go of the waves now.”
“Are you crazy?” panted Gali. “The others…”
“No, focus on using your powers to save the Matoran. Kopaka and the others can handle themselves.”
With great hesitation, Gali closed her eyes and retracted her harpoon. Instantaneously, the waters returned to their chaotic state. At the split second that everything returned to normal, Gali threw her harpoon in the direction of the ice path and pulled with all her might. A section of the water lifted upwards, the section of the ice path with the Matoran on it. The water carried the section to land, evaporating when the ice was safely on the ground.
“Now we can help our friends,” said Tahu, patting an exhausted Gali on her shoulder.
The ice Kopaka, Onua and Pohatu were standing on completely fell apart when Gali released the water. Quickly, Onua had created a platform of earth beneath them. But just like the ice before it, the monster was tearing away at it in an attempt to destroy the heroes. Out of nowhere, one of the empty ships remaining smashed into the creature, sending it reeling. Gali, Lewa, and Tahu landed on the earth platform from seemingly nowhere.
“Glad you could join us!” said Pohatu. He unsheathed his weapons, now a pair of boomerangs.
“I guess now’s a great time to test out these new ‘adaptive armor’,” said Tahu, taking out a sword that glowed with heat.
The monster emerged from the water, roaring and staring down the Toa. The heroes who hadn’t unsheathed their weapons did so. Onua found that his drill gauntlet had transformed into a warhammer. Gali saw that her harpoon had morphed into a trident. The Toa all readied themselves for the monster’s attack.
But none came.
It simply stared at them, a disappointed look on its face. With a groan, it dived back into the water, pushing the earth platform back with the resulting waves.
“What just happened?” asked Lewa, who lowered his crossbow.
“Something called it off, I think,” said Gali. “I felt something in the water. Like some force had just been released within it.”
“We can wonder about this later,” said Tahu, replacing his sword. “Let’s check up on the Matoran.”
Kini Nui had just become the unified sanctuary for all the Matoran in the world, as far as the Toa knew. The surviving Nynrah Matoran that risked life and limb to flee to Mata Nui was mingling among the island’s own inhabitants. Now that there was news of monsters surrounding the island and no way to leave, not to mention the weather that was already happening at each village, many felt safer to be at the place where the Toa met and convened. In the clearing in the middle of a vast jungle, an elaborate village had been constructed.
With the Toa and Nynrah Matoran’s assistance, huts had been built, fine-tuned to each Element as much as possible so the residents can be at their most comfortable. Campfires scattered across the large clearing, each surrounded by various groups of Matoran interacting and comforting each other in this time of crisis. Right next to the suva that lead to Makuta’s former lair was the largest campfire, the one surrounded by the Mata Nui Turaga, Nynrah Turaga, and Toa.
“The City of Legends has fallen,” said Turaga Balta sadly. Balta was the son of the mutated Matoran named Norik, who was a prominent member of the Nynrah Resistance that helped the Matoran migrate to Mata Nui. Bravely, Balta stayed behind with a group of Matoran to make sure Nynrah endured. Soon, they repopulated the city after finding overlooked Matoran who were trapped in spheres. “As you know, Nynrah was surrounded by high walls we set up to keep out the monsters of Makuta that bothered us for many years. We heard similar problems here, but ours were severe enough to build walls for. At the city, we began experiencing strange weather. Particularly, red lightning struck across the sky.
“Soon, our walls began being attacked more than usual. More creatures appeared, attempting to burst a hole through the barrier. With our Elemental powers, we tried our best to drive them off every chance we got. But somehow, for some reason, the creatures multiplied in numbers every day.
“Finally, it all came to a close. An entire army of Rahi monsters began an all-out assault on Nynrah, attacking the walls and piling up on themselves to get over it. The Wall Guard fearlessly resisted, but failed. The creatures got over the wall and began attacking the City. Thankfully, we were able to get a headstart in evacuating the Matoran populace on ships. But even then, the Rahi got some of them. As we sailed away, we saw that we could never return to our home. The giant serpent you Toa fought had burst through the wall as if it was paper, and devastated the city searching for Matoran to destroy.
“When it saw that it had ran out of victims, it spotted our fleeing fleet and chased after us all the way to Mata Nui. As you can tell, not all of us made it. The serpent had managed to take down some of our ships on the way here. As far as I know, everyone from the ships you see here is all that is left of Nynrah.”
“So the resources of Nynrah is no longer available to us?” asked Nokama.
“We brought with us important artifacts out of respect for our past, but other than that, our technology is no longer any help,” said Balta. “I’m sorry.”
“No need to apologize,” said Onua.
“None of this is our fault,” said Kopaka. “If this is indeed the End Times, then Makuta is to blame for this."
“Come to think of it, I saw several Toa-sized figures during the destruction of Nynrah,” said Garan, Turaga of Earth and former leader of the Nynrah Guard. “Six humanoid monsters were leading the charge on our beloved city.”
The Turaga of Mata Nui turned to Whenua. The look on his face was one of horror. “How many did you see?” asked the Turaga of Earth to the other.
“Six I believe.”
“Then it is indeed the End Times. If what I learned during my days as Matoran is accurate, then what you just saw was the oblivion of Nynrah. It no longer exists. It had been cleansed off the face of the world by the Barraki.”
“Impossible,” retorted Garan. “The Barraki are a myth.”
“So were the Toa and now look at who is with us,” said Vakama, pointing to the Toa Nuva.
“Not to mention that we are literally feet away from a tomb we created for an archangel,” said Lewa, pointing at the dim outline of the statue of Artakha.
“Toa,” said Whenua. “Our fears are true.”
“Slow down, Turaga,” said Tahu. “Who or what are these Barraki?”
Whenua sighed. “Just as you Toa are Mata Nui’s greatest creations, the Barraki are the Makuta’s greatest weapons. They are his solutions to your interferences. So dangerous that legend has it that they are imprisoned within the deepest part of the Endless Ocean, waiting for the End Times to be awakened so they can finish off reality. With the army of Makuta, a collective of the worst monsters and abominations this world has to offer, they will drain every drop of the ocean, destroy every pebble of land, and put out every spark of light and life to bring about the all-dark.”
“So even at the end, there is still life to be extinguished?” asked Pohatu.
“Life will only end if the God of Endings willed it at the correct time. Makuta has betrayed the trust of his brother to bring about the end at the appropriate time. He wishes to bring it about early, and it seems his impatience has driven him insane in some way.”
“That would explain why he’s so evil I guess,” shrugged Onua.
“And now Mata Nui is surrounded by Makuta’s forces. This island may in fact be the only place in the entirety of existence that is still inhabitable,” said Vakama.
“Unless all legends are indeed true,” spoke Nokama. “Then there is indeed one place that can perhaps solve all these problems.”
Vakama tensed. “Karda Nui.”
“The Swamp of Secrets,” said Tahu. “We’re going to have to find the Mask of Life.”
“Wonderful,” said Lewa. “Another mask-quest.”
“I don’t think you should be complaining, Lewa,” said Kopaka, his arms crossed. “It’s the end of the world and we have no other options. If another journey to find a mystical piece of facewear is what will save us all, then we will go on this journey.”
“I know,” said Lewa. “But it’s funny isn’t it? We came into this world hunting masks and we’re going out hunting masks.”
“So it’s settled then,” said Tahu. “We search for Karda Nui and the Mask of Life before Makuta consumes all of reality. Turaga, you said you had the directions?”
Whenua sighed. “Unfortunately.”
“Why unfortunately?” asked Pohatu, eyebrow raised.
“We don’t know what awaits you in Karda Nui. But we know what awaits you on the way,” confessed Whenua. He took his staff and began drawing in the dirt. The Toa watched as a shape was starting form. A mask made of four pieces. Two asymmetrical horns protruded from the heads. “This is the symbol of the Realm of the Damned. The symbol of Karzahni. The symbol of what you will have to pass.”
Jaller and company looked up at the hill that the Turaga and Toa were gathered on. “What do you suppose they’re talking about?” asked Hahli, who was leaning against Jaller’s shoulder.
“Who knows,” said the Ta-Koro Legion General. “Have you seen the new armor on them?”
“I know right?” said Nuparu, who was eating a bit of meat that was roasting above the campfire he was sitting in front of. “I saw the pieces actually shapeshift while fighting that monster at the bay. Their weapons kept changing too.”
“A final gift from Artakha, I heard,” said Hewkii who was sitting next to an asleep Macku.
“Imagine those armor on the Ta-Koro legion,” mused Jaller. “We wouldn’t even have to carry around spears or shields. The gauntlets would just provide for us.”
“Well, their inventor’s gone now,” said Hahli. “I don’t think Nuparu or any of the engineers will be seeing the blueprints anytime soon.”
“Shame,” Nuparu shook his head. “The Archangel of Creation actually came to the physical realm and he’s dead on arrival.”
“Don’t you think we should be more respectful of his passing?” asked Matoro, who was sitting silently throughout the conversation.
“What’s the point,” said Nuparu. “You’ve seen the signs. Even Nynrah came here for refuge. What does that tell you?”
The group was silent. The fire crackled and hushed discussions surrounded them in the form of groups of Matoran.
“I miss our villages,” said Jaller. “I’ll be honest, I preferred it when we lived in separate areas.”
“I should be offended but I think this place is crowded so…yeah,” said Hewkii.
With no one around to care about the mess they made, the Toa Nuva felt free to toss Vakama’s library upside down. Any book pertaining to information about the Realm of the Damned was searched for and thrown in a pile on a cleared out table that was once decorated by dinner plates and lanterns. Tahu made sure to put the fire out when the knocked over lanterns burst into flames upon impact with the floor. Nobody did anything about the broken furnishings, though.
“So, Vakama sure owns many-lots of books about Masks,” called Lewa from behind a shelf.
“Is there something about Karzahni in there?” asked Kopaka, carrying a stack in both arms.
“Um,” Lewa flipped through one such book. He went to the back, looked in the index, searched for the page number he saw and his eyes lit up. “There’s a section about his mask here...”
“Then throw it in the pile,” said the Toa of Ice as he threw the stack in his arms into the large gathering of scattered books. Lewa shrugged as he did so and flipped through each book about Masks to see if there was a slightest bit of information about Karzahni in it. He threw the ones he glimpsed such information in into the pile while neatly shelving the ones that didn’t have any.
Gali picked up a book from the pile and flipped through it as more were tossed into it. “So even the tiniest mention of Karzahni or his Realm?” she asked Tahu, who was dropping stacks of books next to her.
“We can’t afford to not know even the smallest detail,” said Tahu. “I know it’s ridiculous, but we got to figure out how to get there.”
When the table was practically drowning in books, the Toa took one each and began flipping through the pages. Paper-cuts were ignored.
“So it says here that Karzahni’s realm is known as Bara Magna among the Matoran,” said Onua, looking up from the page he was on. “According to this passage, it means ‘Barren Wasteland’. Souls of the deceased are driven mad by the uncertainty of…wow…the uncertainty of whether or not they are alive or dead.”
“Does it say anything about getting there?” asked Gali.
“Oh,” Onua skimmed through the passage he was reading. “Well, if you count dying getting there.”
“So so far, the only known way to get to Karzahni is to die?” asked Tahu.
“That’s what it sort of says.”
“Pretty sure we won’t be doing that,” said Pohatu as he flung the book he finished skimming behind him. It hit something porcelain and shattered.
A while later, books were still being torn open but nothing of use could be found yet. The Toa were getting restless and frustrated. Their arms were beginning to ache from holding up books for so long.
“Come on, there’s got to be something about getting there in these damn books,” said Tahu as he tried his best to read two books at the same time but to no avail.
Gali took one of his books, got a raised eyebrow in response, and flipped through it. “Well, maybe we’re looking in the wrong places,” the Kaukau-wearer suggested. “Maybe we broadened the horizon too much. Are there any stories on adventurers getting to and out of Bara Magna?”
“You heard what the Turaga said,” replied Kopaka as he glued his eyes to the book in his hands. “The only known news of traveling to Bara Magna was apparently barely reaching the entrance before fleeing from the sounds of the dead within. Progress was practically by centimeters.”
“Dammit!” yelled Lewa. He slammed his book shut and waved it in an impartial Kopaka’s masked face. “There’s nothing about the realm inside-here! Just about how his mask’s patchwork! What use can we get from knowing his mask drives people insane?! His home does that already!”
The Toa of Air screamed and threw the book at something else porcelain. It fell to the ground with a clank and remained in one piece. “I looked in so many indexes just to search-find Karzahni and they all say the same thing!”
“Are you seriously complaining about being bored by reading when we’re in serious need to get to Hell?” Tahu angrily grilled.
“Again, maybe we’re looking in the wrong places,” pointed out Gali once more. “How about we look at things about death?”
The room went silent as the Toa looked at each other quizzically. Tahu seemed to glance at Gali in disappointment over how his idea didn’t seem to work. Gali felt mildly remorseful. They had been drifting apart lately and nothing seemed to be changing it. It seemed that Artakha’s appearance and subsequent death had reignited some uncomfortable memories of the Archangel’s telling him that they weren’t meant to be.
One clean swipe of the books off the table and one slam of a single one later, the Toa gathered around the open book on legends and stared in anticipation as Gali flipped through the pages. She continually did so until she landed on a page with a rather crude drawing of an interesting looking fellow.
“Ugh,” grunted Lewa. “That guy’s tooth-grin gives me goosebumps.”
Gali cleared her throat as she read. “This is the face of death. The face that all sees when their time comes. This is the face of Vezon, the Reaper, the Harvester of Souls, the…the Bonehead…?”
“Well that seems an odd thing to add in an entry about a Grim Reaper,” observed Onua.
The more the Toa looked at the toothy rictus grin of the drawing, they felt more at unease. It was like the little dots that served as the being’s eyes were watching them. In fact, considering all they knew about legends and myths in this world, he might as well be. A gust of wind seemed to breeze into the room, sending chills up the heroes’ spines. The worst part of this was that where they were, Ta-Koro, the wind was supposed to be warm.
“Next page,” demanded Pohatu.
“Next page,” agreed Gali.
The Toa of Water flipped through the book until she landed on a page marked Karzahni.
The drawing on the page was crude as well, but the details were menacingly precise. As if the artist had memorized every part of the being’s figure and laid it down on the paper in frenzy. From what the Toa could see, Karzahni’s appearance was basically a warped version of his twin brother Artakha’s. Their armor was similar but Karzahni’s was more decayed, less refined, and less cared for. Whereas Artakha’s armor seemed to be polished in tip-top condition, Karzahni’s was like it was worn for quite some time while its decreasing condition was stubbornly ignored.
“Looks like a nice guy,” said Pohatu.
“The ruler of Bara Magna, right there in all his glory,” said Tahu. “Anything about his realm?”
“Well, it says here that it’s right underneath the physical realm,” said Gali. “Essentially, his domain is the exact opposite of Artakha’s. Whilst good people who passed would go to the paradise of Bota Magna, the bad and evil will go straight to Bara Magna. There they will suffer madness, hopelessness. No matter what they try to do, the nagging feeling that it was all their fault will fester in their minds and eat them alive for all of eternity.”
“Pretty deep-detailed for an informational guide,” said Lewa.
“This still isn’t helping,” said Kopaka in a monotone and shaking his head.
Gali turned some more pages until she spotted some words she thought were interesting. “Ah, I think we got something.”
“What is it?” asked Tahu.
“This section here is about the ‘Journey of Mazeka’,” explained Gali. “Mazeka was a mystic in the olden Matoran times whose wife passed away. Unfortunately, his wife had done a crime in her past that she regretted terribly. And due to this crime, she was sent to Bara Magna. Feeling his wife deserved to go to Bota Magna because of her sincere attempts to atone for her sins. So after a while, Mazeka discovered a way to temporarily die and send his spirit to the afterlife.
“He stopped his heart, stopped breathing, and went to Bara Magna to convince Karzahni to allow his wife to be taken by Artakha. After making a deal with the King of Damned, Mazeka managed to get his wife to be sent to Bota Magna. However, Mazeka had promised his own soul to be given to Bara Magna, so when he died, he wasn’t allowed with his wife. His happiness at his wife’s current place made him content with this fact.”
“But…” said Lewa. “But Bara Magna messes with your mind and fills you with insane uncertainty, right?”
The Toa didn’t say a word. If this legend had truly happened, then they understood what Mazeka had doomed himself to in order to save his love.
“Well, no time to dwell on what happened,” said Tahu. “I think we have a way to get to Bara Magna now. It seems the Turaga haven’t actually read everything on their shelves.”
“Yeah, but how fast can we learn how to temporarily die?” asked Pohatu.
“Well, who do we know who’s really weird, I guess-suppose?” asked Lewa. “They usually know how to do these things.”
“I guess we…ask around?” suggested Onua uncertainly.
Water fell off the edge of everything and fell into the eternal pits of nothing. Whatever land was underneath the Endless Ocean floated upwards into the blackness and disappeared. No trace remained of what was once in the depths of the waters. All of reality was being consumed, and the Barraki levitated above their mighty beast army as they slowly but surely approached the island of Mata Nui.
“Look at it, brothers,” said the shark known as Pridak. “The so-called safe haven, constructed by Mata Nui at the last minute before his lengthy slumber.”
“Why can Makuta not simply destroy it?” asked the squid named Kalmah. His tentacles of Plasma freely waved around, threatening to scorch anything they touched. “I do not mean to question the Night-Lord but one must surely wonder this.”
The prawn called Takadox convulsed. His head snapped back before he slowly lowered it back down to a normal position. “All of Paradise’s protection has been centered on that piece of land,” he replied with a snarl. “The closer we get, the slower our consumption of the universe becomes.”
“I hate this,” growled the manta ray that called himself Mantax. “What hope do they have of reversing this? This is the end. We are winning. One step on that island and it’s all over, I say. Our forces will overwhelm. Their trees will be nothing but splinters by the time we’re done.”
“Makuta has a lot of hatred for that island, Mantax,” said Takadox. “I just got a feeling that he would love for us to tear it apart like a bear would tear open a rabbit.”
“Good,” smiled the crustacean brute known as Carapar. He snapped his claws together. Anything that was in their hold would be crushed by how swift they could be. “After millennia of waiting underwater, I shall finally have something to crush.”
“They are powerless to stop us,” said Pridak. “With Mata Nui so weak, they only have those six Toa to protect them. I almost feel pity for the little ones.”
An enormous sea serpent approached the Barraki. It roared at them as it burst out of the water to greet them. Pridak smiled. “Their ships are destroyed. The island is surrounded. This is truly the end of Mata Nui.”
The sun didn’t rise.
If anything the only light in the sky was the weird and ominous light behind what appeared to be black clouds up above. Behind those clouds seemed to be a never ending explosion of something red. Whenever the Toa looked up at what would once be a beautiful magnificent blue, cloud-covered ceiling, they were reminded of their final hours in the past version of Nynrah. They were reminded of when they were front-and-center witnesses of Makuta’s first return and when he put his brother into the infamous coma.
They had returned to Kini-Nui, where the Matoran were even more nervous now that they were seeing the cloudy red skies above. Jaller was on top of a rock, trying to defuse the tension and convince people that like the previous crises, it’ll pass. When the Toa walked past, he pointed them out, which seemed to work on calming the masses.
“They have a lot of hope-faith in us,” observed Lewa, who was holding some of the books from Vakama’s library.
“They have every right to,” said Gali. “They’ve been through so much, and only made it because of us.”
The Toa approached the suva that once led to Makuta’s former lair. Around it were the Turaga of Nynrah, looking at it as if it was a box of poison that shouldn’t be opened.
“So this is the entrance to Mangaia, the lair of the Dark Lord himself,” said Garan with a scowl.
“Don’t worry,” said Kopaka. “Makuta isn’t down there as far as we know.”
“Can you even guarantee that?” asked the Turaga of Earth.
“Believe us,” said Tahu. “He’d either kill or scare the courage out of everyone if he was down there and so close to everyone.”
Garan grumbled. The former leader of the Nynrah Guard had a little of his fighting days left in him. The Toa couldn’t help but feel this was what Jaller would be like if he grew old and became a Turaga.
“So what would you need of us to approach us today?” asked Balta.
Lewa placed the books he was holding down on the ground and took the one with Mazeka’s tale in it. He opened the book and turned to the page that held the story and showed it to the Nynrah Turaga.
“Have you guys heard of Mazeka’s tale?” asked Tahu.
“We have,” said the Turaga of Water named Dalu. “What about…oh.”
“Yes, ‘oh’,” said Pohatu.
“It’s a really desperate race right now and we don’t think we have the time to just journey to Bara Magna,” explained Gali. “So the best option right now is to…to die temporarily.”
“I see,” said Balta, looking down.
“So why come to us?” asked the Turaga of Air called Piruk. “Do you expect us to kill you?”
“Eh, sort of,” shrugged Lewa. “We were just wondering if there were any weirdoes on Nynrah that knew how to do this sort of thing.”
“Lewa!” said Gali.
“Well, they WOULD be weirdoes if they knew how to die for a minute, right?” said Lewa, defensively.
As if on cue, all the Turaga turned their heads towards one of their own: a Turaga of Stone with a mask that matched the description of a Great Komau that Vakama would once tell them. The Turaga appeared to be absent minded, as he was staring into open space and humming before realizing that everyone was staring at him.
“Um,” said Onua. “Why are we staring at him?”
“Because a dust cuckoo has found an unsuspecting nest to host its egg,” chuckled the Turaga.
The Toa were speechless.
“Say…” sighed Garan. Then quickly, he continued with, “say hello to Turaga Velika, resident riddle-speaker and all around confusing mess of a person.”
“Uh, oh,” said Lewa.
“’Uh, oh’ indeed,” muttered Pohatu. But he wasn’t staring at Velika. He was staring at something that had elicited gasps and yells of surprise from the surrounding Matoran. The Toa spun to see what the commotion was and their mouths hung open.
A Po-Matoran was wandering around the grounds as if he was sleep-walking. Despite his yellow color scheme, Pohatu and his fellow Toa knew which element he belonged to. The Matoran also happened to be transparent and lightly glowing a blue-ish hue.
“Oh, and now ghosts,” said Onua, not letting his focus leave the undead Matoran.
The Po-Matoran ghost was distorted, as if someone had taken him apart and connected him back together in a flimsy attempt to save a project. In his eyes were none at all, as in there were black empty holes where his eyes should be. The expression on his face matched the mood of his ghostly aura. He looked miserable, hopeless, and all around hollow.
The ghost stared at the Toa, despite having clearly been walking the living world for a while and not paying any mind to anything. He stared at them with subtle interest before slowly shaking his head and walking off.
“W-wait, wait!” called Pohatu, secretly hoping that their similar elements would yield a response. But none came. The ghost simply walked until he was too far to see and shimmered into nonexistence.
Turaga Vakama and the rest of the Mata Nui Turaga went to the Toa’s sides.
“As if things were not dire enough,” breathed Vakama. “The realm of the dead and the living world are intersecting. The End Times is causing boundaries to no longer matter.”
“I just now-realized, guys,” said Lewa. “Since dead people are apparently walking the land now, is it wrong for me to think that Karzahni might be trying to help Makuta in a way that involved having an army of ghosts or zombies rise up beneath us and seize the island?”
“There…there are a lot of graves on Mata Nui,” said Jaller.
“And that’s not even scratching the surface of Nynrah’s deceased populace,” said Balta.
“A mountain looms over, and the villagers at the foot are not ready for an eruption,” said Velika.
Tahu knelt before the Turaga of Stone. “Please, sir,” said the Toa of Fire. “If there were any other way we can think of, we would do it. But this is the only chance we have to getting to Karda Nui.”
“Ah, so the Swamp of Secrets is what you seek,” nodded Velika, finally speaking sense for once. He nodded slowly as if reminiscing about something in his past. Tahu briefly wondered if Velika was one of the many adventurers who attempted to travel to Karzahni, only to be driven mad when he was compelled to turn away. “Alright, then. The younglings trail after the bread crumbs to the box, and yet they gain fortune and victory from it.”
“Wait, what’s going on?” asked Jaller.
“That’s…that’s not the matter yet,” sighed Tahu.
“Well, we got to know what’s going on, don’t we?” asked Hahli, who was standing closely next to Jaller. “But no need to explain the red sky thing, we’ve kind of figured it out.”
“So you know the world’s ending?” asked Lewa.
“The world’s ending?!” yelled a voice from the back of the mass of Matoran before the Toa. On cue, an uproar of collected voices rumbled across the air. Questions were thrown at the Toa and merely bounced off. Matoran began arguing, some even beginning to shove each other.
“Everybody calm down!” commanded Gali. The Toa of Water’s order was heard and complied to. The Matoran crowd lowered their voices to either complete silence or hushed whispers. “Now I know everything seems bad, with the weather, the evacuation of the villages, and now…this news.”
“But rest assured,” continued Tahu, raising his hands. “We’ve found what may be a solution to this. It’s admittedly not pretty but we ask that nobody panic or come into distress.”
“You’ll figure it out, right?” asked Macku, holding Hewkii’s hand tightly. “You six always do. You’ve always seen us through tough times.”
The Matoran crowd murmured in agreement and synchronized nodding commenced within the fold.
The Toa glanced at each other uncertainly. Macku and the Matoran’s faith in them were strong. They might need it now more than ever considering how literally life-threatening their current idea is.
“We will,” said Kopaka in his usual droll voice.
The Toa expected some kind of cheer following a beat of silence. However, the Matoran simply nodded and headed back to continuing their mundane activities.
“So!” said Velika cheerfully. “Would you youngsters like to start at, heart-rate control or hypnosis?”
Sitting in the estimated center of the line of Toa, Tahu's breathing began slowing down. Each inhalation became deeper and his lungs were sucking in more air than he originall thought possible. This must've been what Ga-Matoran feel like every day. Along with his fellow Toa, Tahu working to slow down his breathing and heartrate to simulate death.
According to Turaga Velika, who watched over them like a drill sargeant, they were basically looking to appear as deceased as possible in order to trick the universe into letting them into the afterlife. The other Turaga argued that the technique only puts the practitioner into a comatose state that puts them in-between life and death. Velika responded with a handwave and a sputtering of his lips.
Tahu's breathing slowed to the point where even he was surprised that he hadn't passed out yet. While he's not fading into unconsciousness, the Toa of Fire certainly felt his body floating. Clearly, his limited respiration has begun to cause him to hallucinate now. Tahu saw the darkness of his eyelids transform into a desert. A vast wasteland of sand and pulverized animal carcasses laid out before him. There was no sun. Where a giant orb of fiery light was supposed to hang was a black hole, a singularity twisting and distorting the sky that touched its edge.
Cautiously, Tahu lifted a foot and began stepping towards the hole. As he strolled, he noticed the mounds of sand sprouting decaying Matoran corpses. The dusty half-skeletons watched him pass them. Despite some of them missing faces, Tahu could somehow tell they were in despair and piercing him with their accusing glances. A thought erupted in Tahu's mind like a firework. Was this Bara Magna?
"No," a voice echoed.
Tahu froze. He looked up and saw a demon. It was standing on the peak of a dead tree. It stared at the Hau-wearer, despite horns protruding from its eyeholes. It appeared to wear a Kanohi, only it was a shoddy patchwork that was tearing at the seams. The demon's cape fluttered in whatever wind came breezing in this realm. It didn't move.
"This is just a silly little vision of things to come," growled the King of the Damned.
Tahu gasped and found himself warped back to reality. His sudden burst of activity awoke the other Toa and they gathered around their leader.
"Tahu, what happened?" asked Gali.
"I...I'm not sure, but I saw some things," gasped the Toa of Fire.
"Good!" exclaimed Velika. "That means it's working. What did you see?"
"I saw a monster, with a mask stitched together and horns for eyes," said Tahu, sweating beads from his forehead.
"You saw Karzahni," said Velika.
"But I think it's just a vision, though," said Tahu. "Everything looked distorted, and Karzahni told me what I was seeing was just of things to come."
"The King of the Damned is a rather self-aware chap," said Velika. "Those who become madness have the most clarity."
"So I just thought-realized," said Lewa. "Are we practicing or are we planning to go immediately?"
"Well, are we in a hurry?" asked Velika.
After much consideration, the Toa were back in sitting positions and taking slower and deeper breaths. Velika continued to watch over them and occasionally shouted out tips and random riddles. If the idea was that he was to be ignored, then it was working, and the Toa were more concentrated in their efforts. As time passed, the Toa's minds began to wander and they began to forget that they were supposed to maintain their breathing.
The tediousness of the training threw the heroes off, and Velika responded by tapping them harshly on the mask. The Matoran had gathered around the meditating Toa and watched with intensity, as if they were watching a very influential Kohlii game. Considering the scenario they were currently living in, this was most likely the most suspenseful thing they can endure.
Some Le-Matoran attempted to cheer on Lewa, to encourage him to what amounted to killing himself, really. As expected, Lewa was even more distracted by it and the words of motivation died down as quickly as it began. Soon enough, the Toa began to feel knots twisting in their stomach. Growls could be heard emnating from their bellies as hunger began to set in. Sweat beads rolled down their faces as they tried to ignore the bothering feeling.
Finally, it was Pohatu who relented and broke form his meditative position, panting and groaning. The other Toa took the sudden movement as confirmation that it's alright to break as well. The luxury of breathing normally overtook the legendary heroes as they forgot why they were doing this for a moment and indulged in everything they had been trying to avoid for the past few hours.
"It seems this will be more difficult than it appears," said Velika, stroking his chin.
"You thought-think?!" gasped Lewa.
"I'm sorry," said Pohatu. "It's just...we haven't done this sort of thing before. None of us have."
"Well, Kopaka seems to do it on a daily basis," pointed out Onua, who was also taking in every breath like the air was the sweet nectar brewed by Mata Nui himself.
The Toa paused momentarily and turned to the Toa of Ice. Much to their and everyone's surprise, Kopaka was unmoving. He was even more frozen than any of the ice sculptures in Ko-Koro. Eerily so. In fact, the more the Toa and everyone else stared at the Toa of Ice, he looked as still as a corpse.
"Oh," said Pohatu. With a mad dash, the Toa, Turaga Nuju, and a large group of Ko-Matoran rushed to the Toa of Ice. They gathered around him in a cluster of worried questions and concerned looks at one another. The Toa were the closest to Kopaka. Gali placed two fingers on the Toa's neck. For a long and terrifying moment, there was no heartbeat. A single slow pump emerged and the Toa of Water was relieved. So was everyone else when she confirmed, though confusion was still around.
"How did he...?" asked Lewa.
"Kopaka was an expert in tuning things out," said Tahu. "But now things are going to be complicated. One of us is no doubt in Bara Magna and the rest of us are stuck in the dying mortal plains. No to mention we're really easily distracted by being alive."
"Argh!" grunted Lewa. "Why do we have to be so in great-love with living?!"
"Has anyone noticed all the jokes recently are pretty morbid?" asked Onua.
A silence fell.
"There must be a way to get to Bara Magna while blocking off any distractions," said Gali.
"We're losing time," said Garan, who was in attendance.
"Agreed," said Tahu. "And Mata Nui knows what Kopaka has gotten into right now."
"Oh," muttered Kopaka as he stared at the landscape of Bara Magna.
Kopaka stared with complete astonishment at his surroundings. If there was a time the phrase "everything is backwards" was to be true, now was the time. Before him spread the landscape of Bara Magna. The view was positively disorienting. He was surrounded by fog and standing on what seemed to be soft mud. But closer inspection by the Toa of Ice revaled to him that the surrounding substance was more like dark clouds. He was standing on the sky.
Above Kopaka was what could only be described as a ceiling. The replacement for the sky in Bara Magna was solid earth, with mountains and hills serving as wide stalactites that point downwards. Despite the ground being sky and sky being the ground, Kopaka could see dead trees and hovering debris littered across whatever he was standing on. In the distance, he could see long black tendrils reaching out to the earth above, seemingly extending slowly. A pebble levitated towards the Toa of Ice and he instinctively reached out to touch it.
The appearance of a mysterious arm portruding from his shoulder surprised him. Kopaka looked at his arms and legs then the rest of his body. He saw that he had lost his Adaptive Armor. In fact, he's lost his entire body. His being was replaced by a figure of pure energy, glowing with a soft white light. Wisps of winter floated off the surface of Kopaka's new body. Kopaka went still when memories began to come.
The Toa of Ice remembered the original final battle against Makuta. The fight was becoming one-sided, with all of the Toa practically being glued to the floor as the Dark God stepped all over them. The tide thankfully turned when all six Toa shed their mortal flesh and unleashed their true forms. They transformed into featureless beings of pure energy, combining their efforts to send Makuta back into the Void. It appears that he had abandoned his physical body once his mind and soul entered the realm of Bara Magna. Kopaka hoped that his new form provided good natural defenses against whatever dwelled here.
Kopaka halted his self-examination and determinedly tried to accept what had happened. He noticed that the other Toa were not with him. He found this to be expected, as he always had been the most patient of the team. Now was the time to explore, he decided. If Kopaka was going to wait for his fellow Toa to arrive, he might as well take the free time to check out what Bara Magna had to offer. So far, what it had to offer looked a lot like a very misty swamp. Kopaka decided to keep a mental note to ask Lewa if the sky felt like a swamp.
It was at this moment that small figures emerged from the fog and into Kopaka's line of sight. The Toa of Ice initially took a cautious and defensive position until he realized that these forms belonged to Matoran. Something was wrong with them, however. The expression on their faces were one of hopelessness and despair. It was as if they've been so far away from anything positive that any possibilities were considered deceptions.
Kopaka approached one of them, a Ko-Matoran wearing a silver Kanohi that looked like a breathing apparatus. He kneeled down, blocking the wandering Matoran's path and forcing him to stop. "Hello there," Kopaka greeted. "You needn't worry, I won't hurt you. I'm a Toa."
The Matoran didn't look up. "You don't look like a Toa," he murmured. "There are no Toa here."
"No, I am, I'm not lying," insisted Kopaka. "Listen, I've come to prevent the End of Times. I need directions or instructions on how to get to Karda Nui."
The Matoran mumbled and groaned. "There is no way out of here. It will be dark soon. There is no way out."
"Ridiculous," Kopaka said, trying to sound lively. "One of you have escaped this place once and even descended into legend. His name is Mazeka."
"But I am Mazeka," said the Matoran.
Kopaka was struck silent. The Matoran hero was before him, a sign of determination and bravery in Matoran lore. But Mazeka looked like an undead being, eternally tired and severely missing life. The fact that such a figure has become this was almost enough to break the Toa of Ice's heart.
"And you've been here thanks to Karzahni," said Kopaka.
"Others will be here soon," promised the Toa of Ice. "What if we overthrow Karzahni, turn the Realm of the Damned over to you wandering souls, and you can tell us a way to get to Karda Nui?"
Mazeka shook his glum head. "Your hope is admirable, 'Toa'," said the dead Ko-Matoran. "But it doesn't matter if you defeat Karzahni at this point. The invasion has begun."
Kopaka blinked. "Invasion?" he asked, feeling anxious. "Mazeka, what are you talking about?"
Mazeka pointed towards the earth. "The King of the Damned leads his army of undead towards the world of the living," the Ko-Matoran said. "He will help Makuta end it all with them."
Kopaka's eyes widened as he spun around and stared upwards. The tendrils that were reaching the above mountains and hills. He looked as closely as he could and gasped in horror. The tendrils were zombified soldiers, climbing over each other and forming a pillar the same way ants would.
Mata Nui was not only surrounded, but its very ground would rebirth its dead to take over the living. Kopaka could do nothing. He feared the other Toa couldn't either.
Gali brushed away the leaves as she made her way through the forest. The Toa of Water eventually made it out of the forest and reached a clearing. She saw that she was at an edge of the island. Where water once laid was now a bottomless cliff. At the edge stood Tahu, staring down at the abyss. Gali approached him; the Toa of Fire didn't react to her arrival.
"The moon is gone," Tahu said. Gali slowly raised her head and gazed at the night sky. Everything was gone. The sky and the Endless Ocean had vanished. All that was left was the void. The only part of reality that stood was Mata Nui now.
"The harvest moon is no longer with us," Gali shook her head. After a moment of silence, Gali went to Tahu's side and peeked over at the edge. "What happened to us, Tahu?"
Tahu blinked, as if taken out of a trance by her question. "What do you mean?" the Toa asked.
"You've been distant since the Nynrah incident," explained Gali. "Now you're even more after Artakha's fall."
"It's nothing, just thoughts," excused Tahu.
"No, not just any thoughts," said Gali. She grabbed his hand, much to the Toa of Fire's surprise. "You said Artakha saved me from a near-fatal wound. But that's not all, is it?"
Tahu took a deep breath.
"There was a day when Turaga Vakama told me you and I were not meant to be," the Toa of Fire breathed. "When Artakha saved you, he seemed to support that notion by telling me that no one can defy their destiny. We just needed to do what we can with the time we have."
Gali listened silently.
"And now with everything that's happened, in Nynrah, with everywhere right now, I feel like our time is running out. I tried my best to keep us together, but everything's just...just falling on me," Tahu confessed. "And we're barely a step ahead to fixing anything. Our time is almost up and it feels like it's going to end without you by my side."
"Well, we can start now," said Gali, resting her head on his shoulder. "Here we are, side by side, facing the surrounding darkness, together."
The Toa of Water gently took Tahu's face and turned it towards her. "We'll figure out how to get to Bara Magna, and we're going to get rid of Makuta once and for all. And we'll do it before our time runs out. If we're not supposed to be with each other, then let's go our separate ways in style."
Tahu smiled. "This must be the most idealistic anticipation to a break-up ever," he chuckled, joined by Gali. Their laugh echoed across the darkness, the area silent enough for the Toa's voices to bounce everywhere. Their hearts brightened and their resolve strengthened, the pair embraced. At that moment, Tahu didn't want to let go of his love, even if he knew eventually he must.
Then the echo stopped. Tahu and Gali didn't notice as they took comfort in one another's arms. Then came a loud and shrill noise. It sped through the air and towards them like a harpoon. Something impacted with Gali and caused her to grunt.
The two Toa slowly backed away from each other, but still holding onto each other. Gali looked down at her body, to the spot that Artakha healed. A large wound was spreading from that exact spot. From the wound emerged distorting ripples accompanied by the previously vanished echo of their laughter. Their voices had just stabbed Gali in the gut.
"What...?" muttered Gali weakly.
Another shrill noise came from nowhere and punched Gali in her chest. The Toa of Water's arms slipped from Tahu's grasp as she limply fell over the edge. Her blue-armored body swiftly disappeared into the abyss below.
"NO!" screamed Tahu, falling to his knees and reaching towards where Gali was last seen.
"How saddening to see love's sting," a soft voice said.
With an enraged growl, Tahu turned towards the source of the voice and saw a freak emerge from the forest. Hunchbacked, the creature was white, his eyes like blue marbles and joints of his body sprouting shark-like fins. Behind his bloody lips were two parallel rows of fangs. He held two blades, both stained with coagulated blood and shaped like the fin of a shark.
"But from what I heard from the last five minutes," smiled the creature. "It was better for you two to get it over with anyways."
"You hurt Gali...?" panted Tahu, steam rising from the surface of his body.
"Yes," nodded the creature. "I am sure Lord Makuta would be pleased to hear that one of the Toa has been taken care of. Proud to hear that the Barraki he prepared for so long were not failures like his last children." He raised his head in a euphoric manner, as if he felt his god's praise wash over him.
"You... HURT GALI?!" shouted Tahu as the gauntlets of his Adaptive Armor produced flame-producing long swords. Fire burst from the handles as the Toa swung them. The Barraki grinned and took a fighting stance, raising his bloodied blades up. Tahu roared as he charged at the shark-like creep, his footsteps leaving spots of flame to burn in his wake. The Barraki pulled his head back and screeched. A loud sonic scream blasted Tahu like an ocean tide.
Tahu was blown back, falling on his back with a thud. His landing singed the ground under him.
"Remember the Bohrok-Kal, Toa Tahu?" spoke the Barraki's voice against the Toa's ear. He must be throwing his voice. The feeling that this monster was right next to his ear disgusted Tahu. "Do you remember how they used elements you had never seen before? Plasma? Sonics? Lightning? Where do you imagine Makuta got the idea? Where do you imagine he gained inspiration from other than the Barraki? To give the power of Pridak to one of the leaders of the Swarm?"
Tahu leapt back to his feet, his swords now replaced by a shield with rotating blades that were aflame. Steam pressurized under his boots' soles as he commanded the armor to launch him at the being that called himself Pridak. He roared a sound that would scare a herd of Muaka tigers and flew towards the Barraki. His body was practically a wildfire as he collided with the creature. White-hot explosions emerged from the impact, transforming the edge of the forest into a circle of dead trees.
Kopaka ran towards the towers of undead, trying to formulate a plan to bring them down as he did. Mazeka meekly followed close behind, occasionally muttering the usual depressing poetry. Kopaka tried his best to ignore him. His attention was grabbed, however, by a thud and splash behind him. He spun around, tiny blizzards swirling around his energized hands. From the source of the thud rose Gali, who rubbed her head and groaned.
"Gali!" Kopaka exclaimed. "You made it."
His brief relief was replaced by concern. Something was wrong. Instead of the form of pure energy that Kopaka had taken, Gali remained the same as she was on Mata Nui. The first thing the Toa of Water did once she attended to her head was to touch her belly.
"The wound's gone," she muttered. "But how? I--"
Gali looked up at Kopaka. Then to her surroundings. Then to the sky. She saw the teetering towards of undead warriors climbing their way to the earth above. Her eyes widened in horror as she realized where she was. Kopaka's as well. The unded army hasn't reached the mortal plains yet, but something has arrived on Mata Nui.
And it was picking the Toa off one by one right now.
"Look!" cried Takua, the oddly-colored chronicler of Ta-Koro. He pointed at a plume of smoke rising from the east of the island. Gradients of orange light erupted from its base as explosions could be heard. The sounds of screeching echoed throughout the quiet land.
"Those fires," said Vakama, squinting at the faraway sight. The gathering of Matoran stood from where they sat as they stared in equal astonishment and concern. "Those are the fires of Toa Tahu."
Pohatu stood from sitting beside the comatose body of Kopaka, having spent the last few hours looking at his friend and making sure nothing was wrong. "Tahu's in a fight," he said, nearly at a loss for words. Alerted by the phrase, Jaller motioned for the Ta-Koro Legion. As if from basic muscle memory, the Ta-Matoran quickly formed a secure perimeter around their fellow islanders with spears and shields.
"Looks-seems like something just got on Mata Nui," said Lewa. An axe emerged from his palm.
"We need to make sure the Matoran are safe," said Onua, a warhammer with a drill at where the claw should be rested in his large hand. "Everyone try to stay together! We need to keep as many alive as possible!"
"Yes, but who will protect you?" asked a cruel voice. Onua spun around to see who spoke, only to be met with a thunderous punch that sent him flying into some nearby trees. The impact must've been much more powerful than it looked. Dusty winds burst from where Onua landed, covering everything in the area in a haze.
Pohatu coughed as the dust entered his lungs. He willed his Adaptive Armor to form a version of his Kakama into a breathing apparatus, allowing him to breathe easier. Looking around but seeing nothing but light brown, Pohatu put his fists together. He then swiftly swung his arms apart, sending all the dust away from Kini-Nui. His vision cleared, Pohatu focused his sight on where Onua once stood to see what pummeled his friend.
What he saw was something he didn't think he would see. It was a humanoid crustacean with a tan-colored shell for a natural armor. In the place of his hands were claws that were still round enough for punching enemies. He was a hulking figure, just two heads taller than Pohatu. His mandibles clicked as he glared at the Toa of Stone. The creature's presence caused the nearby Matoran to scream.
"Little puny Toa," growled the crustacean creature. "Carapar will crush you. I will melt you!"
The monster calling himself Carapar smashed his claws onto the ground. Pohatu saw that Carapar was oozing white-hot Plasma from his appendages and mouth. The ground he walked on sizzled as drops contacted with it and went right through. Lewa, who had been apparently flying, landed next to Pohatu.
"Carapar poor-picked the wrong day to decide to melt people!" The Toa of Air yelled as he aimed his axe at the creature. Blasts of elemental air shot out of the end of the weapon, impacting with Carapar and sending him to crash into a nearby boulder.
"Foolish Air-Toa!" roared Carapar, as the parts of the boulder he grasped began to liquify. "You believe you can defeat a Barraki with wind?!"
"Oh, do calm down, Carapar," said a voice that sounded far too normal. Orange tentacles whipped from nowhere and wrapped themselves around Lewa. The Toa of Air yelped as the tentacles lifted him into the air, unwilling to let him go despite how much he struggled. "I doubt he's ever heard of us before, so it's perfectly natural he'd underestimate you."
A flow of lightning coursed through the tentacles, electrocuting Lewa. The Toa screamed as he was fried by the newly arrived being. Pohatu turned to face Lewa's attacker. This one was of average build. His crimson armor matched too well with his enlongated appendages and his face sported three sea-blue eyes. Two fangs jutted out from his lower teeth as he smirked while shocking Lewa. Pohatu was prepared to send a boulder right at the tentacle monster when Carapar tackled him with a furious yell. On the ground and under what could be presumed to be two hundred pounds of a mutated sea-lifeform, Pohatu turned over to face Carapar, formed a brass-knuckled fist, and swung at his attacker. Carapar caught the punch with a claw. His brutish and hideous face grinned as his claw began to glow orange.
It was like his hand was on fire. Pohatu felt his armor try in vain to reform its melting pieces but to no avail. Pohatu grunted and screamed as his hand was being melted off. Or worse, slowly torn off.
"Hey!" yelled Onua as he whacked Carapar in the face with his warhammer. A mandible could be spotted by Pohatu as being broken off. Carapar yelled in pain as he was forced off of the Toa of Stone. The Toa of Earth held out a hand for Pohatu to grab, which he did. "The Barraki! They're here!" Onua exclaimed in horror.
"G-guys! GUYS!" cried Lewa as he was continued to be electrocuted. The tentacled-creature laughed as he watched the Toa of Air begin to smoke.
"Get your tentacles off of him!" yelled Onua. The Toa replaced his hammer with a spear, which he promptly stabbed the ground with. A crack in the ground made its way to the Barraki's feet, from which a pillar of soil burst out and sent the monster into the air. The sudden attack forced the Barraki to drop Lewa, who was covered in soot and twitching.
"Is he alright?!" cried the Le-Matoran named Kongu. Onua and Pohatu motioned for the Matoran to keep back and stay together before they can rush to the pained Toa of Air.
"Lewa? Lewa!" shouted Onua, who lifted his friend's head.
Lewa coughed. His face was in grimace. "This...this can't be...can't be how..." Lewa groaned. His eyes rolled over and he went limp. Pohatu gasped. Onua gritted his teeth.
"No!" Onua shouted, shaking Lewa's body. "Wake up, Lewa! Get up right now!"
"He won't!" Carapar tackled Onua away from the Toa of Air's body. Carapar was soon scraping the Toa of Earth against the ground. Once they stopped sliding, the Barraki raised his claw and gave Onua an earth-shaking blow to the face. Stumbling, Pohatu was starting to panic. His friends were dying one by one and he was the only one who could do anything right now. From his palm extended a lumberjack axe which he immediately swung at Carapar. The blade dug deep into the Barraki's back. It stayed inside long enough for Pohatu to pull him off of Onua.
"Onua, speak to me! Say something!" The Toa of Stone begged as he tried to lift his fellow Toa out of the crater that Carapar had formed with his punch.
"Something," groaned Onua. Suddenly, the two Toa heard trees being torn apart. As if an explosion was coming closer.
Right then, another fight had entered the area. An inferno mixed with the screams of the dead stampeded through the trees and entered Kini-Nui's grounds. Pohatu and Onua saw that it was Tahu, battling what appeared to be a sharkman. No doubt another Barraki, this one with what seemed to be power over sound itself.
Tahu was furious. He was sending boulder-sized lava balls at the creature, who used a power scream to send itself flying into the air and dodged the attacks. Pohatu thought quickly and stomped on the ground. The floor rumbled as two blocks of Stone emerged from both sides of the Barraki and slammed into him, trapping him within. But the vibrating figure of the blocks told the Toa of Stone that he would be free soon enough.
"Tahu!" called Pohatu. "Lewa's gone! Where's Gali?!"
"He killed her!" screamed Tahu, his form burning like a sun. "He killed her with our own voices!"
Pohatu and Onua gasped.
"Tahu, listen," said Onua weakly. "There are two other Barraki. One with power over Electricity..."
"And another over Plasma!" finished Pohatu.
"They have the same powers as the Bohrok-Kal!" shouted Tahu, his voice trembling in anger. "We defeated them before, we can do it again!"
The block that contained the shark-Barraki exploded. A high-pitched scream echoed throughout the field as Tahu, Pohatu, Onua, the Matoran, and the Turaga clutched their ears in pain. "That is where you are mistaken, Toa of Fire," said the freed Barraki. "We are not lieutenants of a Swarm. We are warlords. Generals of Makuta's army."
As if on cue, a skeletal hand burst out of the ground and grabbed Pohatu's ankle. The Toa yelled and kicked the hand away, tearing it off from the arm it was attached to. From the grounds burst out similar hands. Undead faces emerged as dirt fell away from whatever crevice had formed on their deceased faces. They held in their hands various weapons. The Toa heard Jaller gasp as he proclaimed, "The Matoran that died fighting Makuta's Rahi. They're bringing them back as their servants!"
Then returned Carapar and the tentacled-Barraki from the surrounding forest. They were covered in leaves and dirt and did not look very amused with the Toa successfully fighting them off. However, they were pleased to see their fellow Barraki in the fight. "Glad you could join us, Pridak," said the tentacled one.
The one called Pridak smiled and nodded, "Likewise, Kalmah. Where are the others?"
"They've arrived," said a new voice. It was nearby Pohatu and Onua, who both turned to the origin. A green being stood behind them, hunched over and with spikes protruding from his spine. He was incredibly thin, had blue eyes and spiked claws for hands. He raised one at Onua and flicked it backwards. The Toa of Earth gasped for breath as a vacuum ripped all air from his lungs slowly.
"No!" Pohatu yelled as he flung a rock at the Barraki's head. The green eel-like creature raised his hand and flung a blast of vacuum at a spot of the ground. The rock was pulled away from its trajectory and was immediately smashed to pieces upon impact with the ground. Pohatu was too late to retaliate: Onua had stopped breathing and laid disturbingly still.
"Ah," sighed the green-colored Barraki, he held Onua's breath in his claws. "The breath of the Master of Land." With a flick of his wrist, the vacuum orb containing the breath burst, dissipating.
"Onua!" cried the Toa of Stone as he stumbled backwards towards Tahu. Tears ran down his face as he tripped over a rising Matoran undead that attempted to grab him. Tahu quickly ran over to his surviving comrade's fallen form and promptly kicked the undead warrior's head clean off before it could do anything to Pohatu.
The Toa of Fire helped his friend up. "Get a hold of yourself, Pohatu," he growled, staring at the advancing Barraki and their army. "We need to defeat them right now or the Matoran will be at their mercy."
"How adorable," chuckled Pridak, his blood-stained teeth bared by his grin. "To think that the two of you with some shape-changing armor can defeat the likes of us. We are the horsemen of Makuta, Children of Mata Nui. We are his greatest weapons. When he forms fists, it is us who are his fingers."
"You think we care about how well you can make a speech?!" retorted Tahu, his spit replaced by sparks.
"No, but we care about how much one's tool can turn against them," said Pridak, who nodded at someone.
Tahu was briefly confused. He then felt that his armor was too tight. In fact, it was starting to crush him. His Adaptive Armor was crushing him. The Toa of Fire gasped and fell onto the ground as pressure pushed against his lungs. He clawed at his chest, only to find his gauntlets were sticking onto it. Someone was using magnetism to crumple his armor.
"No, no! Tahu!" yelled Pohatu. In desperation, the Toa of Stone flung rocks in every direction, hoping to hit whoever was responsible for killing his comrade. He hit several marks, but Tahu's condition still didn't change. A loud crunch was heard and Tahu fell over, dead.
Pohatu stared at the Toa of Fire's body for a moment before screaming in agony. He punched his fist on the ground, creating a sand storm to knocked everyone closing in on him onto their backs. He kept this up, hoping to use the onslaught of dust and wind to tear the flesh off of the killers' bones. However, a claw that belonged to Carapar grabbed him by the neck, abruptly ending the sand storm. He was lifted up, choking. He could feel the heat of Carapar's Plasma eating through his neck as he struggled.
In a subconscious move, Pohatu laid eyes on the comatose figure of Kopaka, still unmoved and in his sitting position. Pridak saw his eyes shift focus and looked in the direction he was staring at. He saw Kopaka, utterly defenseless and frozen. Pridak's grin widened and he laughed.
"Mantax," said Pridak. A black-clad Barraki appeared seemingly out of nowhere. He was hunched over, his shoulders wide and eyes blood red. Mantax looked in the direction Pridak was motioning to and nodded. To Pohatu's horror, the manta-ray like creature made its way to Kopaka's unprotected form.
"G-get away...g..." Pohatu grunted.
"Hey!" Jaller's voice yelled. Mantax stopped his march and turned to face the Ta-Matoran. "Get away from that Toa!"
With a battle cry, the Ta-Koro Legion General led the charge against the Barraki. Spears and other makeshift weapons were in their hands. As they neared, Mantax snorted and raised his hand. Pebbles floated into the air as he channeled his power. Soon, all of the charging Matoran found themselves floating in the air. They wriggled and flailed their arms and legs in a vain attempt to move of their own free will. Jaller, teeth gritted and a scowl on his face, threw his spear at the Barraki. Manta flicked his hand towards the ground as this happened and all of the Matoran and their weapons fell to the ground...and stayed there.
The rebellious Matoran struggled to try and get off the ground, but some gravitational force was keeping them stuck there. With an amused grunt, Mantax continued his trek towards Kopaka. Pohatu, his neck practically burning right now, reached out towards the Toa of Ice. He tried everything: will a grapping hook, a launched harpoon, anything that could at least delay his friend's demise.
But he couldn't. As much as his mind tried, his body gave into Carapar's hold. It succumbed to the end and stopped everything. The last thing Pohatu saw before everything went black was Mantax taking hold of Kopaka's head and twisting it.
A cry went out that could be heard all over Mata Nui. The Matoran shouted for their heroes. Their bodies gave no response.
It was over.
Book Two: Noon
- "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
- ―Divine Comedy
It was as if every facet of his body was simultaneously struck with stones.
If it weren't were the fact that Pohatu was falling, he would've thought he had just been teleported somewhere via pain. This thought ran through his head as he splashed down somewhere. Somewhere misty and with choppy but shallow waters. The Toa of Stone sat up as soon as he crash-landed, waters flowing from his open and gasping mouth. He coughed up and spat out the liquids stuck in his throat and steadied his breathing.
As he somewhat calmed down, Pohatu looked around at his surroundings. Everything was obscured by mist. He was in some kind of swamp. He could make out the hazy shapes of dead trees protruding from the surface of the water all around him. It was like something had devastated the place before it was flooded and struck by a fog. With everything at eye level checked out, Pohatu decided to look up to the sky. It took him a moment for the shock of what he saw to hit him.
Above him was not the sky, not a dome of stars against darkness nor a blue stretch of clouds. It was earth. Ground. It was like Pohatu was magnetized to the sky, which for some reason was a swamp, looking down at the mountains, fields, canyons, and forests of a demented version of Mata Nui. Pohatu wasn't even sure where the light to make all this visible was coming from. Within seconds th shock of what he saw passed as he saw a new strange sight. Towers of what can only be presumed to be undead soldiers were climbing upwards towards the land above.
So that pretty much confirms it. Pohatu was in Bara Magna.
As the Toa of Stone picked himself up, his mind went to work. Where was he to go from here? Things didn't go as planned, but here he is now. With no way to return to the land of the living. Pohatu has actually planned on giving up his life to save the lives of his friends or even all the villagers under their protection, but he didn't think it had to be so soon in a desperate race against time.
He turned an angle and found himself facing something that made him jump. Pohatu wasn't sure what he was looking at, but he could swear that it was a Toa. But not unlike the other Toa he knew or seen. This one, who was female, looked downright ancient. Her smooth, slender, light purple and lavender armor was something that looked to have lived a life of constant repairs, giving it a look of both age and strength. On her hip hung a silver sword, glistening even in the light-obscuring mists of the swamp. On her back was a silver shield. If Pohatu didn't know any better, he could've sworn this being looked like a combination of all the Toa. Like some kind of foremother of the Toa.
Is...is this Helryx, Nephilim of Justice and Mother of Elements?
Pohatu simply stared at her, dumbfounded and speechless. "This is a place of madness, Toa Pohatu," Helryx's voice echoed in his head. "You will be needed soon." With that, Helryx faded.
"Wait!" cried Pohatu, his hand outstretched. "What are you...?" But she was gone.
Great. More vagueness. Pohatu sighed in frustration. A sudden splash of water was heard. Pohatu spun towards the source, the palms of his Adaptive Armor producing an axegun. He aimed the end of the weapon at the approaching shape. Splashy footsteps indicated this stranger was coming at him rapidly. Helryx's words bounced around in his mind. "This is a place of madness."
What kind of freaky, incomprehensible horrors awaited him? He's already had to deal with being dead and wading around in the waters of the sky while zombies climbed over each other to reach the mortal realm, so what else can this place throw at him?
The being finally got close enough for its form to be visible. It was Kopaka.
He was getting ready to strike with his bastard sword when he saw that it was his fellow Toa. Pohatu as well, as his weapon melted into his hands.
"Kopaka!" Pohatu yelled as he ran to his brother. He quickly scooped up the reluctant Toa of Ice in his arms and gave him a mighty hug. "You're okay! You're okay!"
"Uh, no, I'm not," replied Kopaka coldly. "None of us are."
"Man, I thought I'd never hear your pessimism again!" shouted the Toa of Stone. "I saw you die! I saw all of you die!"
Kopaka took a deep breath as Pohatu released him. "So did you, if you're here," said the Akaku-wearer.
Pohatu's mouth opened. No words came out.
From behind Kopaka came several other figures. It was the other Toa. Pohatu had never felt more relieved than he was then and there.
"That was horrible," said Onua, breathing slowly with a hand on his throat. "So, where are we again?"
"We are in Bara Magna, Karzahni's realm," said a Ko-Matoran who emerged from between some of the Toa. On his face was a look of true despair and hopelessness. He introduced their current location like this was their life now.
"This is Mazeka," Kopaka introduced. "Looks like legends truly are real in this world of ours."
"Wait," Pohatu said. "How did we end up immediately in Bara Magna? I thought, being Toa, we'd be sent to Artakha upon our deaths or something."
"All of reality is unstable," said Gali, who was holding a weak Tahu. "It's possible something's happened to prevent us from entering Paradise."
"So we're stuck in Hell," said Lewa, his arms raised in exasperation. "So where do we proceed-go from here? Did we even have a plan to get to Karda Nui from here?"
"We'll figure it out," said Kopaka, looking at Mazeka. The little undead Matoran was the currently the only hope they had to navigate through this strange land.
Wings fluttered. Mighty flaps could be heard. A reversed echo rang through the misty sky-swamp. A large splash could be heard off in the distance. The Toa and Mazeka turned to the origin of the noise and saw them. Skeletal wings of pure energy spread before contracting. A silhouette rose from the point where the mighty wings contracted. A pair of long horns adorned the peak of the hill-like form. Red eyes flashed as they opened to stare at the Toa. A growl echoed through the swamp. The Toa felt the water they were ankle-deep in ripple from the being's direction.
"Karzahni..." breathed Mazeka, showing some emotion for the first time since the heroes had arrived.
Monsters screeched as winged creatures emerged from the shadowy form of the King of the Damned. Karzahni disintegrated as he burst into a swarm of the creatures. It was a murder of monstrous crows. They were flying right at the Toa.
"You think he heard us mention his brother?" asked Pohatu retorically.
"We need to run," said Tahu weakly as he tried to get Gali to let him go. "Mazeka, is there a place for us to take shelter in?"
"A rather dumb question, Toa," said Mazeka as he stared at the crows flying at them.
"Just tell us, there has to be somewhere we can briefly hide from everything hostile," said Kopaka.
Mazeka stared at the Toa with dead eyes. He then looked at the crows. He did this back-and-forth for a moment before nodding. "Follow me," the Matoran muttered as he began to run.
"Gali!" said Tahu. "Try to obstruct them with the swamp!"
Gali nodded and raised her hands, which were now holding newly formed hooks. She brought them down swiftly and a wall of ethreal water ascended. With a thrust of her arm, the wall drove forwards. The swarm became caught in it, trapped in the current of the wall. With her work done, Gali turned to see the other Toa running for their dear lost lives. Gali followed suit. As she did, she looked up at the ground above.
This was going to be surreal and difficult.
Lewa never knew that the sky would be so wet.
For years on Mata Nui, he had soared through the air, leaping from the tallest mountains, cliffs, and bluffs to glide. Despite common misconceptions from exhuberant Le-Matoran, Lewa's Mask of Levitation doesn't allow him to actually fly. That was all his Mask did, keep him in the air. It was the upwind blasts of wind he created that lifted him up further towards the sky. He would often try to touch the blueness above the island, but to no avail. The closer he seemed to get, the sky seemed farther. Eventually, Lewa gave up.
Now that he was literally walking across it, he expected it to be much flowing than this. Apparently it was true that water could be found at the deepest places. Lewa thought of this as he ran after the limping Mazeka along with the other Toa. The little Ko-Matoran had lost all sanity and hope for whatever may help him.
Behind them were crows, or at least things resembling crows. Red dots where the eyes would normally be pierced through the mist as they looked into the Toa's very souls while pursuing them. The swarm screeched, a voice of the legion. Lewa swung his hand at one of the crows and a burst of wind launched out of his palm. Several crows were caught in it as the wind caused them to veer out of control.
They weren't letting up.
All of a sudden, the birds dove headfirst into the water. The sky splashed.
"Guys!" Lewa called as he continued to look back. "The birds down-dove into the sky. What does it mean if the birds down-dove into the sky?!"
As if it was the answer, the waters in front of the Toa's path shot upwards. A pillar of the liquid formed and froze before condensing into the familiar shape of Karzahni. The Toa and Mazeka stopped in their tracks. Kopaka grabbed the Ko-Matoran and pulled him behind him, Gali, and Pohatu. Mazeka was at the center of the Toa's circle.
Karzahni's patchwork Kanohi appeared from the resulting darkness. The Seraph glared with smokey eyes. "Dead and dead and dead, the Toa are," The King's voice echoed. "Is this what you expected when you get far?"
"Not with you in the damn way!" shouted Tahu as the gauntlets of his Adaptive Armor opened up flaps. He punched towards Karzahni's form, a fireball shot from his fist. The ball went straight through the demonic being, but it caused his body to evaporate. With no obstacle in their way, the Toa continued sprinting, urging Mazeka to continue leading them despite his pleas of inevitable doom at the hands of Karzahni.
As they ran, a blackness swirled into a shape to their right. Karzahni returned, and he was running alongside them. He did nothing but follow them. "You are in my domain, Toa-heroes. Welcome welcome," chuckled the King. "I hope you had a good first impression. You will be here for a while, as it is my will and mine alone."
Pohatu, still running, promptly stuck his hand into the water. He grasped a rock, stretched it to a boulder, and threw it at Karzahni. Once again, it flew through him, his body evaporating upon impact.
Karzahni appeared opposite to where he was before, continuing his taunting. "Those are my brothers' designs, aren't they? Those armor. He thinks his best work is a shapshifting piece of metallic clothing," Karzahni laughed a throaty laugh. It sent shivers down the Toa's spines. "I enjoyed watching him fall. He didn't deserve his power over Creation. He was given the goody-goods and the intelligent, and the heroes while I am stuck with the bad, the rotten, the stupid, and basically the complete opposite of what Artakha had."
"There!" said Mazeka, pointing at a graveyard up ahead. The gates were open. They were not bars, but solid obsidian, clearly thick enough to protect against horrors.
Karzahni teleported to a point behind the Toa. He flew after them, his size seemingly changing. He was increasing in size. "I will enjoy breaking you, Toa. The Children of the Great Spirit," he laughed.
The Toa ran into the graveyard, Karzahni on their heels. Onua and Pohatu took the gates and shut them close with a slam. The last thing they saw of Karzahni was his massive patchwork mask peering into their minds. The Toa stepped back from the gates, their armor producing weapons to point at them.
For a few tense moments, they waited for Karzahni to do something. To make the gates disappear, or transform into yet another swarm of creatures to attack them. But nothing happened. Karzahni had abandoned his pursuit. The Toa continued to point their weapons at the doors, visibly shaken from their encounter with the King of the Damned.
"We are safe for now, Toa," said Mazeka. "He likes you."
"He what?" asked Tahu, panting.
"Karzahni, his Majesty. Didn't you hear him? This is what he does. He wants to play with you. Until you are nothing like your former selves."
Jaller watched his breath emerge from his mouth as he exhaled heavily. The cold was starting to get unbearable. He'd been to Ko-Koro at times but it was nothing like this. While there was the beautiful white scenery to enjoy while he froze his feet off, this time was a cold that swept over the patch of land he was on.
Or at least within.
The blood rushed to his head as he hung upside down, his body stiff and sore and his mouth dry. He was levitated by the gravity powers of one of the Barraki, the one that looked like a manta ray grew legs, arms, and a torso. Lined up single-file was his fellow Ta-Koro Legion. A distance behind them were the obliterated fragments of their weapons. Shields were shattered. Spears were splinters. Swords were twisted metal twigs. Joining them was the brave Le-Koro Gukko Air Force and the Onu-Koro Ussal Corps. Some cursed and spat at their captors while others despaired over the loss of their steeds. They had spent their entire lives bonding with those creatures and now they were gone in an instant, killed in the most horrible ways.
Crushed by gravity. Impaled by magnetized objects. Melted into a fleshy blob by tentacles composed of Plasma.
The captured Matoran soldiers were being brought to Kini Nui, where the rest of the island's and Nynrah's inhabitants stayed while they attempted rebellion.
Once they were in view, friends and loved ones gasped.
"Jaller!" cried Hahli. She got up from where she was huddled and tried to run to the Legion General.
Jaller viciously shook his head. "No, Hahli! Stay back! I said--" he yelled before seeing the Ga-Matoran be forced onto the ground by a bolt of lightning. Hahli shrieked and twitched as the electric current rushed through her body, gifting her with kinds of pain she never knew.
"Silence," said the Barraki known as Pridak. With a swing of his fin, Hahli's voice vanished. If Jaller didn't know any better, he could've sworn the voice was ripped from his love's lungs.
"Keep away from her!" Jaller screamed, writhing in the air. "I swear, if you hurt her anymore, I'll take your damn shark fins and shove them--"
Jaller failed to finish his threat, as he suddenly felt all breath from his lungs being torn out through his throat. He clutched his neck, as if trying to provoke them to do their function. He gasped for air that was taken from him. The eel-like Barraki known as Ehlek was tugging away from Jaller's general direction, as if tugging at a string.
"This one is feisty," Ehlek growled. "I took notice that this is the one that kept inticing resistance."
"An amusing trait, brother Ehlek," smiled Pridak as he looked at the struggling Jaller. Ehlek was teasing the Ta-Matoran at this point. "Your mask looks familiar. Our master's memories tell us that this is the mask of Toa Lhikan. And you are his legacy. Imagine his disappointment after all his hardships that his mask went to a Matoran who was too stupid to understand how far outmatched he was."
Hahli had stopped twitching, the current that coarsed through her had left her. But it left her a smoking mass of blue armor who was having trouble breathing. Macku and Takua rushed to her side, lifting her up and carrying her to the huddled masses while being carefully watched by the Barraki named Takadox.
"Though since you so easily convinced these fools to follow you to death," observed Pridak. "I am lead to believe you are highly regarded on this land. A man of pure repute among your people, am I correct?"
Jaller gasped in response, still grasping at his throat.
"Then I believe the culling should appropriately begin with you," said Pridak. "Brother Ehlek release him."
Ehlek nodded and let go of Jaller's breath. The air returned to the Ta-Matoran as Mantax dropped him to the ground. The Matoran was too busy taking in and relishing every breath he took that he failed to react to the Barraki named Carapar grabbing him by the neck from behind. Jaller shouted as he was carried to the Suva of Kini Nui. The other Barraki followed Carapar as he approached the structure.
Hahli, still weak reached out, her arms frail and her voice small. "No...Jaller."
"No, leave him alone!" shouted Hewkii who was, if he was honest, unsure of what to do.
"Dark Lord," recited Pridak. "Makuta. Primal god of darkness. The bringer of end to all. We have the first sacrifice to be done in your moment of triumph. We will do our duty as you command, and purge this world of its contents so that you shall achieve your destiny. In our hold here is a respected being. One of inspiration to his peers. No doubt favored by your accursed brother. Which is why we shall spill his blood in your name."
"Oh, Mata Nui, no!" yelled Jaller, who was struggling.
Ehlek clawed at Jaller's mask, creating bloody scars where he struck. "How dare you!" the eel screamed. "Do not speak of the Adversary! The Rival to our Master!"
"Behold his death and honor us with your blessing, great Makuta!" shouted Pridak.
"END OF ALL IS EVERYTHING!" roared all the Barraki in unison.
A chilly wind blew through the area. Shivers went up the spines of those who revered the Great Spirit.
"Kill," said the wind.
A crunch later, Jaller's body went limp. Blood poured out from where his head used to be. The captive Matoran all shouted and cried at the sight. Their cries grew louder when Pridak presented the General's head to them as his brothers consumed the remains behind him.
Onua slumped against the headstone, his mighty body's impact causing it to crack as if it was accidentally struck with a hammer. Onua breathed deeply as he clutched the headstone with his large hands. He was trembling. He was colder than he ever was before, and he was best suited to deep, dark, chilly caves. His head felt heavy. His grip on the headstone tightened to the point where it was beginning to crumble under his grasp.
Where was he? He stood up, his head felt as if pulled down by cinder blocks. His mind raced with random thoughts. One of them being if he could get rid of the drowsiness with his Mask of Strength. He could make his head strong, get rid of the...
Where was he again?
Lewa grinned as he looked at the earth above. He giggled and laughed as he ran across the sky. He was the Toa of Air after all. Why wouldn't he be able to run across the clouds? In fact, he should do this more often. He should ride on clouds. He should move Le-Koro to the clouds. The Le-Matoran would love it if they had a kingdom in the clouds. The clouds with silver linings.
What was the reason behind the "silver linings" phrase anyways? Why do people joy at a sky without clouds when they also joy at silver linings? Optimism? No Le-Matoran will have to worry about such trivial issues when they live above everyone. He'd love the look on Tahu's face. He loves the look on Gali's face. Maybe even...
He was in the sky!
Kopaka worked alone. He always worked alone. But now he realized that he can't anymore. His closest friends were useful but they have proven to be inadequete in protecting the Matoran. Perhaps Tuyet was right. Perhaps maybe there should be an empire, with him at the helm. He has the power to literally stop any enemies in their tracks. He could freeze them solid, right down to their blood and the roots of their bones. One tap, one fall, and they could be fractures littered on the ground. That was how powerful he was.
And now he had armor created by Artakha, the Archangel of Creation himself. Who said he couldn't bring things to life with this? He began his work, inspired by Kopeke's art of him. He crafted ice statues, solid and harmful to the touch. The cold practically burned his hands when he curiously contacted with one of them. With his power, he had managed to amass an army of snow and ice men. Thousands of frost warriors that will never tire, and their core frozen enough to withstand even days in the sun. Accompanied with Kopaka's control over Ice, places like Po-Koro wouldn't stand a chance.
But first, he had business to take care of. Those meddlesome Barraki. If they succeed in their duty to Makuta, there will be nothing for him to protect. Kopaka would be damned if he lets that happen.
And so the War of Blizzards began. All of Mata Nui was under the greatest snowstorm of all time, brought about by Kopaka raising his Ice Sword towards the sky. The environmental advantage was a success. The Barraki went down one by one, begging for their lives or praying to their dark god.
He had done it.
The End Times were halted by him alone. Kopaka felt himself swell with pride. For once he smiled. All of reality had been reduced to this single island. With the Armor of Artakha, he will create new lands. He will grant Elemental powers to Matoran so they can aid him in constructing lands and oceans. And whatever natural threats come, he will handle it by slamming it down with a frosted iron fist.
He will fight ideas with better ideas. HIS ideas.
Something's not righttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt
"hELLO, gALI," said the bug.
Gali sat in the corner of the dark room, lit only by a small violet flare in the center of the place. The Toa of Water squirmed as she eyed the giant insect before her. Her eyes were widened to their peak, any thoughts she tried to convey to her shapeshifting armor was falling on figurative deaf ears. She sat up against the wall, as if trying to get her back to dig away from the bug.
"Where am I?" Gali asked, her voice quiet.
"wELCOME TO YOUR DARK ROOM," the bug said. "EVERYONE HAS A DARK ROOM. tHIS IS YOURS, gALI."
The female Toa clutched her face, and mumbled into it. She prayed what she saw was not real. She prayed that she could get out of the dARK rOOM. Away from thsi bug. Away from this bug. Away from this bug. Away from this bugbugbugbugbugbugbugbugbugbugbug.
The Toa all sighed in relief. They lowered their weapons, which absorbed back into their armor. Each Toa walked to a part of the graveyard to sit down, somehow exhausted from being chased by Karzahni despite being dead. Pohatu rubbed his face and his eyes as he took deep breaths. This was not happening, he thought.
He looked up at the earth. Then he looked down at the sky. He could feel the swamp waters of Bara Magna swishing around his feet. It was all madness. This place was madness. Possibly incarnate. Pohatu inhaled and exhaled, his nerves mostly calm by now. He looked around at the graveyard to finally take a good look at it.
It was conveniently a closed area. Walls mildly higher than, Pohatu would say, Makuta's leather-winged form, surrounded the place. Headstones half-hazardly littered the foggy grounds. Dead twisted trees joined them in random places. Pohatu could've sworn he spotted a noose hanging from some of the branches. But when he took second looks at where he saw them, he saw things retreating into the branches. Were there creatures in Bara Magna? Natural Rahi?
Pohatu's analysis of the Realm of the Damned was interrupted by a fireball blasting a spot he was standing close to. The Toa of Stone jumped out of his thoughtful trance and hopped away from the steaming area.
"I saw something!" Tahu cried, his face covered in sweat and his eyes nearly bloodshot. "I saw...I'm...I'm sorry, Pohatu...I just...I'm not feeling too good right now."
"I don't think any of us are," said Onua, who was slumping against a headstone. "My head feels heavy..."
"King Karzahni likes you," said Mazeka, twiddling his fingers. "When he likes new arrivals, he will play with them until they're broken."
Pohatu was getting unnerved by such talk.
"Mazeka, did Karzahni do that to you?" The Toa asked cautiously. The Ko-Matoran simply whimpered and looked away to stare at a blank tombstone.
"Insanity," muttered Pohatu as he looked at his fellow Toa. He was trying his best to maintain his cool, but the other Toa were starting to look over the edge. Lewa was gazing at the earth above like it was a pretty cloud. Onua was looking sick. Kopaka was looking rather bloodthirsty. Tahu was starting to appear pretty paranoid as his eyes twitched. Gali looked like she could pass out at any moment.
Pohatu called out his friend's name as he ran to her fallen body, a look of terror on her unconscious face. "Guys, what do we do, what do we--"
The Toa of Stone stopped when he saw the other Toa rapidly become unhinged. Onua was now fully laid out on the headstone he was leaning on, Lewa was giggling about "sky castles", and Tahu was growling like an animal. Kopaka formed a shield and held it against Tahu, all the while muttering about how he probably now had the power to create his own army since he was in possession of Artakha's armor.
Pohatu was aghast. He turned to Mazeka, who had a blank expression his face.
"He wants to play with you," the Ko-Matoran repeated. "Until you break."
The King of the Damned looked down at the graveyard, knitting the air with prongs as he drove the Toa into madness.
"Sanity is unwelcome here," he growled as he eyed Pohatu.
The Toa of Stone was of great interest to him. Uninteresting compared to the others. Not headstrong, not all loving, jovial, quiet, or lonesome. But rather just...him. He will be fun to play with, Karzahni decided.
Maybe he'll send in old enemies. Maybe even old friends.
Paradise was crumbling apart.
The plane of existence that served as the afterlife for heroes once shined brightly like a sun. Every building, every brick, every column that the place was comprised of was another component in making everything look astonshing. No artist could've ever hoped to recapture it after near-death experiences allowed them quick glimpses at its majesty. But now it is falling apart.
Shadows and monsters have breached its illuminant borders. The people who live here are under attack. Many fight back, as they had once been warriors in life. They draw swords from nowhere, spears from empty space, and shields from thin air. They form phalanxes, swing blades, and fight back against the hordes of darkness. Even as they fought on valiantly, trying to perserve the place of true virtue, a thought lingers on in their minds. Their lord, their creator, was on his throne. He was unnaturally sick, a true testament to any argument against a diety. If Mata Nui was all-powerful, how could he be so ill?
Beside the Great Spirit, his dark brother Makuta sat. He sat on a simple bench, dragged by the Dark Lord to be set beside the seat that made the bench look like a small boulder in the middle of nowhere. Makuta was leaned forward, a few inches away from his brother's weak body with a fascinated look in his evil eyes. He was resting his chin on balled up fists, staring at his dying brother.
"You never let me in here, you realize that," observed Makuta, half-consciously listening to the chaos outside. "And only when it's near the End, here I am, with no resistance. Why is that?"
"It..." wheezed Mata Nui. "...is the way of Creation...As it reaches its end, Destruction gets a chance to witness...everything it has been missing out on."
"Pretty words, brother," smiled Makuta, shaking his head. "Have you ever considered that perhaps if you let me in every once in a while, I would have...well, not have done everything I had done?"
Mata Nui sighed. "I have wondered that many times in my slumber. Dreams of how it could have been if I had actually treated you like a brother rather than...than what you are now."
"I suppose we know whose fault it is then, don't we?"
"Yes." Mata Nui turned to Makuta. "Yours."
Makuta was silent.
"Before Nynrah, before all the dark times," Mata Nui said. "Do you know how many times I have tried to reach out to you? We had made this world together. We had crafted Creation as partners. But even I never knew that worship could be so...individual. I would have gladly shared the fortunes with you, Brother. But you..." Mata Nui coughed. "You let jealousy overtake you. You allowed envy to take root deep in your heart."
Makuta was silent.
"I may have been at fault for not telling you this before, brother," said Mata Nui. "But I'm sure we both know who made things worse."
"True," he said, surprisingly humble. "I have indeed made things worse."
"There is no turning back now."
"That's the plan," said Makuta. "The plan was always to not turn back. It never included the notion of 'turning back'."
Mata Nui's eyes widened. "You're going to--aren't you?"
"Yes," said Makuta. "I have thought about it long and hard in the Void. I figured things out on my own. And let me just say, I'll make sure your time is truly at an end in the next life, brother. Your era will be over to the point where there will be no trace of you left."
Mata Nui reclined on his throne. "I see. At least there is something for my children to stop. At least they have something to save."
Makuta chuckled. "I don't know. Them being in Karzahni's realm might interfere with that."
From a behind the corner listened Helryx. Her eyes wide behind her mask. Her father, the Makuta, was slowly gaining power the more the End approached, and Mata Nui was losing his life in conjunction. If he knew she was there, who knows what might happen to her. After Artakha's death and Karzahni's betrayal, she was all that was left to defend Mata Nui's will. The only one that can aid her cousins, the Toa, in their quest to save Mata Nui's life. But even now as she listened, she realized the terrible truth.
There was no saving Mata Nui's life.
And the Great Spirit knew that.
Distorted crows called out, their cries echoing across the foggy depths of the Swamp of Bara Magna. The hordes of the undead roared distantly in the earth above. In all directions, what seem to be splashy footsteps could be heard. But upon retrospect, perhaps they were simply insects dropping onto the water that looked like a cloudy sky. All Pohatu could do was wander as he trekked through the swamp, dragging his feet through uneven and floaty surfaces. His head snapped to a sound, the sound of fire blasting towards...something.
Pohatu recognized the attack as coming from Tahu, a war cry bellowed from where he faced. Usually, the Toa of Stone would rush over in a heartbeat, worried sick about his friends, who had now been taken over by the madness of Karzahni. For some reason, Pohatu still had his mind intact.
As far as he knew.
In this situation, Pohatu couldn't trust his senses. This entire realm was under the King of the Damned's control. Who knows what could be reality and what could be a trick. A footstep from behind him startled the Kakama-wearer. It came from Mazeka, who was following Pohatu like a moth to a flame. The Ko-Matoran's dead eyes were still unnerving. As much as the little guy creeped him out, Pohatu was glad he had someone to accompany him at least. Trouble was, he's not sure where he's even going. How was he going to get to Karda Nui from here?
The Toa of Stone continued to wander along the swamp waters. Ahead, he saw a familiar figure. The straight-backed silhouette of the very first being he ever met. Part of him felt relief. The other worry.
Kopaka suddenly turned around, aiming a lance at whatever was behind him. Pohatu quickly grabbed Mazeka and summoned the power of the Mask of Speed. The beam of ice struck where he once stood, spikes of ice growing from the spot like a fast-growing plant. "Cease fire!" yelled Pohatu from behind a rock. He held up his hands. "Not an enemy!"
The Toa of Ice did not lower his weapon. "Everything here is an enemy. Can't trust anything here."
"I agree, but don't shoot at us!" responded Pohatu. The Toa of Stone slowly rose from his hiding spot, his arms still raised. Pohatu didn't remember Kopaka acting this hostile when they first met. What-if scenarios bounced around his mind with this predicament happening right now.
Kopaka recognized him, surprisingly. "Fellow Toa. The lonely one."
Pohatu frowned. "Excuse me?"
"You're the one without friends. Well, sorry not sorry, but I have no time for friendship. I have a quest to finish."
The Toa of Stone was reminded of the time Makuta peered into each of the Toa's minds. The Dark Lord of Shadows had ousted Pohatu with his insecurities. His desire for companionship was a deep rooted issue he's dealt with ever since he emerged from his canister on Mata Nui. Kopaka was the first step to the soluation. And now, it was as if all those moments of bonding were for naught. Pohatu sighed. It was an exhalation of annoyance. He wanted desparately to try to get Kopaka to join him and help find the other Toa, but he knew it was a lost cause, especially with what was being done to the Ice-Toa's mind. So instead, he decided for some manipulation.
"Go ahead, finish your quest," said Pohatu. "But since you want to be so alone, how about you just help me with this one thing and I'll be out of your hair forever?
Kopaka grunted. "What do you want?"
Pohatu paused. His mind wrapped around the inconsistencies of time in this realm. How long has it actually been since the other Toa went mad? Cross his heart, he decided upon a few hours and said, "What I want is to find some shelter of some kind, nothing of the graveyard sort. They don't work as well as I thought."
"Find a rock and hide under it," Kopaka retorted.
"I can make rocks to live under, but that's not what I'm asking. All those undead up there," Pohatu pointed upward. "They lived here. I don't know how, but a clue to getting out of this place might lay in any of the dwellings scattered around. Have you come across any?"
Kopaka paused. For what seemed like an hour, the maddened Akaku-wearer thought. "I've...come across what appeared to be an abandoned village. Not too far over in that direction," Kopaka pointed his lance to what would have been north on Mata Nui. "Now if we're done here..."
"Yeah but you weren't exactly specific," shrugged Pohatu. "In this place, and this fog, getting lost would be easy. You're the one who's been there. Why don't you lead us there."
"I told you--"
"Yeah, yeah, you work alone. We're not working together, you're guiding us somewhere you've already been to. Like I said, out of your hair after this."
Kopaka stared. Pohatu had his fingers as crossed as he could in his mind.
To be written
Book Three: Midnight
- "There are no happy endings, because nothing ever ends."
- ―Schmendrick, The Last Unicorn
- The story takes inspiration from the opera Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), the novel American Gods, as well as graphic novels The Sandman, All-Star Superman and Final Crisis.
- In terms of writing, this novel marks where BionicleChicken took over the bulk of the role as author and plot developer, while Echo 1 became an adviser.
- "The Journey of Mazeka" is based on the myth of Orpheus.