This article was written by ToaGonel. Please do not add to it without the writer's permission.
|Setting||The Broken Order Universe|
|Date set||Roughly 17,001 Years Ago|
|Previous||Shadow of the Truth|
|Next||Of Visitations and Revisitations|
A lone Toa of Metal trudged wearily out of the dusk and into the small Matoran village. Locating the nearest wall, he allowed himself the luxury of collapsing against it. A small gaggle of Matoran, mostly Le-Matoran, Ta-Matoran, and Ce-Matoran, crowded around him. Idly, Arrin wondered if this had been how he looked when the Toa of Fire arrived on Uniran’s shore. A blue and gold Turaga shoved through the crowd.
“Is there anything we can do for you, noble Toa?”
Arrin looked around before he realized she was talking to him.
“Ahhh, yes, wise Turaga. Have you seen another Toa of Metal come through? Or Toa of Psionics or Plasma? See, we were setting off in our boat a few days ago when a storm came and ruined our craft.”
The Turaga considered for a moment before replying “No, I cannot say I have.”
The Toa nodded and stood. “Okay. Well, if you do, tell them I’m heading to the center of the island. Or continent, I guess.”
“Wait! Are you okay? Are you healthy enough to journey there?”
“Don’t… uh… worry about me. I’ll be fine… I think. If not, tell them I died a heroic death or something defending the village.” Arrin chuckled.
Noticing the Turaga’s glare, Arrin hastily added, “Er, I mean, tell them the truth.”
“Then go with Kakama-speed.” The Turaga smiled. “That is, unless you don’t want to stay the night.”
“No, I should be fine.”
Arrin moved through the Matoran and started along the road that ran through the village. He heaved a confident breath. Taking four confident steps, he promptly fell on his face in the middle of the road.
The Turaga of Psionics smiled and looked at some of the Matoran.
“You know what to do.”
Kelrik trudged onto the shore of the Southern Continent scraping the muck off his armor in the dim light. In typical fashion, Arrin had abandoned him. Probably had already set out for the center of the continent or something. Just after leaving their home of Uniran, the Toa team of four had run into some sailors that had recommended Mount Valmai as a destination spot. None of them had ever seen an actual volcano before; the most Uniran had was a small lave flow. Arrin immediately decided he wanted to see it, and since the Toa had nowhere better to go, they set out for the center of the continent. Tragically, they soon ran into a storm which disrupted their travel plans.
Tragically, Kelrik groused. Tragedy Arrin’s the team leader. He’s just the only one loud enough to lead.
Kelrik started inland, hoping to find trace of one of the other three. Turaga Grunpa had told them before handing them the Toa Stones the Toa of Fire had left them that being a Toa wasn’t just about running around collecting Kanohi and beating up bad guys. It was about protecting those not able to protect themselves; that sort of stuff. Arrin, the main subject of Grunpa’s speech, had seemed to genuinely understand and acknowledge Grunpa’s imparted wisdom; however, all of that seemed to melt away as soon as the Toa Stones blessed them with their power.
Arrin might’ve acted like a reckless idiot with no regard for his own future before, but becoming a Toa had made this particular trait more inflamed. What’s worse, somehow or another, Kelrik’s old friend and fellow master of Iron (in spite of what Kelrik hoped was iron resolve on his part) would find a way to get Kelrik in trouble as well. Needless to say, Arrin was a classic example of the classic phrase.
With great power comes great stupidity.
Grumbling indistinguishably, Kelrik set off into the night.
The next morning, two creatures sat perched in trees some distance from the village, squinting through the morning light. From their position, they could see the Toa of Metal marching out from the village. No one else in the village was present, so the Toa must have snuck out, without the knowledge of the Matoran. One could only imagine what had gone done the night before. Either way, there was a chance that this one could hold potential.
“What do you think?” the larger one asked.
“Perhaps. We need all the help we can get, and at this point, I might even go to Toa for help. Especially if we want emissaries to Matoran settlements.”
“Rumor has it the Alliance has obtained something the Brotherhood wants. You know as well as I do, that could very easily be the spark that lights the gunpowder. We need anyone these days, even Toa. Even half-baked rookie Toa.”
“Still…” the larger being shifted uncomfortably. “I wish we didn’t have to.”
“Let’s just watch him a bit longer. Follow him. Make sure.”
“Alright. Let’s go.”
Several days later, Arrin poked his head over the rim of Mount Valmai.
“Huh. That’s pretty cool.”
The innards of the volcano churned violently, as if someone were mixing them with a spoon. Everywhere some magma managed to cool into rock, it sunk into the magma to be molten down. It was like watching different shades of red and orange forcing themselves on each other in unsuccessful attempts to turn the other to them. Every once in a while, the mountain would shake violently causing rocks to tumble into the mix.
All in all, it was like watching the stomach of a Muaka.
Arrin rested his head on his hands. If only the others could be here, he thought.
Some distance away, a Dark Hunter happened to glance toward the mountain.
“Do you see that?” he asked his partner.
Pacer glanced in the direction of his friend’s finger.
“Looks like a Toa of Metal.”
His partner, Glaze, chuckled even as the ground shook again.
“He doesn’t realize the volcano’s about to blow? Oh, this should be fun.”
Pacer sighed, and in an instant, he was gone.
“Where are you—oh, you idiot.”
Pacer reappeared at Glaze’s side with the Toa in his arms.
“Stop running off like that without warning. It’s exceedingly irritating.” Glaze growled.
Pacer dropped the Toa unceremonially on the ground.
“Okay, Toa, I saved your life. Now tell us what you are doing in this Mata Nui-forsaken wasteland.”
“I wanted to see the volcano.” Arrin stood up. “But why did you have to take me away? It was just getting good.”
Pacer and Glaze exchanged glances.
“The volcano was about to blow. You would’ve been petrified.”
“Oh.” The Toa looked to the volcano. “Thanks for telling me that five minutes ago when it would’ve helped.”
Pacer folded his arms. “Your gratitude is overwhelming.”
“I’m sorry. Thank you for the save, whoever you are. Well... Seeya. I hope to see you again sometime.”
“Ohhh no.” Glaze smiled, “You’re coming with us. You belong to the Shadowed One now.”
Reluctantly, Arrin shrugged.
“As long as they feed well…”
Having just sprinted to the top of a nearby mountain, Kelrik nearly collapsed when he saw Arrin start off with the two strangers.
He’d only caught Arrin’s scent a few days ago, when he wandered into a friendly Matoran village. The nice Turaga had pointed him in the right direction to the best of his ability, although she did warn Kelrik about nasty habits like slinking off into the night. Kelrik didn’t know what that was supposed to mean.
He’d wandered the Southern Continent for a while until he’d run into a pair of disgruntled Su-Matoran who’d seen Arrin. According to them, the Toa had “eaten most of their Bula Berries as well as “borrowing” a guide book known as Matoran World” which described the main points of interest in the universe. They’d pointed him toward the Valmai region where the Toa had just come within sight of his brother.
Actually, Kelrik did collapse.
“Arrrrriiiiin… Auuuuuuuuugh…” he groaned.
He raised his head at the sound of footsteps. Two beings were approaching him.
“Hello, Toa of Metal. We’ve watched you for some time and are here to congratulate you.”
“Congratulate me?” Kelrik thought about his near recovery of Arrin and snorted. “On what?”
The smaller being extended his hand.
“You’ve been drafted by the Alignment.”
“See them? They’re right over there.”
Glaze looked where Pacer was pointing. Yes, now he could see them. Looked like a Skakdi pirate ship, not far off their starboard side. It was quickly gaining on them. Considering they, Dark Hunters plus Arrin, had just traveled days without outside interference, they were starting to get bored.
He looked over at Phase who was operating the boat. He’d been manning the boat while the other two had carried out their mission. When his partners returned with a Toa, he was not pleased to say the least.
“For experimentation?” he’d asked Pacer. “That’s pretty much all they’re good for.”
“Just relax,” Pacer said. “That’s for the Shadowed One to decide. The Toa is an asset of him and him alone.”
For his part, Pacer was beginning to regret bringing Arrin. They had seen no need to bind the willing, rookie Toa. Unfortunately, the curious Toa had only proven to poke around the ship, ask questions about how things worked, and remark how ‘Glaze’ and ‘Phase’ rhymed. Pacer didn’t realize that the only boat the Toa had ever used was little more than a rough raft, but he was rapidly starting to get the idea Arrin wasn’t from around these parts.
“Arrin, stay below deck. We’re about to have a run-in with some Sea Dogs.”
“Really? Funny, I’ve never seen one of those Rahi before.”
“Just get below deck.”
Glaze rolled his eyes. Stupid Toa. The universe would be none the worse had the Toa fallen into the volcano.
Pacer glanced starboard. The Skakdi ship was almost upon them.
“Howdy, strangers,” he shouted over at the pirates.
What looked like the captain smiled.
“Arrr you the Commanderrr of this ship?” he shouted in reply.
Pacer glanced at the distance between the ships and noted it was still closing.
“When I feel like it.”
“Well, then. Consider your ship boarded.”
The pirate ship was roughly a quarter the size of a small Makuta warship and built to accommodate a crew of roughly twenty pirates—a crew of whom fourteen were visible right now. As for the Dark Hunters, theirs was basically a large motor boat built for five sailors, at most.
The pirates were clearly outmatched.
The Skakdi ship edged close to the Dark Hunter vessel. Extending a wood plank, Pacer, Glaze, and Phase simply waited patiently as the Skakdi captain followed by four crewmates, walked the plank and jumped onto the Dark Hunter vessel beneath.
The Skakdi commander had a scar cutting down from the right side of his forehead, crossing through his left eye, and ending in a tear through his left ear. One of the captain’s teeth looked like a gold tooth and what nose he'd once had looked like it had been mutilated almost into a second mouth. Pacer re-estimated the amount of time it would take to down this guy. He was clearly the veteran of many fights.
These pirates should know better than to challenge a Dark Hunter motorboat of war.
“Dern Makuta have recently choked off most pirating to the west. Kritors have done much the same to the east. Zakaz itself refuses to let me dock. It seems these days I gotta get my kicks in where I can, you see?”
“We work for the Dark Hunters. You don’t have to tell us the damage open warfare would do to business.”
The captain smiled. “Any last words?”
Pacer shrugged. “I don’t know, you tell me. They’re your last words—not mine, Piraka.”
The captain’s scowl deepened at the vile term.
“Very well.” He turned to his crew. “Take these Hunters—”
The Skakdi captain didn’t register Pacer’s grabbing him and yanking—all he knew was that he’d been standing one moment and was leaning back into Pacer’s chest with the Hunter’s blade at his throat.
“There is no greater insult to a Dark Hunter,” Pacer hissed in his ear, “than to turn your back on him.”
With that, he snapped the captain’s head off. Leaping forward, he and his teammates began claiming the lives of the pirate crew.
Arrin, meanwhile, had decided he didn’t want to miss this new breed of Rahi, these Sea Dogs, especially when he heard them stomping around on the deck. Running upstairs, he was greeted by a most unfriendly sight.
Glaze, now aboard the pirates’ ship with the others, sliced off the head of a large member of Ancient’s species. Counting the remaining pirates, he glanced back at Pacer.
“You want to save these to spread the word?”
Pacer nodded. “Yes.” He looked at the last two pirates.
“Your captain made the foolish mistake of challenging a ship with the Dark Hunter seal emblazoned in it. As you can see, the outcome of said mistake to date has been largely the same. Spread the word. Dark Hunter ships are not to be addressed unless addressed…” He looked at Phase.
“…addressed to? addressed by? addressed from?”
Glaze stepped forward. “No more bugging Dark Hunters. Now take the escape raft and go.”
The pirates nodded obediently and quickly departed. Pacer started back to the motorboat.
“Phase, you stay on this boat while Glaze and I toss our rope to you. Then this ship will tow ours into Odina.”
Pacer jumped off the ship onto the boat beneath.
Hmm. I like the ship. I’ll have to ask The Shadowed One if I can keep it…
Out of the corner of his eye, he happened to see Arrin kneeling on the deck.
“I thought I told you to stay downstairs,” he said absent-mindedly.
Pacer glanced over at Arrin.
The Toa was kneeling over the dead captain’s body.
And then it sunk in for the Hunter.
How sheltered was this Toa growing up? Pacer thought.
But somehow, deep down, Pacer knew he’d taken something from the rookie Toa that could never possibly be restored.
Kelrik did as he was directed and sat in front of the campfire. Although he had hardly forgotten about Arrin (or the other two for that matter), he had been intrigued by the idea of the Alignment. Something about it just sounded cool. The Alignment…
He turned his attention to the conversation being held in front of him. The two beings—the larger one named Rekar and the smaller named Zefrim—had brought him to a camp situated close to the western edge of the Southern Continent. They’d explained it was their base on the continent, though they had camps for the other islands and even had a headquarters where Kelrik would go eventually.
As soon as they’d entered camp, Zefrim and Rekar had been greeted by two other Alignment members, two of whom, Yara and Gerat, had started updating them on news happening abroad. Apparently a lot had happened while they were gone.
“—so it’s very possible the Brotherhood may march on the Northern Continent in the upcoming weeks.” Yara said. “If the Continent falls, and the Brotherhood becomes militant, who knows what could come next.”
“I’m sure the Alliance would respond in kind,” Gerat said. “Probably make an attempt at landing warships on the Tren Krom Peninsula.”
“You think they would start so close to Destral?”
“Rekar, this entire conflict stems from a show of strength. What better way for the Alliance to intimidate the Brotherhood than by positioning themselves within striking distance of their fortress?”
Kelrik chose that moment to interject.
“Excuse me, but what’s the Brotherhood?”
Yara smiled at him. She was a tall, blue, well-built Varim, a species that included members such as the Dark Hunter, Lariska. She wore a Kanohi, although due to Kelrik’s limited knowledge of Kanohi, he couldn’t identify that she wore a Faxon Mask of Kindred. She didn’t carry much armor and her only weapons were two simple Crescent Scythes that doubled as a shield when strapped to her back.
“The Brotherhood of Makuta is an organization created by Mata Nui for the purpose of creating Rahi. Unfortunately, their members are… powerful, to say the least—perhaps too powerful. They have created armies for themselves of Visorak and Rahkshi, and perhaps the Kritor Alliance is the only thing keeping them at bay.”
“What’s the Kritor Alliance?”
“…Uh…They are an organization formed within days of the Brotherhood. ‘Kritor’, you see, is short for Kritekk Mator, or “Destiny’s Master” in old Matoran. Unlike the Brotherhood, their members are of numerous species, all of which are much less powerful than Makuta. However, what they lack in individual power, the organization has made up in influence, intelligence, and militaristic might. They’ve always been like that. So from their beginnings up to now, both organizations have been balanced against each other. The Alliance has never used its military because the Makuta would’ve countered them to keep them from getting stronger—and vice versa. Even when a third organization started rising in the south, the League of Six Kingdoms, these two crushed them and resumed their delicate yet balanced competition.”
Gerat smiled. “But all that may have changed days ago.”
“Seven days ago, an other-worlder—that is, someone from an alternate universe—fell into the hands of the Kritors. Under the Treaty of Gera Nui, anything or anyone that comes into our dimension from an alternate world must be brought before an international tribunal, to prevent any organization from learning too much about the universe and the future via the alternate one. However—”
“Wait, what’s an alternate universe?”
Yara exchanged glances with Zefrim who just smiled. Yara looked at Kelrik and unlimbered her Crescent Scythes. With her blades, she drew two lines in the dirt.
“Okay, pretend the ends of my blade are two… Dust Worms. You know what a Dust—” Kelrik nodded. “Good. So there are two Dust Worms wriggling along, except the second one gets hungry and decides to move off to find food.” Yara moved the blade in another direction. “The first worm keeps going straight. You understand?”
Kelrik nodded again.
“So now the paths are completely different. The second worm might try to return to its previous path, but the path it takes will never be exactly the same as the first one’s. Now imagine hundreds, thousands of Dust Worms, all moving along, each of them on a completely unique path. Only now imagine our universe—time and space—is one such worm, and it’s on a certain path. Likewise, there are uncounted other universes, all taking similar paths, though each unique.”
Kelrik didn’t respond.
“Do you get it?”
Kelrik nodded slowly. “I get the alternate paths stuff… It’s like river banks I think… But are you saying there are other worlds?”
“Worlds with places just like ours?”
“Another you? Another me? Another Uniran?”
Yara didn’t know what a uniran was, but she nodded. “Yes. All very, very similar… yet there are subtle differences that define them.”
Kelrik stared at the ground, trying to process the information. Yara decided to continue.
“I could go on about the mathematics, space-time, about the Ko-Matoran Albestein who theorized about alternate universes and about the subsequent readings into his studies. All you need to know is that the Treaty of Gera Nui stated that any other-worlder must be brought into neutral territory and shared between the nations. The Makuta could never stand treaties—they’ve always regarded them as admittance they can’t get what they want on their own—but it at least meant the Alliance would be bound by the same rules…”
“What’s the point of the Gera Nui treaty?”
“Think about it.” Zefrim said. “Say there’s someone from another universe who once infiltrated his Brotherhood of Makuta and learned all about them. Then he came here and landed in the hands of the Kritors and they learned about all the Brotherhood’s secrets.”
Yara nodded. “While there’s no guarantee the other Brotherhood is even structured similarly or has any resemblance to the Brotherhood in our world, the Kritors could still learn something. It might not even be about the Brotherhood at all—it could just be something that universe has discovered about the world that we haven’t and would give the Kritors an edge. You see?”
“…So…” Yara breathed. “The Kritors have recovered one such person. The Brotherhood doesn’t want them to get any interesting secrets letting them become the dominant power in the world. As a result, the Makuta have seized Zakaz no doubt for their resources and soldiers to stage an attack on Bythrain, the home island of the Alliance.”
“So where does the Alignment fit into all of this?”
Zefrim stood up and tossed some wood into the campfire. “The Alignment wants to weaken both the Brotherhood and the Alliance. The way we see it, were one to fall, the other would be too powerful a force in the universe. So far we’ve done mostly little things. Stealing shipments here. Infiltrating a fortress there. All the while we’ve been building up our own power at their expense. We’re about a few hundred strong—although most islands aren’t even aware of us yet. The Brotherhood and Alliance didn’t even notice us, but as tension rose between them and shipments held more… important stuff, they’ve started to notice us. Still confident in their own powers, they still haven’t done much to combat us—just posted extra sentries on important matters, but that isn’t going to scare us.”
Kelrik nodded. He was starting to understand the universe as it stood. “What happens if the Alliance and Brotherhood go to war?”
Silence hung for a while until Zefrim said
“We don’t know. Anything could happen from the Matoran Universe being blown to pieces by a long, drawn-out conflict… to a quick victory of one side and the immediate declaration of an empire.”
“What are you going to do?”
Rekar smiled and acknowledged Kelrik for the first time.
“The Alignment is going to secretly help or align with whichever side is losing. Anything we can do to bring these organizations down, the better. It will most certainly mean the war is more drawn out and it might mean the desolation of countless lands, but these powerhouses must be brought down. The only way a small group like us can do that is by capitalizing on the conflict.”
“Indeed,” Zefrim said. He looked at Kelrik. “So what do you say? You want to challenge the suns, the moons, and the stars?”
Kelrik thought for a moment about the Kritors and the Makuta. A war like they described could stretch across countless lands; it could even hurt Uniram, Kelrik’s home. But wouldn’t life of slavery under either organization be worse? Could he bear to not do anything and see his old friends enslaved as a result?
And what about his friends, the Toa Voya? Could he just give hope looking for his friends? Or wouldn’t they be just about anywhere by now? The universe was far bigger than he’d ever imagined on his island, and the Alignment had far greater reach than he did on his own—couldn’t he just ask them to keep their eyes open for his friends?
What would Turaga Grunpa say?
Once, many years ago, Arrin had asked him to come with a few other friends of theirs and scare a Bo-Matoran in his home. The prank would, of course, be harmless and Arrin assured Kelrik that they—Bo-Matoran included—would just laugh about it afterward. But Kelrik, in his better judgement, secretly went to Turaga Grunpa. The Turaga had, seizing an opportunity to teach him something more, had said this
“Kelrik, in life you will be confronted with decisions that will demand you think about the path before you. Do not be afraid; such is Destiny’s way. But if the choice is hard and the choices alluring, ask yourself three questions. Ask yourself how your decision will touch those around you, your closest friends and your very enemies. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is right and if Mata Nui would see it as benefiting his kingdom. Then look to the future, look far into the future and ask yourself what the outcomes may be. Unity, Duty, and Destiny. Let those be the forces that guide you.”
Kelrik ultimately went along with Arrin—after giving the idea some thought, he’d decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up. But the advice took deep root in him and often reflected on it.
Unity; as long as he stayed on the safe side, none of his teammates and Matoran friends would get hurt.
Duty; if beating the Makuta and Kritors would make the universe a better place, Mata Nui would approve.
Destiny; could he not fight the two Powers if they meant to dominate the world?
With great deliberation, Kelrik nodded.
“Yeah, he told me I’m in.”
Pacer nodded. Turning around, he stepped off the lower bed and walked off. Arrin rolled over in the top bunk. He didn’t know what to think about the Shadowed One. He had been somewhat intimidating, although he expected that feeling might fade.
Things were moving so quickly. Were the islands beyond his home naturally so fast-paced—or was Uniran just that slow?
As for the Dark Hunters… he didn’t know what to think. Pacer seemed nice enough. But none of the other Hunters seemed very welcoming. Even Glaze and Phase were cool to him. He’d asked Phase if the Hunters celebrated Naming Day and he’d just gotten laughter in response.
And to be honest, though the Toa of Metal refused to admit it to himself… he was a little scared. He couldn’t possibly imagine life beyond Uniran’s dusty shore was so turbulent.
And then there was the dead pirate captain. The captain with his scar and his gold tooth and his mutilated nose. Whose dead, empty eyes saw right through Arrin.
Arrin rolled over in his bed. It was going to be a long night.
In the throne room of the island of Bythrain, all was silent.
The lone figure on the throne stroked the bottom of his Kanohi and waited. Yes, he sensed them coming. His servants, here to show him… what? Perhaps some news concerning the Makuta… or perhaps a new weapon… or a disloyal agent… or maybe a prisoner. Yes, the regal figure decided. It sounded like a new prisoner.
Minutes ticked by. The lord of the Kritor Alliance had heard his servants several kio off—that was the depth of the silence engulfing the chamber. Sighing, he stood and began lighting the lamps in the room.
By the time his servants knocked, the king was already sitting again on his throne.
The agents were Generals Tobduk and Fortag, though the king had already anticipated that by the sounds of their footfalls. However, they had a third person between them, a Toa by the looks of it.
“What is the meaning of this, General Tobduk?”
“We caught this Toa just off the coast of the Southern Continent, my lord. He said he was caught in the storm that struck that area a week ago.”
The king nodded.
“Why have you brought him to me?”
“He’s a Toa of Plasma. You said several months ago that the next Toa of Plasma we find, we’re to give him to you.”
“Yes, that’s right,” the king smiled. Standing up, he walked around the Toa who was doing his best not to betray his fear. The king, finishing his circle, walked back to his throne, but did not sit in it.
“How long have you been a Toa?”
“I see. Where do you come from?”
“I come from Uniran.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“It’s just off the coast of the Southern Continent.”
An obscure island… a Toa for just a week. This could present an opportunity.
“Were you leaving Uniran for the first time when the storm came? Or have you seen the world as a Matoran?”
“It was my first time leaving the island.”
“What would you like us to do with him, my lord?” asked Fortag.
The King of the Kritors had originally asked that a Toa of Plasma be brought to him because he wanted his scientists develop a Plasma-based weapon. But if this was a rookie Toa… King Kragator could have fun.
Tobduk and Fortag exited.
“What is your name, Toa?”
“Ervik… Toa of Plasma. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Toa in my organization before. Much less a Toa of Plasma. What’s the point of Plasma anyway? It seems like basically a rip off of Fire.”
The Toa stiffened. Kragator’s smile deepened and sat back down. Yes, definitely soft… and malleable. He sat down.
“Tell me something, what do you think it is that everyone shares?”
“The need for Unity, Du—”
“NO!” Kragator leapt back to his feet. “If that’s what your Turaga told you, what he trained you to recite automatically to any question posed no matter the question, forget it. It’s just propaganda to fool little Matoran. You’re a big Toa now. Do not let yourself be deceived. The paths of the foolish are not trampled by men such as us. You have a lot to learn, my Toa… Lucky for you, I am willing to teach it.”
The king started for a door leading to his private room behind the throne room.
“Go to Axonn. Tell him I want him to give you the room where I used to have my office; that’s where you’re going to reside. If you have old friends or a Toa team, don’t worry, you will see them again soon; I will see to it.”
Ervik relaxed, as Kragator had anticipated he would. The Toa started for the door.
“Oh, and Toa…”
Ervik stopped and looked back.
“The answer is death.”
Kragator kept walking, not worrying whether the Toa was listening anymore. “Get some rest, my Toa. We have big plans for tomorrow and we’d hate for you to miss your sleep.”
Kelrik woke early in the morning and immediately set about looking for one of the other four. He’d decided against mentioning his teammates the night before, although he’d deeply regretted that through the night. He found Zekrim fairly quickly.
“Zefrim, remember when you and Rekar found me?”
“Well, I was actually following a friend of mine, another Toa of Metal. Did you—”
Zefrim nodded. “Yeah, come to think of it, I Rekar and I might have seen him.” He neglected to mention that he and Rekar had originally been tracking Arrin.
“Well, there were actually four of us. Do you know… would the Alignment be willing to send notice through the ranks to keep their eyes open for him? And also for a lone Toa of Psionics and a Toa of Plasma?”
Zefrim nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Kelrik smiled. “Thanks.”
Zefrim left and Kelrik moved over to the center of the camp. Gerat was sitting there. Gerat hadn’t said anything to him since he’d entered the camp. Kelrik found himself intrigued by the figure.
“So… where do you come from?”
Gerat grunted, not looking away from the fire, “The island Herth.”
Kelrik nodded. The amount of information the response had conveyed was overwhelming.
“Just off the northwestern coast of the Northern Continent.”
“Okay.” Kelrik only vaguely had an idea where that was thanks to the Matoran World guide Arrin had borrowed.
“I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it. Few have.”
“I see. Zefrim and Rekar didn’t know where Uniran was when I told them.”
Gerat nodded. Kritor waited for a response before continuing.
“I just left it for the first time a few days ago. There was a Toa, and he gave me and three of my friends stones that turned us into Toa. We used them and decided to leave. See the world.”
Gerat’s expression darkened, but Kelrik didn’t notice it. “You chose to leave…” he muttered.
“Yeah. It’s pretty cool. This isn’t at all what I imagined the Southern Continent to look like when I heard of it. It’s a lot flatter than Uniran for one thing, and there’s also a lot less dense population—”
Gerat stood up and left. Kelrik stood up too and watched his receding back.
“Why did he just—”
Yara, who was within earshot, walked up to Kelrik and watched Gerat walk off as well.
“Don’t worry Gerat. It’s not you, it’s him.”
“Why did he leave?”
“Don’t worry about it. He isn’t being rude, you just… triggered memories he’d rather not remember.”
Although he still did not understand, Kelrik nodded. He watched as Gerat was stopped by Rekar who looked like he was saying something urgent. When he glanced in Yara’s direction, Yara’s hand automatically went to her sword.
“What’s going on?” Kelrik asked.
“We’ll soon find out.”
Rekar ran over to them with Gerat rushing behind them. Zefrim, interested, also went to intercept Rekar.
“What’s wrong, Rekar?”
“The Kritor Alliance is laying siege to Artakha.”
King Kragator stood on a cliff overlooking much of Artakha. This was the day he’d been waiting for. The first great display of Kritor power. His armies against the pathetic throngs of Matoran that Artakha dared to christen an army.
He turned to Ervik who could only watch in shock. It seemed the Toa too had heard the tales of Artakha. Maybe this was good for the Toa; it would mean Kragator’s invincibility would be affirmed in the Toa’s eyes.
“Do you know why I am attacking Artakha first?”
The stunned Toa shook his head.
“Control of Artakha is essential for breaking the spirits of the Matoran. Once their ‘heaven’ is no longer a paradise, steps will have been taken toward them giving up servitude toward Mata Nui and submitting to the true power in the universe.”
Ervik nodded, but he couldn’t tear his eyes from the carnage being inflicted down below. He had never seen battle before, not with actual killing involved, and to him the mild skirmish taking place below was a bloodbath.
The lord of the Kritors smiled and looked down below again.
“Looks like the Crystal Serpents are falling. But then, it was only ever a matter of time. Come, Toa of Plasma.”
Kragator walked briskly down the cliff. As he went, the generals and soldiers he kept as his personal guard followed behind him.
The king marched past the corpses of Matoran and his own dead soldiers up to the entrance to the fortress. The door was already open; he’d instructed some of his troops to invade and search the fortress for stragglers.
He stepped inside. His men had done their jobs well. The place looked like a Toa of Air had unleashed a Nova Blast inside. Debris was strewn everywhere. General Botar, a Savager took a step forward only to hear something crunch. He raised his foot to see what was previously half a Kanohi Hau, now crushed beneath the general’s foot.
Kragator glanced back. “Where’s Ervik?” he asked.
One of his generals, General Hazat, an Atelvas, shrugged. “I think he’s still outside.”
“Bring him in here. I want him to see this.”
There was some rustling and Ervik was shoved through his staff. The Toa nearly hurled when he saw a Matoran lying to his left with his head knocked off.
“The great Artakha,” Kragator said as a four-armed general shoved the island’s ruler from the depths of the fortress. “I must say, it is an honor. Truly. To meet the great King Kragator of the Kritor Alliance. You should feel special.”
Artakha spat and a mighty snowstorm began swirling outside. Soldiers outside the fortress scattered for cover. Kragator looked unimpressed, however.
“Spare me,” Artakha growled.
“Oh, I might just spare you… If you agree to work for me. You see, I don’t have anything against this island on its own. Aside from what it stands for. You see, this boring island is the first in a long and industrious career of the conquests of the Kritors. But I have nothing against you personally. In fact, I’d prefer to make a deal with you.”
The island’s ruler glared at the floor.
Kragator continued. “I have seen to it that as many Matoran as could be spared outside were. You still have a sizable portion of your population intact. If you agree to work for me and produce weapons and resources for me, I will spare your Matoran… and continue to preserve the lives of Matoran throughout the universe where it can be helped. I’ll even let you keep your Legendary Mask.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Then I will kill you, your Matoran, and Matoran everywhere simply because I can. And if you agree to my terms only to betray me when I leave, I will storm back here and after I slaughter your Matoran before your eyes, and I will make you regret your service to the Great Beings and Mata Nui. It’s your choice.”
Artakha rose to his full height; ten feet, the same height of Kragator. His Mask of Creation portrayed his sheer power and strength. Legends said he his mental powers were things to be reckoned with. Anyone with an ounce of sanity trembled when imagining Artakha’s wrath.
Kragator recalled yawning frequently when studying Artakha’s legends.
“If you spare the Matoran… I will accept.” Artakha said. “But if I find you’ve been violating our agreement… we will see who of us is truly the superior.”
“No, you will see. I find it obvious, myself.”
Kragator turned and left, his staff following behind him. He signaled his troops, most of whom started for the warships. His work here was done.
Ervik was still in the fortress with Artakha. He glanced at the island’s ruler.
Artakha looked sadly at him.
“Young Toa, do not let Kragator mold you as he has been. Your service belongs to Mata Nui. A Toa is one of the few beings Mata Nui has entrusted his life with. If you follow that ruler along his path, you will no longer be worthy of the title ‘Toa’.”
Ervik observed Artakha. Even yesterday he might’ve been in awe of this wondrous creature of legend. Artakha was something any Matoran would kill to meet.
But now… Who was this strange being, groveling before the Kritor Alliance?
Ervik turned and started after Kragator.
Upon hearing of the fall of Artakha, the Makuta responded in kind. A convoy deployed from Destral met with the strongest clan leader on Stelt, agreeing to defeat opposing clan lords if the leader committed Jeokren troops and Rekridor generals to the Makuta. Simultaneously, likely due to the pushing of Makuta Gorast and Antroz on the island, the Xian Vortixx declared a full alliance with the Makuta.
The Kritors, meanwhile, launched a full-scale invasion of Karzahni, led in part, according to rumor, by a Toa of Plasma. Upon seeing his Manas defeated, Karzahni tried to send his Matoran out against Kragator only to have them quickly defeated (and spared, with accordance to Artakha’s deal). Karzahni was quick to agree to let the island be the prison island of the Kritors in return for the retention of his realm and continued rule over the Matoran residents. Kragator left then to form a base in the Southern Islands on Artidax where he declared the formation of the Kritor Empire.
The Brotherhood had finished winning the support of the Grenok who agreed to perform whatever services were necessary for the Makuta. They also wrapped up an alliance with Daxia’s Thromexx which would continue producing chemicals for the Makuta. Destral also launched a siege of Zakaz and its population which, much to the surprise of the Makuta, banded together against the Visorak hordes.
While Kelrik was constantly updated on the status of the universe, Arrin didn’t have that luxury. Arrin’s closest ‘friends’ were Pacer, another Hunter named Minion, and another called Phantom who had once been a Fe-Matoran as well. But they were always active where the Shadowed One hadn’t found anything for Arrin.
Not that there was much activity for the Dark Hunters these days anyway. An unforeseen consequence of the Kritor/Makuta War was the Dark Hunters weren’t as necessary anymore. The two organizations didn’t have to use third parties to strike at each other; now they could do it themselves. The idle Dark Hunters practiced as they could, but the training rooms were at all-time highs and couldn’t hold that many Dark Hunters. That left many agents to sit around and talk about the latest developments. To Arrin’s dismay, however, Dark Hunters didn’t consider Toa to be the first choice of conversation partners.
So Arrin was left to eavesdropping.
On one such day, Arrin was playing with some new daggers of his on his bunkbed, listening to three Hunters playing the game ‘Slice’ down beneath.
“…not that the siege of Zakaz is going very well. It’s been days since the Visorak started attacking. I wouldn’t call the Skakdi civilized, but they can band together when they put their minds to it.”
“I’ve heard Spiriah once wanted to go to Zakaz once, but the Kritors stopped him for some reason.”
“Spiriah probably wanted to modify them as soldiers or something. The Kritors always stop the Makuta when they want to do something like that.”
Just then, the Recorder walked into the room. He glanced at the Hunters.
“Have you guys seen Arrin?”
“Yeah, he’s up on his bed, sleeping I think.”
“The Toa needs his beauty rest.”
Arrin made noises like he was waking up and looked over the edge of his bed at Recorder.
“Did someone say something about beauty? ‘Cause you guys obviously wouldn’t know the first thing about that.”
Recorder frowned. “The Shadowed One desires your presence.”
“Ohhh, alright.” Arrin jumped off the bed on to the floor. He started after Recorder when Poison called his name. The Toa turned.
“Really quickly—Before you go, I made this up while you were sleeping—A Toa, and two Dark Hunters walk into a bar. The Toa goes ‘This one’s on me.’ The Dark Hunters fire a Nynrah Ghostblaster at the ceiling and the roof falls and crushes the bartender. The first Dark Hunter says ‘No need—it’s on him.’”
The Dark Hunters laughed hysterically, but Arrin didn’t find anything funny in the joke.
“At least Toa don't stink like Dark Hunters. Honestly, guys, I could fart and this room would smell better.”
The Dark Hunters stared as Arrin left, smiling.
When Arrin arrived in The Shadowed One’s chamber, he was surprised to see a Toa of Metal as well as another creature, waiting in the chamber. It took him a good four minutes to remember he was looking at Kelrik in his Toa form.
“Kelrik!” he shouted. Kelrik ignored him.
“Is this the Hunter you were looking for?” The Shadowed One asked, seemingly bored.
“The Alignment is quite aware of the dismal state of the Dark Hunters.” The stranger said, regardless of Arrin. “Work with us and we’ll ensure there’s a future for an organization like this.”
“No.” The Shadowed One shook his head and walked to the window. “The Dark Hunters do not resort to petty thievery as your organization would have us do. The Dark Hunters were built to thrive on the Makuta/Kritor tensions. If those organizations fall—as it would seem this… Alignment wishes—I will have no business.”
“But there’s nothing now anyway! The Makuta and Kelrik are just striking at each other directly; there’s no third party needed anymore.”
The Shadowed One sighed. Arrin, for his part, was surprised the leader of the Dark Hunters was still listening.
The Shadowed One turned away from the window.
“I have not gotten to where I am in life because I cannot tell who is the more desperate for an alliance. Tell me what you would do for us now in return for my cooperation.”
The stranger hesitated before responding
“We will let the Dark Hunters have half the profit in spoils as valued in widgets. Think about how much both organizations possess—how much power they hold.”
“Half. Take it or leave it.”
Arrin had to admit; the stranger certainly had stones.
The king of the Dark Hunters thought for a moment. Then a smile crept across his face.
“Very well… half. But if this is to be a proper… alignment, I want full access to facilities as well as meetings with the head of your organization.”
The stranger hesitated again and then nodded.
“I will arrange for it.”
“And this agent,” The Shadowed One looked at Arrin, “Along with Dweller will be my liaison. Treat him with the same respect as you would treat me.”
Kelrik and his friend started to leave. Arrin started after them, but The Shadowed One grabbed his shoulder.
“But know, Toa, if I get any hint you’re stepping into territories I would not approve of, I will remind you just how delicate fresh Toa torso armor can be. These agents asked exactly for a Toa with your description, and considering how new you are to the organization, I expect I know why. Just remember, Toa, I have made a bargain today with a power I never knew existed; if a new world order is emerging, I will ensure you make sure I stay on top.”
By the time Arrin caught up to the other two, they and Dweller were packing a small boat to leave, complete with supplies from the Shadowed One. Arrin started to say something to Kelrik, but Zefrim signaled for them to be quiet.
“Wait until we’re away from Odina.”
So Arrin waited until they were several kio out.
“What did you do that for?”
Kelrik practically jumped in his seat.
“What do you mean what did I do that for?”
“I was just starting to like it there!”
Zefrim glanced at Kelrik, but kept rowing. “Remind me again why you wanted to rescue him.”
Kelrik picked his jaw up off the floor. “What did you say?”
“I said I was just starting to like being a Dark Hunter. The food is great, interesting people—look at this sweet Kanoka Blade those guys gave me.”
Zefrim rolled his eyes. Dweller only stared at the sea, having already gleaned the interesting bits. Kelrik folded his arms.
“Well, if you want, we could just drop you back off where you came from.”
“Too late now. That would violate the agreement with the Shadowed One. Right, Dweller?”
Dweller said nothing. He could sit in Metru Nui with nothing to do for millennia if he wanted, but listening to a conversation between two Toa was completely boring.
Arrin folded his arms and stared at Kelrik who was scowling in return. Zefrim kept rowing and Dweller sat back and started to nap.
Arrin’s serious expression lasted all of a minute before he cracked a grin.
“Just kidding. Thanks for that.”
Kelrik shot forward, slamming Arrin into the sea. When Arrin resurfaced, he gasped and sputtered.
“What was that for?”
“See if I ever rescue you again.”
Arrin started for the boat, now some distance away since Zefrim hadn’t bothered to stop swimming. By the time Arrin crawled back on board, Kelrik was back in his seat like nothing had happened. The Toa/Dark Hunter took off his Kanohi for a moment to shake off some water droplets.
“Great. It’s taking sheer force of will to keep from rusting.”
“You’ll get over it.”
Arrin sat down, replacing his Kanohi.
“So… do you know where Callah is?”
Kelrik shook his head. “With Zefrim’s help here, I’ve sent word up through the Alignment to keep an eye out for her. So far we’ve had no such luck.”
“That’s how you found me? An Alignment agent?”
“What about Ervik?” Arrin asked.
“The Alignment hasn’t heard from him either.”
“What is the Alignment?”
Kelrik’s eyes fell on Dweller.
“Don’t worry about him. He’s probably already read your mind twice through. Oh, and by the way Dweller? That time with the paint-stone gun, the three Brakas, and the Matapult at Turaga Grunpa’s anniversary party wasn’t me, contrary to what Kelrik thinks.”
Kelrik glanced at Zekrim before continuing.
“Okay, so… a few yea—millennia ago, there was a group known as the Hand of Artakha. It was really… ineffective. So some of its members reformed it into…”
“The Kritor Empire.” Kragator smiled.
The new emperor stood in the highest tower of Bythrain along with Ervik, some of his personal staff, and the Kritor High Command. The tower was so tall that Kragator liked to imagine it fell just ten feet short of touching the sky and being on equal terms with Mata Nui.
As it so happened, Kragator was ten feet tall.
The Emporer had just returned from his conquest of Artidax and his reformation of the Kritor Alliance into the Kritor Empire. His army’s conquests of Artakha, Karzahni, Artidax, and the Tren Krom Peninsula had been quick and easy considering how much sheer power the Alliance had amassed over the years. The Alliance wouldn’t have stood a chance had it not been for the determination of its soldiers as well as the technological prowess the island held. Were it not for those, the Makuta with their tremendously overpowered generals and their Rahi of war would’ve squashed them in an instant. Were it not for the fact the Kritors had kept them from expanding their power and gaining edges in other capacities, the Kritors might as well be trying to smite the suns or the moons.
But in this world, Kragator was the suns and the Kritors were the moons.
“Tell me something, Toa Ervik… do you know why I have launched this mad bid for power?”
Ervik shook his head.
“It isn’t for wealth—in the end, anything you can do with wealth decays and gets left behind.”
Kragator paused to watch an agent of his on the distant land below, a Hordika who’d joined for the sake of devastating Makuta, be brutally repressed as his bestial side was unleashed.
“Nor is it simply for devastation’s sake. If it were that, I wouldn’t have bothered making strategic treaties with Karzahni and Artakha. Devastation grows old rather quickly and Matoran soon rebuild and forget.”
Down beneath, a warship full of Noctians docked as its passengers moved out, prepared to do whatever they could to take revenge on the Makuta who’d recently attacked their island.
“And it isn’t for revenge of any kind… Even if I wanted to defy Mata Nui for some reason… I would just hunt down the old legends and find where the Great Spirit resides. And if I wanted revenge against someone, I wouldn’t need to conquer the universe for it. There is only one person who’s ever caused me more harm than I could simply recover from and forget.”
Kragator glanced at Ervik.
“And I am taking my revenge against her—and all her kind—in a more effective way than she can possibly imagine.”
Ervik didn’t understand what Kragator meant, but he said nothing. Kragator looked back at the sea.
“No… my reasons are far more… elevated.”
Fourteen Kritor warships departed, setting sail for Nynrah.
“There is only one thing in life that unifies everything and everyone, and that is the great equalizer, Death. No matter how powerful you are or how much territory you might control, Death will always come for you. There is only one way to live on, and that is through your legacy. Some people leave legacies of heroism—they will live on in the occasional legend, perhaps the subject of a discussion in a Ga-Matoran lesson here or there. Others leave legacies of conquest, of terror—they will live on in nightmares and horror stories, as models for future conquerors, and in the annals of those who realized themselves superior to the Great Spirit and acted on it. All others are forgotten. Think about that for a moment—and tell me which path you would choose.”
Arrin crossed his eyebrows when he saw Skakdi on the island up ahead.
“Skakdi? Wait—This isn’t—”
Zekrom smiled. “Zakaz. And yes it is.”
Arrin’s eyes opened to the large buildings and intricate road system. He’d never seen anything quite so… technological. He’d heard quite a bit about the Skakdi from his time in the Dark Hunters—even gotten into a slightly-less-than-cheerful discussion with one member known as Trigger. What he’d heard about the Skakdi had never been particularly positive, and he was surprised to see they’d reached this level of technological development.
The boat pulled into a dock. Zefrim was explaining that after the siege of the Makuta, this side of the island was one of the last functioning docks, which explained the amount of activity around the dock. Arrin glanced over at Kelrik and, judging by his friend’s expressions, this was the first time the other Toa had been here as well.
One of the few non-Skakdis, a member of Lurker’s species, approached them.
“Welcome to Zakaz,” the creature said. “My name is Bolrow. Let me take you to our headquarters.” He walked off, leaving the others to follow---and the Toa to gawk.
Dweller, for his part, had been to Zakaz before, although it did come as a surprise to him that the Alignment was based here. Neither of the Toa had known where it was before they arrived and when he’d attempted to read Zefrim’s mind, he’d been repulsed, like there was some sort of mental barrier preventing entry. Dweller had been irritated, but he’d been careful not to betray it. Just like he refused to betray his surprise now.
The five walked about half a bio from the dock, to a location just outside the town. Bolrow indicated a hut at the very edge of the settlement. Arrin started to go in when Zefrim stopped him.
Led by Bolrow, they made their way to the back of the hut. Bolrow tugged on a brick barely jutting out of the wall only to have the door swing open.
“Inside,” he said. There was a narrow passageway, cramped for its location between the back wall of the hut and the fake wall. The path slipped down abruptly, leading to a slightly roomier tunnel beneath the hut’s floor.
Without hesitation, Zefrim ducked and started in, followed by Kelrik, Arrin, and Dweller. Once inside, Bolrow pulled the door shut and crawled down onto the path beneath.
Zefrim took over leading the way, pulling a lightstone out of his small pack. The tunnel continued on for some way.
“The Alignment didn’t build this tunnel,” he explained. “We found it.”
“What do you mean?” Arrin asked.
“When we were looking for a base, we wanted somewhere the Makuta and Kritors didn’t really go. The Skakdi generally aren’t high on the list of creatures anyone wants to mess with. So we contacted one of the more influential Skakdi, worked out an agreement, and they let us live here.”
“In a tunnel.”
“It was already here and it was convenient. We think it was a Bohrok tunnel.”
“Look up ahead.”
The tunnel terminated and Arrin found himself looking into a gigantic cavern, filled with lightstones and glowing with an eerie blue light. Lining the walls were, sure enough, Bohrok canisters. Arrin had never seen a Bohrok before, so it took all of his restraint to stand still and not run over to investigate. Nevertheless, from Zekrom’s and Bolrow’s expressions, he’d best stay still.
Regardless of the Bohrok, there were few other creatures present. The largeness of the chamber only served to make there seem even fewer inhabitants. Three members of Tracker’s species, one of Gladiator’s, and a blue Toa? were far off to the right, staring down and pointing at a map of what looked like, from Arrin’s angle, Nynrah. In the distance to the left, a patchwork of rough huts lined the dormant Bohrok tubes. They seemed to be carved into the wall. Some even looked like they extended into the Bohrok nests.
“Looking for a place to stay? If you are, Bohrok canisters are rather comfy. If cramped.”
Arrin looked in the direction of the speaker. Approaching from the direction of the map, the blue Toa—yes, definitely a Toa—was looking right at Arrin. Blushing, he tried unsuccessfully to glance behind him, to make sure the Toa wasn’t talking to someone behind him. Realizing there was no one, he turned back.
“Uh, well, I mean, I had to sleep in a Nui-Kopen nest once. Not the most pleasant experience, but sometimes a Matoran’s gotta do what a Matoran’s…”
Arrin’s last words faded into oblivion. The Toa was still staring at him.
“That is—I just wanted the experience. Test myself, you know? See if I could?”
The Toa still said nothing.
Suddenly uncomfortable, Arrin reached for Kelrik who had been staring at the Bohrok nests and shoved the Toa in front of him.
“It was his fault. He was the one who thought Grumpa wouldn’t notice. But of course he noticed. I mean, with the Acid Flies flying around his house, his name drawn on their tails in treeink, vomiting chunks of gobbled up chunks of the history tablets, I guess he was bound to notice, but then hindsight’s twenty-twen…”
The Toa of Water folded her hands and tapped her foot. Kelrik took the liberty of stepping out from in between them, leaving Arrin exposed again, like an Archives Mole under a lightstone. Arrin smiled weakly.
“That is to say—“
“Are these the Toa you spoke to me about?” The Toa of Water asked Zefrim.
“Well, I’m starting to remember the other reason we haven’t let Toa in our organization. The one besides the ‘finding their own destiny’ reason.”
Zefrim nodded and looked at Arrin. “Well, when I contacted you, I hadn’t met this one yet.”
Helryx looked at Arrin. She nodded toward his weapon.
“Where’d you get that?”
“Oh, this? It’s a Kanoka Blade. The Dark Hunters gave it to me. Haven’t figured out how to use it yet, but…”
“It doesn’t match your color scheme.”
Arrin folded his arms, anger bubbling to the surface.
“Oh, yeah, like I didn’t notice. What’s next, you going to complain about my red axles and blue pins or something?”
Helryx sighed, suddenly feeling the weight of a lifetime on her shoulders.
“Enough. Arrin, Kelrik, have you been briefed about the history of the Alignment?”
Kelrik stepped in front of Arrin again.
“Yes ma’am. Zefrim brought us up to speed on all that.”
Helryx nodded acknowledgement. The Toa of Metal knew all he really needed to know, although few in the Alignment actually knew of Helryx’s part in the formation of the Kritor Alliance—and why it had to be ended.
She started to say something to the Toa, but glanced at Dweller.
“Bolrow, could you take that Hunter…”
“Dweller,” Dweller said.
“…Dweller on a tour of our little base here. I’ll take the other of The Shadowed One’s agents—this Toa here—and bring him up to speed on the Alignment’s current operations.”
Bolrow took Dweller’s shoulder and started to lead him off. Dweller glanced anxiously at Arrin, whom he distrusted on his own, but there was nothing he could do without betraying his distrust. Scowling, he sulked after Bolrow.
Helryx started casually toward the table where the other four agents were gathered. Zefrim gestured for the Toa to follow.
“Toa of Metal, I presume.” The Toa of Water said.
Arrin and Kelrik exchanged glances before both saying, “Yes ma’am.”
“Good. That might be helpful. When the Alignment was first forming, I forbade Toa from joining because they have their own destinies to fulfill. But now this war is wreaking havoc across all lands and Toa will fight them anyway. It would be in both of our interests to… align.”
“Throughout the existence of this organization, there have been those anxious to work with the Toa, despite my concerns. When the Toa began several years back to distribute Toa stones more readily, some took that as a sign the Toa were ready to help. One agent in particular--”
“Kelrik’s met Yara,” Zefrim interjected.
“Yara, in particular, expressed her dislike of the rule by openly working with Toa teams on occasion. She never broke the rules, but her actions left a sour taste in my mouth.”
She stopped and turned to the Toa.
“You see, up until recently we were not at war. We could test our allies, examine them. We had the luxury of excluding Toa. But now I would even revive the fledgling League of Six Kingdoms to avenge themselves.”
They arrived at the table. “Retti, update Zefrim and the Toa on the current situation.” Helryx said
“We heard a few days ago from a spy in Bythrain that the Kritor—‘Empire’ now—is launching an invasion of Nynrah. The first part of their fleet landed five hours ago along the Rotho Nui Temple,” Retti was moving his finger along the west part of the north shore, “the second, one hour ago, up near Therria dock. The third fleet is scheduled to arrive near Hep Inlet in half an hour. But according to a report from some of our agents down there, the Makuta have an army sent from Visorak already marching from the Yerf Coast,” Retti pointed to the curved coastline along the south of Nynrah, “north.”
“North.” Zefrim said. He moved his finger north of the Yerf Coast until it was directly beneath the Rotho Nui Temple. “The armies would meet near this town, here… Umphar. When will the armies scheduled to meet?”
“As we speak…”
“Stay here,” Kragator said. He urged his steed, a Psioni-Lion forward.
Miserix saw his old nemesis riding over, to the now plateauing territory between the two armies. Smiling grimly, he shapeshifted himself a pair of wings and glided over.
Kragator reigned his steed to a stop, noting Miserix’s troops only consisted of foot soldiers and generals gained from Stelt.
“Miserix,” he smiled.
“Yes… when we last stood face-to-face—what was it, six thousand years ago? I was but a lowly king of a small humble island. Now we meet again and I stand, Emperor of the Kritor Empire.”
“Emporer,” Miserix spat. “of what? Four small islands and a peninsula? Pathetic.”
“Conquror of Artakha,” Kragator whispered. “Conqueror of Karzahni. Soon-to-be master of Nynrah, and then the Continents, and then Metru Nui, and then everywhere else. When I’ve crushed the League of the Makuta, I’ll add those islands to my trophies.”
“You will never seize Metru Nui. Nor will you defeat the Makuta. The Kritors will be done before you leave this battlefield. Unless…you know…” Miserex smiled. Kragator frowned.
“… A true conqueror does not resort to alliances to move past… obstacles.”
“And Artakha? And Karzahni? The rulers of the only two inhabited islands you’ve conquered? I suppose those weren’t really alliances.”
“They were conquered first; there’s a difference. And besides, since the dawn of time those two have been fighting. It’s long been a fantasy of mine to get them on the same side. My side.”
Miserex shrugged. “Suit yourself. I personally will enjoy adding your weird-looking mask to my trophy room. I’ve never seen it before and it would make a good trophy, alongside your most-famous sword. An alliance would be more for your benefit than mine. But… whatever…”
Kragator jerked on the reigns of his restless mount.
“The Makuta were servants to a higher deity once. They will be that way again.”
“If you say so…”
At that moment, dozens of underground Rahi tore from beneath the ground under Kragator’s army. Dozens of shapeshifted Makuta leapt from cover throughout the landscape, unleashing hail-fire on Kragator’s troops.
Kragator looked at Miserix.
“I wouldn’t have started this war if I couldn’t deal with overpowered warriors and a few Rahi.”
Kragator touched his Mask which started glowing. Instantly, the powers of everyone on the battlefield was nullified. Miserex looked at Kragator in horror.
“Remember what I said about Karzahni and Artakha working together? Well, they said to say hi.”
The Shadowed One retrieved the carving from the Gukko’s mouth. He checked the tablet for the subtle signs marking that it was written by a Dark Hunter. Confident it was, he turned to Ancient who was in his office as well as Recorder. The Gukko flew off through the window.
“Arrin informs us that the Alignment wants our help breaking up the Battle of Nynrah. Once that’s done, the Hunters are to interfere with supply routes between Makuta-held lands or Kritor-held lands.”
Ancient snorted. “Who cares about Nynrah anymore? That battle’s been raging for, what, fourteen days now? If that island isn’t gone by now, it’s going, and goodness know the Matoran have fled.”
The Shadowed One chuckled. “Now, now, Ancient, this isn’t a slave auction, and in this game the winner isn’t the highest bidder. Besides, working with this Alignment may prove helpful after this war is done.”
“If the war is won by the Alignment.”
“Regardless of the winner. I’ve extended my hand into all organizations. No matter who wins, I and the Dark Hunters will come out on top.”
Ancient frowned. “Not honoring our prior engagements? How… dishonorable.”
“Have you forgotten your humble beginnings my friend?”
“That was before I was part of this. Before I was part of something… higher and more profitable. Now I don’t have to rely on such petty thievery and tactics. Those are best left to those petty mercenaries like Roodaka.”
“Just imagine the sort of organization we would’ve been without the Kritor/Dark Hunter conflict.”
“I have. It disgusts me.”
“Which is why,” The Shadowed One started to the door, “I will ensure this—”
Just then, another Gukko landed in the windowsill. The Shadowed One retrieved the tablet and scanned it.
“Dweller says he doesn’t trust Arrin—big surprise there. He says the Toa and various Alignment agents increasingly find ways to separate the two of them.”
“Why don’t you just let Arrin go? He clearly doesn’t work well as a Dark Hunter, and we could offer him as some sort of gift to this Alignment.”
The Shadowed One crossed over to the door, holding it open for Ancient to leave.
“No… I saw the glances Arrin and that other Toa exchanged when they met here. I will find a way to exploit that, and depending on how highly ranked the other Toa is, I will pull strings in the Alignment. I already told you, no matter who wins, I will be victorious. Recorder, send the signal for all agents to meet in the arena. Today, the Hunters go to war!”
The hand of the Dark Hunters fell quickly on Nynrah. Within hours of receiving word from the Alignment, the Hunters attacked both armies on the island. Their forces swept down from the north, taking first the Makuta, then the Kritors by surprise. Weary of the battle that hadn’t slowed since the onset, both organizations retreated back home to quickly recover before continuing.
Kragator slammed the door shut to his throne room. Storming over to his throne, he started to sit down, but didn’t. Reaching behind his throne for a small arsenal of daggers, he hurled them across the room to strike a shield, striking it with pinpoint accuracy. Screaming, he threw another and another until his supply of daggers ran out. He lifted his powerful sword into the air and reeled back as if to throw it, but thinking better of it, he put his sword down.
Turning around, he leaned against the throne, his hands on both of his armrests and his head hung.
“The Dark Hunters chose to defy me… My enemies are laying siege to my hold on the Tren Krom Peninsula… and the Makuta may as well be victorious over Nynrah… I have… lost…”
Kragator choked on the words and his head hung lower. Scowling, he stood straight again.
“No… No conqueror is without his losses. I must learn from this, must not make the same mistake again… Only then will I recover… and resume my warpath…”
Kragator sat down on his throne once again, cool-headed once more. He picked up his famous sword, the leveler of all heads but his own, and stared at it.
What had he forgotten? What was he missing? The invasion of Visorak was scheduled in a few days, and already he’d put so much in motion there was no stopping it now. But if the Dark Hunters once again threatened the seizure of the island… The Dark Hunters had to be taken out. They’d served their usefulness.
But they couldn’t be working alone, could they? Now that he thought about it, there had been reports of a small band of creatures working to undermine the Kritors. But they’d rarely done serious damage, for who could hurt the Kritor Empire?
Kragator rejected the notion… until he remembered something. Someone who’d opposed him early in the formation of the Alliance… another Archcommander of the old Hand of Artakha…
When the old agents of the Hand of Artakha had met to reform the expired organization at the Meeting of Keetongu Island, there had been a Toa, named Helryx, whose ideas of a reformed Hand involved maintaining order in the universe behind secrecy and cowardice. Kragator had opposed the idea, in favor of an organization, looming over the universe, actively keeping it in line. Helryx opposed him, ordering messengers to go to all the old members of the Hand and to instruct them to return under the banner of the Order of Mata Nui. Kritor, however, intercepted the messengers, killing them, and replacing them with his own. He then took those at the Meeting of Keetongu Island who supported him and hunted down the Helryx’s supporters. Helryx herself escaped and disappeared. When the messengers returned, old agents in tow, Kragator declared the Kritor Alliance.
But what if she was still out there… what if she was leading at least some of the attacks on the Kritors…
Kragator sat back. It was definitely something worth thinking about.
There was still something bothering him. Like it had been left out of the equation when it should play a more substantial role…
The Kritors couldn’t go on like this. Kragator had revealed his proudest ace yet, the Mask of No Powers (no, he didn’t like the name either), the result of the alliance of Artakha and Karzahni. He’d stripped the Makuta of their powers and still they managed a stalemate. He had to get an edge. He had to know more. More about the organization, more about how it worked, more about…
…A more substantial role…
And then it hit him.
With long strides, Kragator moved for the door. So eager had he been for conquest, he’d forgotten the actual trigger for the war. Stepping outside his throne room, he motioned for a guard.
“Tell Axonn, Tobduk, and Ervik to meet me down in the prison cells.”
By the time Ervik arrived, the interrogation had already begun.
“—help you, will you send some soldiers with me to my universe?”
“I will… think about it.”
“I will not say anything until you promise to send soldiers with me.”
“No, you fool, don’t you realize how these things work? Who of us is the more desperate? I can continue to wage war—as I have—and you can continue to die down here, like the pathetic worm you are. And your Mata Nui can continue to conquer worlds, oppressing your people for all I care!”
The other-worlder cringed. Was it really worth it? Who knows what could’ve happened in his universe in the time he’d been roasting in this prison? And could he afford several more weeks? At least here he had a chance. Kragator had at least promised to think about it.
“What do you want to know?” he asked.
“Tell me about Makuta.”
“Makuta are very powerful, very menacing, very over-powered creatures who strove to take over the world—”
“Yes, yes, I know that—”
“—Until Mata Nui went bad.”
Kragator frowned. “What did they do then?”
“Well, you see, apparently there was this… organization living underground, completely invisible, that came out of hiding to try and solve the problem. The Makuta, happy for the chance to take revenge on Mata Nui, started working with them.”
“What was its purpose, by chance? Did it exist to hurt the Kritors and the Makuta?”
“No, no… something else… It existed to perform the will of Mata Nui or something. Not that it mattered when he went… bad…”
“What was it called?”
“The Order, I think. The Order… of Mata Nui.”
Kragator had been slumping against the wall, but at this he stood up straight.
“Order… of Mata Nui?”
Kragator glanced at Axonn who nodded, though he knew little of what the name meant. Could it be? In this universe had Helryx successfully managed to get her organization rolling?
“Wait, but what of the Kritor Alliance? What am I doing in that universe?”
“You… what’s your—er—name? Maybe I’ll recognize it.”
“Krag—oh forget it.” If Kragator hadn’t been memorable enough in that universe, there would be no point.
“As for the Kritor Alliance… I don’t believe you exist. Though the Order did take us by surprise, so who knows?”
So there could be hope for the Kritors of that universe…
Kragator thought for a moment. At length he asked
“Look at the four of us. Tell me… is there any chance you have seen one of us before?”
The other-worlder stared at them. Squinting, he shuffled through his memory until he decided
“That one,” he said pointing at Axonn. “And that one,” at Tobduk.
“Where did you see them?”
“They were part of the Order.”
That confirmed it. In his universe there was no Kritor Alliance. Only the Order of Mata Nui.
So many questions leapt about his head. Did this mean he simply didn’t exist in that universe? Or did he exist and just not rise to power? If so, was that Kragator naturally inferior? Or was he as powerful and just couldn’t successfully pull off the Kritor Alliance? If so, did this mean it was just luck that Emporer Kragator was what he is now? Was he just a sham? Were Kragator’s personality and philosophies not guaranteed victory? He’d always attributed his successes to a grounded state of mind and reasonable ways of thinking, but what if the other Kragator shared all of those, yet didn’t hold victory?
Was this Destiny’s way of telling him his success was an accident? Some byproduct of a single variable not come to pass?
Kragator rubbed his head, the symptoms of a severe headache setting in. He started to move for the exit to the prison wing.
“I’ve had enough. Tobduk, be sure to lock the door when you leave.”
“What about me?” the other-worlder asked desperately.
“I… will deal with you lat—”
“But you said you woul—”
“I SAID I WILL DEAL WITH YOU LATER!” Kragator roared. Fuming, he stormed out.
Axonn started after him. Tobduk reached for the door, getting it ready to be locked. Ervik glanced at the other-worlder who stared desperately at him, his last hope. Tearing his eyes away, the Toa of Plasma rushed out. Tobduk shut the door, locked it, and the room was still.
Zefrim rolled his eyes.
“Try it again, just this time at least pretend you’re heart’s behind it.”
Arrin growled at the ground before him.
“I told you, I can figure this out later! Haven’t you read the legends? Heroes always figure out their powers right when they need them.”
“That’s just adrenaline.”
Arrin rolled his eyes. It had been seven days since the Battle of Nynrah ended. Worse, it had been seven-and-a-half days since he’d seen the light of day. He tried in vain to remember why he’d thought an underground base would be such a cool thing.
Helryx had suggested—to Dweller’s hesitant approval—that Arrin be trained to use his Toa powers. So far he’d been able to get away without it; he wanted to be alone when he first tried them out, so no one could see him mess up horribly. But Helryx had said Zefrim would be the one to train him since he’d been the one responsible for involving both the Toa Voya so far.
The results had been… nonexistent at best. Zefrim was Kelrik’s friend. Thanks to their separation, Kelrik was farther advanced in the Alignment initiation than was Arrin. Arrin was supposed to be the trailblazer, the leader, the eccentric Toa leading the Toa Voya on their exploits. Now he felt awkward and behind-the-curve.
None of which was helping him with his Toa powers.
Arrin grunted and, throwing his full force behind his arms, made as if he were hoisting the whole of Uniran into the air. Although his arms bore nothing at all, from his posture and contracted muscles, it looked like he held five Zivons and a Kewa. He looked at Zefrim for approval.
Zefrim looked on, unimpressed.
“Congratulations. You either just successfully managed to hoist Zakaz into the air with all your powers… or you farted.”
Arrin scowled, letting the imaginary Uniran fall to the ground.
“You told me it was like a muscle: it gets easier over time.”
“Judging by all the metal that sprung into existence, I think you’re triggering the wrong muscle.”
Arrin’s scowl deepened. It didn’t help he was Kelrik’s friend. Kelrik was supposed to be Arrin’s friend, always lagging behind him as he ran forth, into the future. It just felt like Kelrik was on a higher level than Arrin, and now it was starting to get on his nerves.
Zefrim dropped off his perch to the floor and started circling Arrin. Time for a new tactic.
“Have you figured out your Kanohi at least?”
Arrin hung his head and mumbled something.
Zefrim smiled. He didn’t need a Mask of Translation to figure out what that meant. He already knew what the Kanohi’s power was, but telling Kelrik what to expect of the Kanohi wouldn’t help things.
“So… you’re telling me you don’t have access to… any powers right now?”
“And you haven’t been released from the service of the Dark Hunters yet?”
Arrin shrugged. Zefrim was getting colder.
“I’m sure you’re old friends from… Unirun… would approve. No, Arrin has not changed, just gotten taller.”
Zefrim smiled and continued his circle.
“Even Kelrik’s figured out how to use his powers. Are you—”
An iron column slammed into Zefrim, pinning him against the wall.
“Did you say Kelrik knows how to use his powers? Before I do?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that now.”
Arrin stood back, freeing his hands from the iron column and staring at them.
“Huh,” he said. Smiling, he started for the training room door. “Huh.”
Zefrim wiggled in his iron cocoon.
“Great job. Now let’s practice iron absorption.”
Arrin continued walking and smiling.
Arrin turned and stared at Zefrim. He shook his head, as if waking from a daze.
“Huh?—oh, sorry.” Arrin walked back. “So you’re saying Kelrik hasn’t figured out his powers yet?”
Zefrim tried to breathe, but the cocoon didn’t afford him much room. “No, not yet… One of our… other agents is… working with him…”
Arrin’s smile deepened.
“So… I’m the first one to use my power of Iron?”
Arrin started running for the door.
“I have to tell him this.”
“Hu—oh, sorry.” Arrin grinned sheepishly. “Let’s see, all I have to do is absorb the iron?”
Zefrim nodded desperately.
Arrin concentrated and furrowed his brow. Within seconds, the iron column began expanding, slowly increasing in size and strength. Zefrim’s eyes widened.
“WRONG MUSCLE!!! WRONG MUSCLE!!!”
Helryx brooded in her underground chamber. A week had passed since the Battle of Nynrah and the intervention of the Alignment and the Dark Hunters. One week… and already something had changed.
The Kritors were failing. It seemed the Makuta forces had gained the upper hand, for despite the heavy losses on Nynrah, they were quite active. Bythrain was still launching measly bids for control in the Continents, but they were having none the success of before. Something had to be terribly wrong on the island of Bythrain.
The Allignment, of course, would ignore the Kritors and start fighting the Makuta. The best way to wear out both sides was to fight for whichever side was losing. The conflict would be drawn out, of course, and no doubt, and the devastation prolonged, but the old world order had to be torn down. The Kritor Empire and League of Makuta had no place in Helryx’s universe.
“Yes?” Helryx asked.
“The Shadowed One has arrived,” Retti said.
“Good. Send him in.”
Retti left to retrieve The Shadowed One and his personnel. Helryx hadn’t been much on revealing the location of the base to The Shadowed One, but it couldn’t be helped if she wanted an alliance. An alliance which was so far proving fruitful. Just look at the Battle of Nynrah.
The Shadowed One entered. He looked around disdainfully. “When I was told you were based in an underground layer beneath Zakaz, I wasn’t expecting anything so… Spartan. The same person who forged an alliance with the Skakdi and obtained a personal Bohrok nest couldn’t afford anything more technological?”
“Not everyone can afford to be decadent,” Helryx spat. “Especially not now. My priorities revolve around destroying the only two organizations in this universe greater than our own.”
“A worthy cause,” The Shadowed One smiled. He picked a Twilight Blade off the wall. “My, my… such trophies… My Dark Hunters would kill to play with some of these.”
“Enough,” Helryx said. The Shadowed One grinned and put the sword back. “In our last transmission, I asked you to send Hunters to infiltrate Destral and Bythrain.”
“And I told you that both islands have sealed themselves tighter than a Toa Canister.”
“But I said—”
Helryx stood and walked to the opposite side of the room. The Shadowed One continued.
“As you may know, something is wrong at Bythrain. The organization, fully dependent on the steady hand of Emporer Kragator, has faltered.”
“Is the Emporer absent?”
“This allowed me to send a Hunter in,” The Shadowed One ignored her.
“And what did he report?”
“My Hunter reported that Emporer Kragator is, in fact, aloof. Although he spends his time in his chambers, he remains locked up, seemingly in distress. In his stead, his small body of his generals has formed to regulate the Kritors, but it is far less effective than its bold, cold emperor.”
“Do we know what ails the emperor?”
“And the lands held by the Empire are falling?”
“Yes. And its army is in tatters. What do you plan to do about it?”
Helryx scowled and returned to her seat.
“All that I can do right now is antagonize the Makuta and support the Kritor Army. The Empire and we are all that’s left standing between the League of Makuta and world conquest.”
“And what a world that would be.” The Shadowed One smiled.
Helryx looked at the master of the Dark Hunters. She had to give him credit; she couldn’t tell if he was genuinely worried, as she was, or if he was planning something.
“Well, until that time,” Helryx said, “Return to Odina. If Bythrain makes a resurgence, we’ll return to indiscriminately hurting both sides, but until then, focus on the Makuta. And tell your agent on Bythrain to lie low for now.”
“Yes… partner…” The Shadowed One bowed and went to the door. “Oh, and just one more thing,” he said.
Helryx frowned. “What?”
“I’m taking Arrin and Dweller back to Odina briefly. Would you like me to send your agents back in the meantime?”
“You’re taking Arrin? Uh—and Dweller?”
“Yes. Would you like me to send your agents back in the meantime?”
“Um… that will not be necessary. Keep them… but do send hunters back soon. And I have found Arrin a far more agreeable… associate than most other Hunters in my experience.”
“Very well. Once I am done, the Toa will continue to be my representative.”
Ancient met The Shadowed One on his warship.
“Arrin and Dweller onboard already?”
Ancient nodded. “What did you think?”
The Shadowed One signaled for the sailor to take the ship out to sea. He waited until Zakaz was sufficiently far enough away to reply.
“Their leader is a Toa of Water—an old Toa of Water. Their agents were few and far between; during my time in there, I saw no more than eleven beings present. While I’m sure they’d say they have agents who are preoccupied elsewhere, it was still an unimpressive show of strength.”
The Shadowed One moved to the rail, leaning over to stare at the sea.
“Their technology was minimal,” he continued. “While I saw a few noteworthy weapons in their leader’s ‘hut,’ I saw little of value elsewhere. Finally, thus far, I have seen the Alignment make any move impressive enough for me to remain interested, even with our help. The Toa of Water had an opportunity to impress me with my own organization, yet all she has it do is run errands. And I’ve grown impatient.”
“Your plan then?”
“I pulled my Hunters out for a reason. Arrin and Dweller will return, but Zakaz will be quite different from what they remember.”
The Shadowed One rose.
“Send an emissary to Destral. Let’s make them an offer.”
Phase bowed on one knee. Tridax smiled.
“Rise. Miserex awaits inside.”
Phase leapt off the boat onto the sandy shore of Destral. To be honest, it was his first time on the island. He looked around, neatly disguising his awe.
Visorak lined Destral’s beach so thoroughly Phase wasn’t even sure if the sand extended beyond the little circle where he stood. Rahkshi cut through the rows of Visorak, patrolling, as it seemed to Phase. Looking up to the fortress wall, the empty shells of Exo-Toa stared down, ever-wary of trespassers.
Tridax moved forward and the Visorak parted. Phase, ever the sailor, couldn’t help thinking of the Makuta leaving his wake through the ocean of Visorak.
Tridax approached the gate which opened like the jaws of some dweller in the deep. Had Phase not been a Dark Hunter for much of his life, he might’ve signed up for the Makuta somewhere in this war. Shadows lined the empty halls like they themselves were soldiers of the Makuta going about their business.
“Come,” Tridax said.
Phase followed the Makuta down several halls to a massive corridor. Using his magnetism powers, he shoved open a heavy metal door. A voice welcomed them.
“The Makuta Convocation is now in session.”
Phase stepped into the room. Extending all the way down the chamber was a long table, lined by Makuta armored in tendrils of darkness with their weapons placed neatly on the table. Several of them glanced toward Phase, one of them a hungry look on her face. Phase felt himself starting to shrink away.
Tridax took his place among the Makuta. Placing his broadsword on the table, he said,
“Gorast, if you please,”
Gorast grinned maliciously at Tridax.
“If you insist.”
“You may approach the Makuta Convocation.” Miserix said to Phase. Uncharacteristically timid, Phase approached.
“You said that the Dark Hunters have information on the Aligners?” Miserix asked.
“…Er…Al-er-Ali-lign…ment. And y-yes, the Dark Hunters know everything.”
“Unless there are objections from my fellow Makuta…” Miserix said, “… I will indeed pay the Dark Hunters for that information. The Alignment has been a thorn in my side for centuries and now that it pits its entire strength behind the Kritors, the time has come to remove it.”
“Now?” asked Makuta Teridax. “It seems to me we would be better served to finish the Kritors while we still can and then destroy the Alignment.”
“We can’t just ignore the Alignment entirely,” Icarax said. “It seems they’re protecting the Kritors.”
Teridax rose and walked to the wall, to pull an ancient trophy, an old Kanohi Hau, off the wall. “It’s a little something you’d know nothing about, Icarax… Endurance. We can ignore them, because they are little more than they were before… a thorn in our sides.”
“Very well, we shall put it to a vote.” Miserix looked at Phase. “You are excused.” Phase left.
“All in favor of storming Bythrain and ignoring the Alignment for now, raise your hands.” Antroz raised his hand as well as Teridax, Gorast, Krika, and a handful of others. “And those not?” Everyone else raised their hands.
Miserix smiled. “We have our decision. Even so, I will hear about the Alignment.” Phase was brought back in. “Tell us, Hunter, about this Alignment.”
“They’re based in a Bohrok cave on Zakaz, under the last w-working port on the island. They’re led by a Toa of Water who hates both organizations and feels the best and most effective way to eliminate both of you is to fight for whoever’s losing.”
“Zakaz, huh?” Teridax replaced the Hau and returned to his seat. “No wonder the Skakdi managed to repel our siege.”
“Why did the Dark Hunters wait until now to share this?” Antroz asked.
“Until now, there has been no winning side. Now Bythrain is on the decline and the Alignment hasn’t proven capable of defeating you. The Shadowed One feels he knows the obvious victor to come.”
“So he does.”
Two days later, Bolrow was talking to a Skakdi about fishing terrain when he saw the Makuta warships. Dropping his fishing line, he scrambled for the secret entrance.
Helryx was observing a map of the Matoran Universe, examining the recent Makuta conquests when Bolrow came running up.
“The Makuta are back.”
Helryx, unworried, stood.
“Are the Skakdi ready to fight again?”
“I’m not sure. You want me to go check?”
“I’ll come with you, just to be sure.”
They moved through the narrow tunnels to the surface with veteran agility. Bolrow pushed the secret entrance open when he saw, to his surprise, Zefrim and Kelrik standing there.
“The Makuta are negotiating with the Skakdi. From their expressions, it looks like the Makuta are in on a secret of the Skakdis’.”
There was some rustling in the foliage nearby and the Dark Hunter Phase emerged.
“You!” Helryx looked at him in surprise. “You’re a Dark Hunter! What are the Hunters doing here?”
“Hunters betrayed you,” Phase said, morphing into the form of Makuta Antroz. “Surrender or run.”
Yara piloted her small vessel up to a small part of Zakaz where a cliff overlooked the water. She didn’t have to wait long before the form of Helryx leapt over the cliff, landing gracefully in the boat. She was followed by Zefrim and Kelrik, as well as Retti, a member of the Steltian gladiator class.
“Go,” Helryx ordered Yara. “Bolrow, Teraak, and Heerah were killed.
Yara moved out. So this was all that was left of the Alignment base. She could rest assured no members had been captured; if there was one thing Helryx couldn’t stand more than a dead member, it was one captured and held for ransom. The Toa of Water would’ve ensured the Makuta had no prisoners.
She glanced at Zefrim. She was glad he was still alive—he and Kelrik. Zefrim was one of her oldest friends and the Toa of Iron had grown on her.
“How’d you know there was trouble?”
Yara glanced at Helryx who was looking at her.
“Our base on the Southern Continent was raided by a militia of Rahkshi. Gerat, Rekar, and Withoy went to seek out other stranglers of other islands while I came up here, in case there was trouble here. When I saw the Makuta warships and the dock on fire, I knew you might need a getaway driver at the special spot.”
Helryx eyed her suspiciously. Satisfied, she stood up and walked to the stern of the vessel, using her water powers to steady the boat.
“The Dark Hunter ratted us out.” She said. “If the Makuta attacked the Southern Continent as well…”
“Then it’s likely the other locations were hit as well,” the former gladiator said.
Helryx said nothing, staring down at the sea. Kelrik observed her punch the wood frame.
“Then we should we head to the rendezvous point at Nynrah?” asked Zefrim, oblivious to Helryx.
Retti looked at Helryx, surprised.
“But our agents—they’ll be waiting for us—”
“I said no.”
Helryx resumed her seat.
“The Shadowed One has made me very angry. If he thought he could do this… to me…”
Helryx looked at Yara.
“Set sail for Odina.”
With a creaking sigh, the Oblivion rested against the island shore.
Ervik watched as Kragator leapt off the warship onto the sand.
“Come with me, Toa of Plasma,” Kragator softly called up to Ervik.
Glancing at Tobduk who seemed furious, Ervik jumped over the ledge. He ran up to Kragator who regarded him with resigned eyes.
“Stay some distance behind me. Unless I call you, I don’t want you to approach.”
Slowly the Emperor of the Kritors approached the cave just inland. He needed not take even a few steps; within seconds reality shifted around him and he was within the cave.
“A visitor,” said a slimy voice that made him want to die. But considering the psychological turmoil he’d been through lately, that was nothing new for him. “At last.”
A tentacle reached out from the crimson orb that was Tren Krom, trying to wrap itself around Kragator. Scowling, the emperor batted it away.
“I have no time for foolery. Tell me what I seek, Tren Krom, or soon I will make you wish you were little more than the legend you were not five minutes ago.”
“Ah, little pest,” Tren Krom snarled. “If you insist on defying me…”
Tren Krom thought for a minute. Instinct told him to end the visitor, the make him regret ever regarding Tren Krom as some… equal. But then reason took over—the prisoner of the island had to know what was going on in the world.
If Tren Krom had a mouth, at that moment it would’ve stretched into a smile. He reached out with his mental powers—
--only to be repulsed. Mentally recoiling, Tren Krom looked again at his visitor.
Kragator was touching his mask.
“I have seen Artakha himself bow before me… and have cast Karzahni into servitude. I have been shaken to the very core of my beliefs… only to reemerge upon hearing again of your legend. You will tell me, the Emperor Kragator, what I wish to hear, Tren Krom, because I am the bearer of the Mask of No Powers. You are little more than Power yourself, Tren Krom… Take that away, and what are we left with?”
The seething prisoner of the island remained silent.
“A legend without a legacy.”
“Enough! What is it you wish to know?”
“Well, half of what I came here to do has already been finished: remind myself of what I am. The power I hold, to look at great spirits as equals. But the Kritor Empire has been shaken in my mental turmoil, and I mean to reestablish my stranglehold on my universe. As we speak, my soldiers are active, preparing once again to renew my campaigns. But I lack an ace now, a card up my sleeve. I expect you will have information I may benefit from holding regarding my seizure of the universe.”
Kragator pulled his sword from his sheath and started drawing in the sand.
The words hung in the air. For a moment, Kragator was tempted to think the ancient Tren Krom had fallen asleep. Kragator turned as if to leave when the question the emperor set down was taken up.
“There is a place,”
“A place… a world that feeds the world…”
Kragator turned. Tren Krom continued.
“The Universe Core. Karda Nui.”
“Tell me about it.”
“It is the core of Mata Nui’s existence. Seize power there and you will have reached to Mata Nui’s very heart.”
“I have heard similar things said about Metru Nui. What makes Karda Nui so special?”
“Metru Nui is the distributer of the life-energy of the universe, but Karda Nui is its source. Cast Karda Nui into darkness and Mata Nui will fall from the sky.”
Kragator frowned. “Thanks, but darkness isn’t really my thing. Tell where it is and how I can use it to my advantage. Will Mata Nui concede to me the rule of the universe? Will control of this island give me bargaining power?”
“No, no, nothing of the sort. Karda Nui isn’t an island. It is a dome located directly beneath the Volcano Valmai on the Southern Continent.”
Kragator snapped, suddenly impatient. Seizing his sword, he marched up to the powerful entity, rendered defenseless. Shoving his blade up to the gelatinous creature, he snarled
“Riddle me not, Tren Krom: I am in no state of mind to tolerate games!”
Tren Krom laughed, a truly disgusting sound.
“I have already told you! If Karda Nui is the heart, the actual heart, what would that make Mata Nui? What would that make the Matoran Universe? Look to the map, the formation of the isles and tell me you do not understand.”
Kragator fell back, groping at the cold rock wall, the shadow of the truth flashing across his features. Shaking his head, he said.
“So… if I’m understanding you right…”
“And you are.”
“…is the Matoran Universe.”
Kragator almost fell, catching himself against the wall. There had been so many changes of late, and even once he thought he’d made order of his shattered world, it found a way to change the rules again.
That unstable feeling lasted all of two minutes. Now his course was clear. The rules of Emperor Kragator’s game had just been changed once again, and now it was time to seize the reigns of this war.
He turned to leave.
“Wait! Where are you going?” Tren Krom demanded.
“It’s time to end this fight,” Kragator growled. “It’s time to finish those pesky Makuta… and to bring this war to a close.”
The Kritor’s wasted no time rebuilding their lost kingdom. Rebounding from the brink of obscurity, the Kritors reaffirmed their control over Artakha, Karzahni, and Artidax, as well as seizing Nynrah once again. Using those islands, they launched hasty seizures of the Southern Islands as well as the western and eastern chains. The undisputed masters of the periphery islands of the universe, they surrounded the islands of the Makuta, focused in the center of the universe.
Ervik was walking along the battlement of the outer wall when General Tobduk sullenly approached him.
“The emperor requests your presence…” he scowled.
Ervik nodded and started off for the emperor’s chamber. He stopped as if he wanted to say something to Tobduk, but rejected it and continued running.
There was an air about Tobduk that seemed somewhat familiar to Ervik, he decided. Sort of like the time Turaga Grunpa selected Ervik over Borin to be the chronicler of Uniran that one time seven years ago. Ervik had felt bad; Borin had clearly had his heart set on the position, so Ervik had asked Grunpa to give Borin the position instead. Was this how Tobduk felt about the Toa’s new servitude to Kragator? Should Ervik ask Kragator about his newfound position on Tobduk’s behalf?
But then, Ervik thought, what had Kragator always said about legacy? About forging it yourself? Ervik was forging his legacy through his service to the greatest conqueror the Matoran Universe had ever seen—shouldn’t it be left to an individual to leave their own destiny? And Tobduk wouldn’t get anywhere with handouts.
Besides, what was there to be jealous of? All Ervik really did was inscribe letters for the emperor, write his annals, and serve as his armor bearer. Tobduk actually got to do wherever he wanted, fight whomever he wanted, go on whatever missions he wanted. Ervik was subject to the whims of the leader in return for shelter and food. Ervik was little more than a servant where Tobduk was practically Kragator’s right hand.
Or was he? If Tobduk’s attitude was any indication…
He shoved open the doors to Kragator’s chamber. The emperor was talking with Brutaka and General Trinuma, two other Kritors, but upon seeing Ervik, he dismissed them.
“Leave us,” he said.
With barely a glance in Ervik’s direction, Brutaka and Trinuma left.
“Very good, you have arrived.” Kragator smiled. “I have some letters for you to write. As you may know, I have emerged from the… breakdown that ailed me. Now the rest of the universe has come to know, the Kritor Empire has also experienced a resurgence since then and is in a position to strike at the universe. Now the Kritors must issue their ultimatums.”
“But what about the great island to the north? The only place we haven’t conquered or have surrounded?”
“The island Metru Nui will be… dealt with all in good time, don’t worry. Prepare to write.”
Ervik grabbed a tablet and carving tool.
“This message is for the Dark Hunters:
“To the entity that regards himself as the Shadowed One. The services of the Dark Hunters have been welcome in the years prior to the War. Following the Hapol Conflict, relations with Odina have been positive and both Destral and Bythrain benefited from services provided by the Dark Hunters.
“But since the war began, those services have been unnecessary. Odina dwelt alone, its services disregarded since the war began. Neither the Makuta nor the Kritors took advantage of the Dark Hunter institute, rendering Odina lifeless. The Dark Hunters then felt it necessary to ally with the Alignment and break up the Battle of Nynrah—something the neither the Kritors nor the Makuta appreciated. Then, when it seemed the Makuta held the upper hand, Odina betrayed the Alignment, offering information on the organization to the Makuta and the Makuta only. Had said information been offered to the Kritors as well, Bythrain might have been willing to spare the Dark Hunters. But the above information was not offered to us, so now the Dark Hunters stand officially as enemies of the Kritor Empire.
“Now Odina is the last periphery island in the Matoran Universe beside Metru Nui to be conquered; even the Makuta stronghold at Visorak has fallen. By week’s end, the Kritor Empire will storm Odina and lay its contents bare. Submit peacefully and I will spare your life, those of your lieutenants, and those of your Hunters who do not fight us. If you do try to fight us—well, Odina will be mine either way and I am indifferent regarding your survival, worm. What was started at Karchari will be finished now.”
Kragator waited for Ervik to finish carving before continuing.
“This message is for the Makuta:
“To Makuta Miserix: Since the dawn of time—that is, the end of the time before time—the Brotherhood of Makuta—now League of Makuta—and the Kritor Alliance—now Empire—have been rival organizations. Now the conflict has emerged as all-out warfare and the universe has been split along our sides. As you may well know, I experienced a mental break…dow—No, actually Ervik scratch that out. Let’s see… I experienced… I had… No, Bythrain had some internal conflict and I was temporarily unable to govern as I had before. Though rest assured—this isn’t the type of internal conflict you can capitalize on, foul Makuta.
“During that time, your forces seized control of and fortify most of the Central Islands and the Continents; namely Xia, Daxia, Stelt, Zarnor, the Continents and, most recently, Zakaz.”
Kragator chuckled. “For that I must commend you. You succeeded in beating back the army of the Kritors, while it was in the throes of internal turmoil.
“In turn, I have, now that I emerged from my conflict, solidified control over the Southern Islands as well as the Eastern and Western Island chain, blockading them off as I’m sure youwell know. Karzahni and Artakha are still mine and very shortly Odina will fall. The choice is yours. You can submit to us—that option is always open, although I expect you will reject it—or we can continue fighting, the Central Bodies versus Periphery Islands. While I am open to conditional surrender, the conditions will be small and limited. Finally, I offer an invitation to partake in a one-month truce. Good luck with whatever path you take, and while I cannot hope you succeed, I do consider you and your organization worthy opponents. I hope it takes all my strategic prowess to defeat you.”
Kragator waited patiently for Ervik’s chisel to stop.
“Finally as for the… Alignment.”
Ervik grabbed a third tablet.
“To the head of the Alignment, whomever you may be…” Kragator smiled inwardly. “I do appreciate your work in preserving the Kritor Empire during my lapse in control. During my hiatus, you focused your attention in stalling the Makuta armies, leaving my empire time to reestablish control. Whether or not this was done because you thought us no longer a threat is of no consequence; you protected Bythrain as it renewed and strengthened its prior power, and for that you will be rewarded. If your actions prior are any indication, it would seem you hate both the Makuta as well as the Kritors, but regardless, I am willing to meet with the head of the… growing threat to my empire.”
Kragator stood, subtly indicating the end of his dictation. Ervik signed the tablets with Kragator’s Seal, a woodcut of his sword.
“And if the leader knows how carefully I select the people I offer to meet with, she’ll know I am honoring her in the only way I can in times of war,” Kragator said to Ervik.
“—Or he—or--let’s just say I have my suspicions as to who the leader of the Alignment may be.”
Helryx turned to the others as Yara’s boat slowed just off the Odina coast.
“So here’s the plan. Yara, Retti, and I will go to the Dark Hunter vaults and grab supplies to replace the ones we lost on Zakaz. Zefrim and Umbar,” Umbar was the member of the gladiator class of Stelt, “Go cause as much trouble as you can. I don’t care what you do, just distract them from finding us. Kelrik, how good are you with your Toa powers?”
“Uh… Well, Zefrim’s been helping me work on them, so… Okay I guess?”
“That will have to do. I’ll leave you in charge of the boat.”
“Wait… Can I fetch Arrin?”
“He’s a Dark Hunter, Kelrik. As much as I know you like him—”
“It wasn’t his fault The Shadowed One betrayed us for the Dark Hunters! And besides, it isn’t like he was in on it: he can’t stand having a secret and not teasing me.”
Helryx glanced at Zefrim. “You worked with the Toa of Iron. Do you think we can really trust him?”
Zefrim smiled, repressing a slight grin. “Yeah. As far as I could tell. He seemed fine enough. I would trust him.”
Helryx sighed. “Very well. If any of us sees him along the way, we will retrieve him. But finding our agents is more of a priority.” Her glare silenced Kelrik who’d opened his mouth to speak.
Yara raised her hand. “I don’t know what this Toa looks like.”
Kelrik grinned. “You’ll know him when you see him.” He looked at Helryx. “So what am I supposed to do?”
“Stay here and guard the boat.”
“But Helryx, why can’t I come?”
Helryx sighed. “Kelrik, you’re a Toa. Toa are meant to honor the Toa Code—that is, they do not kill. When we invade, things may get pretty… chaotic. You may get in a position where you have to kill someone to survive. We wish to avoid that. Besides, your powers aren’t completely developed yet.”
“But you’re a Toa. Why are you going? What if you have to kill someone?”
Helryx glanced at her feet.
“I’m… I do not abide by the Toa Code…”
“That’s none of your concern.” Helryx looked up sharply. “Yara, resume rowing for the shore.”
Gently, silently, Yara moved the boat until its stern rose on the shore. Helryx, Yara, Zefrim, Retti and Umbar dismounted. “Stay here, Kelrik.” Helryx ordered as they moved off.
Kelrik waited until the others were out of sight, then sighed and fell back in the boat. How boring…
But he was a member of the Alignment now, and he had to follow orders.
Arrin, meanwhile, had been pacing, alone in his barracks, planning his escape from Odina. He’d known about the Dark Hunters’ treachery toward the Alignment for days now, and that had dissolved whatever loyalty he had to the Hunters. Oh, he would always be friends with Pacer and the others who’d welcomed him, but he was (as far as he was concerned) also a soldier in the Alignment. And besides, had it not been for the Dark Hunters, he wouldn’t have the Skakdi pirate’s face that kept reappearing in his dreams—
Arrin stopped pacing. Striding over to the door, he put his ear to it.
Yes, there it was again. The sounds of battle. But fighting was prohibited anywhere except in the Arena.
Opening the door, he stepped outside. The noises seemed to be coming from down the hall. Slowly he started running to them.
A hand grabbed his shoulder, turning him around roughly. It was Glaze.
“Arrin—the Shadowed One orders you to go to him in his chamber.”
“Do you hear—”
“Yes, of course I do. Just go.”
Arrin started running to the Shadowed One’s chamber while Glaze ran to the sounds of battle. He wasn’t certain what was going on, but the Shadowed One hadn’t summoned him since—Arrin’s mood began darkening again—since he’d betrayed the Alignment.
Arriving at the chamber, he shoved open the doors.
“Yes? You called?” he asked.
“Get over here,” The Shadowed One called. He was standing over blueprints of the fortress. When Arrin hesitated, he said, “Now.”
The Shadowed One stood up. “Because I said so, Toa.”
“Listen, Toa. You’re a Dark Hunter. The Dark Hunters answer to me. Now tell me everything you know about the Alignment that I don’t already know.”
“Because…” The Shadowed One approached the Toa. “You’re a Dark Hunter. You gave up your freedom the moment my Hunter saved you from Mount Valmai.”
“Did I ask him to save me?” Arrin circled around, away from the Shadowed One’s approach.
“You’d be a dead Toa had it not been for him.”
“Still better than being stuck here. With you.”
The Shadowed One raised his Rhotuka Launcher at the Toa. Arrin reeled back with his Kanoka Blade. The Shadowed One snarled.
“I’m done with foolish Toa.”
Arrin hurled his Kanoka Blade across the wall. The Shadowed One didn’t even have time to flinch. The Kanoka Blade flashed across the room—and crashed against the wall to The Shadowed One’s right.
Arrin shrugged. “It was worth a try.”
The leader of the Dark Hunters chuckled. “Well, at the very least, Toa, you never failed to amuse me.”
Arrin heard the trigger to a Rhotuka launcher, but it didn’t come from The Shadowed One’s launcher. It came from the entrance to the chamber.
“I see I’m late to the party,” Umbar smiled. He lowered his launcher.
The Toa of Metal looked back at The Shadowed One who leaned over and started laughing madly.
“Tickle Rhotuka?” Arrin asked.
“Nothing so profound,” Umbar smiled. “It caused his spinner to explode in its launcher.”
Zefrim ran into the chamber.
“Umbar! Arrin! Let’s go!”
The three of them ran, then. As they made their way to the coast, Arrin thought he saw another Dark Hunter called Eliminator appear, but Arrin couldn’t get a clear view of him and he soon vanished. They ran past exploding rubble—some surprises Umbar had brought along were doing their jobs quite nicely—and as they reached the shore, Arrin saw Helryx and the others, including the two sent to keep tabs on the Dark Hunters, lugging assorted goods from the direction of the vault. The Toa of Iron grinned. They were making out like bandits from the Dark Hunters.
Kelrik jumped out of the boat and ran up to him.
“Arrin,” he said in a hushed tone, “Swear to me you didn’t know about the Shadowed One’s treachery.”
“On Mata Nui’s name, I had no idea,” Arrin said.
Kelrik stared at him for a moment. He ran back for the boat. “Then come on. Give us a hand.”
Arrin looked back. Several Dark Hunters were running, but not for them. It seemed their orders were to disarm Umbar’s ‘gifts,’ several Schatter Bombs (a new device Umbar had been working on), and stop the chaos wreaked on the fortress.
As the boat of the Alignment raced away from the smoking Odina, Arrin thought he saw the faint ghosts of warships, Kritor in appearance, listing into the Odina ports. But the Toa decided against telling the others since, as far as he was concerned, Odina deserved all the pillaging it could take. But even if he had told his comrades, even they would not understand at that moment the full scale of what they’d done or that the Kritor stranglehold on the universe was now complete.
The two empires were now at their full power.
And the universe held its breath...
End of Part One
Miserex stood in the Makuta Convocation chamber flanked by Antroz, Krika, Teridax, and Icarax, his most talented generals. Each represented an attribute that every leader needed; Antroz, the accurate evaluation of the enemy; Krika, the understanding of what there was to lose; Teridax, the careful scheming; and Icarax, the raw fury of a hurricane. All Miserix’s best was demanded now; the war had been heightened and all hands had to be on deck. One mistake would be catastrophic, at worst.
They stood over a map of the Matoran Universe, evaluating the Kritor Empire.
“Have you heard the story of the Elastic Snake and the Bone Gafna?” asked Teridax suddenly, mystic as always.
“Spare us the nighttime tale, Teridax. Tell us your idea.”
“Elastic Snakes always attack the same,” said Teridax, completely ignoring Miserix. “First they stretch themselves out. Then they wrap themselves around their victims, and, biting their tail, contract until their enemy is strangled to death. But when their victim is a Bone Gafna, the rodents make their bodies as big as they can—and then they hold their breath. The snake can’t contract anymore. The struggle becomes a matter of secondary assets—the Gafna’s mouth and limbs and the snake’s extendable spikes—until the other passes out from exhaustion.”
“Who wins?” Icarax grunted.
“That,” smiled Teridax, “has yet to be determined.”
“I met a Po-Matoran once on the Southern Continent once,” Krika smiled at Teridax. “You are nearly as bad as he was.”
“The Kritor weakness is they’re stretched out too thin,” Antroz said. “Their navy is occupied blocking off the Southern Islands, the Eastern and Western Chains, and Metru Nui. While this does give them control of those areas, it dampens maneuvering in the Central Bodies.”
“Yes, we all—at least I hope we all,” Teridax glanced at Icarax, “realized that.”
“But if we want to strike at their armies, we have to tackle one fleet at a time,” Antroz ignored him. “Wear them out and when reinforcements arrive to relieve them, stage an attack on the next area. We can maneuver faster through these bodies than the Kritors who are farther from the center and have more distance to cover.”
“Yes, that is one idea, except for one thing,” Miserix said. “Their land and air forces.”
“From what we’ve seen so far, Kragator only started using airships since we agreed to the peace a few days ago,” said Krika. “He’s been using those to send relieve to his ships in the blockades.”
“—And bypassing landmasses in the center to increase maneuverability,” said Miserix, frowning.
“But why does he even have blockades?” Icarax frowned. “Nothing important lies in the island chains. No resources, no powerful species, no strategic bases.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” asked Teridax. When no one answered, he smiled. “Something’s behind them. Something important lies behind those ships.”
“I don’t know,” Teridax said. “Do you want to break one and find out?”
“No,” Miserix said. “I like Antroz’s idea. Wear the blockades out and move on to the next blockade—chain lightning attacks. Their supply routes will get tangled and since we control the center, communication will be bogged down. We’ll steal the supplies meant for the blockades and the Kritor ships will wear out.”
Icarax scowled, but Miserix ignored him. Antroz and Krika nodded in agreement. Teridax looked at Miserix, concerned, but said nothing.
“Then it is decided.”
The Kritor agent, Trinuma pressed down on the fuse. The volcano exploded, but the spectacle was not at all a natural phenomenon. A massive hole had been blown in the lowest dry level of the volcanoes catacombs.
Time froze as if deciding whether the Kritors’ work should continue. The explosion rocked the land, forcing tremors. Cracks etched their ways along the ground, but the Emperor gave them no heed.
“Ervik, see if the volcano is safe yet,” he ordered.
Dutifully, the Toa of Plasma jogged to the volcanoes edge and jumped into the volcano. His natural resistance to extreme heat enabled him to descend into the volcano. The emperor looked at Tobduk.
“If that explosion hasn’t shattered the floor and lowered the level of the magma pool, we’ll try something else,” he said.
At the volcano rim, Ervik popped his head up. He gave the thumbs up and started running toward Kragator.
“Lower more dyna-mines. Explode them in succession until the floor caves in. If there’s an underground cham—”
The earth started trembling again and the volcano looked like it was bouncing, as if anxious to reveal its secrets. Several agents that had started mounting the volcano stumbled and fell, dropping the equipment they were carrying.
As soon as it had started, the mountain was still. Ervik ran to the top and simply stared into the hole. Other agents nearby followed suit.
“Has Ervik found something, I wonder,” Kragator murmured, to no one in particular. With lordly strides, he made his way to the top of the volcano, his generals finding their ways to his flanks.
“Get back,” Tobduk ordered the lesser agents standing at the rim. He hurried just ahead of the others, peering in to ensure the safety of the emperor. He looked at his commander.
“My lord… it’s sky…”
The lord of the Kritors unconsciously glanced up, then stepped carefully to the rim of Mount Valmai. His gaze fell on the small hole in the distance, past all the rock, and on the light blue light shining forth from some faraway land.
Some orange spot also shined up, though it was shrinking in size.
“The floor must’ve fallen through after the dyna-mine explosion,” Trinuma remarked. “I’ll bet that orange spot is where the remaining magma’s fallen.
“Or falling,” Tobduk said.
Kragator stared at the hole in the bottom of the volcano. So Tren Krom was right…
“The Great Core… Karda Nui,” he muttered.
“Shall we descend?” asked Tobduk.
Kragator thought for a moment. To see what lay beneath the surface… a world within the world… What he might find…
“I have been everywhere in this universe; from the southernmost islands to Metru Nui; from Visorak to the Pit. I would be remiss to lose this opportunity. Come, bring forth the flight equipment.”
Two soldiers ran forward, bearing enough flight packs for most of the generals.
Ready for anything, Kragator thought.
“Botar, Trinuma, and Ervik; stay here. Guard this place in case Makuta patrols come looking for the source of the earthquakes. The rest of you, don a flight pack and come with me.”
Strapping two flight packs to him to compensate for his size, Kragator flew down the mouth of the volcano.
General Fortag also attached a flight pack, but descended slowly, allowing some of the others to race past him. As he lowered himself, he noticed a peculiar sight.
Some Matoran were standing in one of the volcano’s old catacombs. Some of them were looking down into the hole, as though looking for where the magma had gone. But not only did Fortag know it would’ve been impossible for Matoran on the surface to crawl down here so quickly, but some of these Matoran bore colors he’d never seen on a Matoran before. Before his very eyes he watched one such Matoran change his colors like a Rock Chameleon. He flew his jetpack in their direction and landed on their edge. Some of the Matoran recoiled before the Kritor General.
“Matoran, what element are you?” he demanded.
A Matoran with black colors stepped forward.
Fortag mused. “And you live in the volcano’s catacombs?”
“No, we lived in tunnels beyond the magma flows, but the explosions shattered the walls separating us. When the lava didn’t flood our village, we came to investigate it.”
Fortag stared at the Matoran. This one had more courage than other Matoran. He stepped forward, towering over the Matoran. Although Kirop’s face never altered, he did shiver a little, betraying his fear.
“And that light in the tunnels beyond? Does that have to do with your natural element?”
“Lightvines.” Another Av-Matoran boldly stepped forward, beside Kirop. “The name’s Takua.”
Fortag stepped forward again, his shadow falling over the Light Matoran, and the Av-Matoran looked down.
“Interesting…” Fortag said. He stepped backwards to the edge of the cliff, and jumped off.
Kragator, meanwhile, landed slowly on the sandy floor of the massive cave. The descent had taken longer than even he had anticipated, but now that he was here, he started to get his bearings. Off in the distance he saw a small, round dome. He started flying toward that, letting his generals catch up. As he flew, he ignored the cooling magma beneath him.
He flew in front of the dome. Hovering several feet away from what looked like the entrance, was what appeared to be a stone, a keystone. He started to reach for it but, thinking better of it, flew past it, through the silver field.
Outside the Codrex, General Tobduk watched as the emperor entered. Some of the other generals were flying around the Codrex, checking its security. He looked up and saw General Fortag flying closer.
“Av-Matoran in the caves above us,” Fortag said.
“I’ll be sure to tell Kragator. What do you think of this place?”
“It’s… very interesting.”
“It sort of reminds me of a giant skull, actually.”
“A giant skull?”
“Yeah. What if the Southern Continent is just some landmass covering some bygone giant’s face?”
Tobduk landed on the cave floor. Frowning, he kicked some sand into some of the hardening lava.
“Kragator should’ve told us what this place is before bringing us here. I’m starting to distrust the emperor’s decisions of late.”
“What do you mean? The Kritor Empire’s at its peak, and it only looks to improve from here.”
“Still… I dislike some of his choices. First thing he does after the Kritor depression is to make the organization more dependent on him, not sharing his burden with us. Then there’s his decision to meet with the head of the Alignment in a few days. He’s going to risk getting killed on the eve of the greatest military campaign in the world’s history. And don’t get me started on that Toa of Plasma.”
Fortag grinned, landing beside him. “Oh, I see. It’s the Toa you’re worried about.”
“You know how they are. Self-righteous. Stuck-up. Narrow-minded. He’s allowing that Toa to see our inner workings, no questions asked. Ervik even writes Kragator’s annals, for Mata Nui’s sake.”
General Fortag’s grin deepened. “You’re jealous, aren’t you.”
Tobduk merely scowled at the ground.
Fortag’s expression became one of neutrality. “Well, my loyalty remains to Kragator and the decisions he makes. If I catch wind of disloyalty on anyone’s part, I will deal with it accordingly.”
“I know, I know. I’m just worried, that’s all.” Tobduk glanced up. Out of the corner of his eye, he happened to see something shimmer toward the center of the massive cave. “Do you see that, Fortag?”
Fortag followed Tobduk’s eyes.
“Yes, what do you think it is?”
Just then, another general, General Hydraxon flew over.
“Fortag, Tobduk, do you guys see that shimmering light in the center of this chamber?”
“Yes. And let me tell you, I have a bad feeling about this.”
Inside the dome which Kragator had discovered was called a Codrex, the emperor was standing at the center of six Toa canisters. The Toa resting inside from what he could tell looked nothing like standard Toa. They had obviously been created by unusual means, but how they had come into this world and what had caused them to rest here was beyond him.
He strode over to a control panel on the far wall. What nature of technology was this?
Nothing he couldn’t figure out, he decided. If he was to be a true conqueror, there could be nothing he couldn’t comprehend. Otherwise he would be practically admitting the existence of superior beings. He stared at the controls, trying to analyze them.
“Yes, General Hazat?”
“There’s some sort of energy phenomenon starting outside. None of the others think it safe here anymore.”
“I do not fear Mata Nui. He may attack me as he will, but I have built an everlasting legacy. More will come in my name, and as such, I would have my revenge. In the meantime, leave me be.”
“Emperor Kragator, at least come check this out.”
Kragator glanced at Hazat. Frowning, he flew past him.
He reached the entrance of the Codrex, only to almost run into Fortag and Hydraxon who were flying in to get him.
“My liege, there’s something happening. We have to get out of here.”
“So I’ve heard.”
Emerging in the open field, Kragator immediately spotted the shimmering energy. He glanced at his generals who’d assembled before him. He glanced again at the flickering energy and sighed heavily.
“Very well. Make for the volcano. If one of us doesn’t make it out, the chain of command will progress appropriately. Let’s go.”
They took off, racing for the entrance. As he flew, Kragator couldn’t help noticing that the storm had grown even since he’d emerged.
There was a crackle of energy to his right, where General Hydraxon was flying. Turning his head revealed the general was no longer there.
In over our head? an unwelcome voice echoed in his head.
The emperor and the generals kept climbing. They’d just about made it a fourth of the way up when Fortag too disappeared.
Kragator looked at the energy storm. If Karda Nui was some sort of heart, what was this supposed to be? A heartbeat?
A crackle of energy and General Krax was gone. Was this to be their destiny then? Not struck down in some noble death, but by the simple, inner workings of Mata Nui’s heart? If word got out of his fate, he could say goodbye to any legacy.
They were almost a third of the way to the top.
What would happen if he fell? Would the Makuta sweep in and claim the spoils of the fallen empire? To be honest, Kragator would prefer that. Not only were the Makuta worthy adversaries, but they had certainly earned their place in the universe. Their seizure of Kritor lands would be far preferable to some unworthy faction swooping in and taking what didn’t belong to them. So long as they didn't rewrite history or paint Kragator as some fool.
And oodness knows what would become of Ervik at this point.
Over a third of the way there and Hazat was gone. If Kragator’s generals were actually dying, he suddenly realized he had no idea how to replace them. They had been hand-picked over the course of time. Granted he could take over their jobs, but for how long he had no idea. Even with the chain of command, the lesser commanders were… wanting.
But the Makuta were the only ones worthy of universal domination after the Kritors. If anyone else took over Bythrain after the empire’s fall, Kragator wished a slow, painful death on their part. The Makuta would hopefully see to that. And if it was the Alignment that seized power, well.
Nothing made Kragator’s stomach turn more.
He glanced at Tobduk in time to see him, the last of the generals, vanish. But in the moments before the general’s disappearance, the emperor had seen a revealing silhouette. The generals’ had not been killed by the energy storm.
Slowing his ascent halfway up the cave, Kragator waited.
Botar was not long in returning for him.
Helryx paced impatiently in the ruins of a once-dwelling place on Nynrah. The island around her looked like it had been struck by a tornado; its features were as unrecognizable as a Rahi exposed to energized protodermis. On the southeastern corner of the island, the forested areas had been burned to the ground by Makuta Rahi known as Firespitters. The entire west side of the island had been razed by Kritor war machines. The battle had raged all across the island with neither side controlling one area for long, but there seemed to Helryx no greater degree of decimation capable of being inflicted on an island than had fallen on Nynrah.
A noise that sounded like crunching interrupted her musings. She turned around.
“Kragator, it has been a while.”
Kragator stepped carefully into the hut.
“Yes, I suppose it has, Helryx.”
“You look older.”
“You look more tired.”
Kragator sat down on a pile of rubble, putting his sword to his side. Helryx chose to remain standing.
“Did you hear about Koram?”
“Yes. Conquered the lower half of the Southern Continent. Took the Makuta to put him down.”
“They fear him there to this day. I found the legacy he left behind there… inspirational.”
“What happened to Sheriem?”
“He tried to become a hermit.”
“I had him taken to the Pit. If he refused to join the Kritors, I cannot allow him to stand in our way. I would’ve had the same done to you if I could find you.”
“And yet here we are.”
“Obviously. It’s been a long road since the Hand of Artakha. The four Archcommanders; Sheriem, Koram, you, and me. The four of us. Four of the most important people in our world, even if the world didn’t know it. Now look where we are.”
“Koram’s dead. Sheriem’s exiled. I’m fighting you for the sake of the universe. Tell me, Kragator, why must it be like this?”
Kragator stood. “Because it is the destiny of the Archcommanders. The world will see that we are the most powerful beings on the planet, the old rulers of the Hand. When I unite the world under my rule, it will be in the name of us. What we were. The legacy of the Hand will not be forgotten, even though you want it to be.”
Helryx rolled her eyes.
Kragator stood up and picked up his sword. He walked over to a window and looked out.
“I remember this battlefield.”
Helryx sat down slowly, as though old age was finally catching up to her.
“I see you kept your Spirit Sword, Kragator.”
“Yes. I hope you kept yours.”
“Of course I did. Tell me something, Kragator, what do you plan to do with the universe once it is yours?”
Kragator kept looking out the window.
“I will not rule it in evil; I will rule it justly. I will unite it, make it more efficient together than it ever was apart. Under my rule, no settlement will grind lazily on; all will be made to work equally, to the benefit of the empire. All elements made equal; Light, Shadow, Fire, Earth, et cetera. All will be balanced, and the elements will form their greater whole. See, isn’t this cause more worthy than that of the Order of Mata Nui? Once I have solidified the perfect kingdom, once I am sure it will never crumble despite the ineptitude of any future successor to me, I will once again make it ready for war.”
“War? With whom?”
“With those beyond the Matoran Universe. Perhaps with those beyond this dimension.”
“And if you win those wars?”
“The campaigns will continue until either I am dead though my empire is not—or until I have united everything; the whole of reality. We are Kritors; We are Kritekk Mators; We are Destiny’s Masters. I will bend the virtues themselves to my will, and they will answer to me.”
Kragator started for the exit.
“So, Helryx… Will you stand in Destiny’s way?”
“Makuta Spiriah? Land ahoy.”
“Thank-you, Sidorak. Tell Krekka to clean up the mess in the brig. Then you may resume your duties.”
As Sidorak left, Spiriah stood up from his chair in the ship’s cabin. He’d given orders to his ship’s crew that there was to be no shouting on the ship. As the airship came closer and closer to the southeastern Kritor blockade, they could not afford to be spotted.
This was a stealth mission. Quite uncharacteristic of the Makuta, but technically, so was militancy, initially. Besides, this was the eve of the greatest military campaign of world history. Spiriah could feel it. The other Makuta could feel it. Spiriah was sure the Kritor Generals could feel it. Any warrior with a sense of the game could feel it in their bones. Something about being a warlord gave you that sixth sense.
The airship began descending to the island. This island was the northernmost island in the eastern chain of Southern Islands. It was positioned just beneath Daxia, from where Spiriah’s stealth mission had launched. This was one of three Southern Islands the Makuta held under their control; the others being Zarnor and the island just north of that. Being positioned so close to Daxia had allowed Makuta to regularly send reinforcements to the island. Not that they were needed. Makuta forces were heavily entrenched on the island. Kritor forces couldn’t budge them if they wanted.
It was a stalemate. Too symbolic of the war thus far for Spiriah’s taste.
As the airship began dropping below cloud level, Spiriah could faintly see them in the distance; a black line on the horizon, distinguishing the sky from ocean beneath.
The Kritor fleet.
Then, as quickly as he’d seen it, the fleet was out of view. All the Makuta could see was silver sea.
The airship came to rest at last on a landing pad just off the coast. Spiriah stepped out of the airship.
“My lord, Spiriah, we’ve been expecting you.”
“Ah, yes… what’s your name and rank again?”
“Captain Johmak, sir.”
“Yes… a Thromexx, if I remember,”
“Very good.” Spiriah stepped down off the steps and walked beside the captain. “Sidorak, come with me. Johmak, take me to your forces.”
“If you’ll come this way, sir.” Johmak directed Spiriah and Sidorak to a motorboat resting alongside the platform. “This boat will take us to the opposite side of the island, where our forces are positioned.”
As the motorboat took off, Spiriah considered an alternative means of transportation; shapeshifting wings. He rejected the idea, however, as the path would likely take them within range of Kritor telescopes. That and his red and green color scheme against the blue sky wouldn’t make for good stealth. Instead he settled for using his Weather Control powers to push the boat faster.
“Within the last several days there hasn’t been much activity on the part of the Kritors. At all.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“In and of itself, no. They were actually trying to take the island before, but about a week ago their attempts were half-hearted. Almost as if it didn’t matter to them. Almost as if the attacks on us were a diversion.”
“Or to keep you too far away to check them out. Have any Kritor Generals been spotted among the ships?”
“Several days ago, General Botar was spotted teleporting General Hydraxon in from the north. Since then Krax has adopted his Admiral duties and taken command of the fleet.”
“Ahhh, Admiral Krax. We recently clashed pushing back Kritor forces from the Tren Krom Peninsula.”
“Good. You should be well acquainted then.”
The boat swiftly approached the dock. Spiriah eased back on his wind control until the boat came to a rest. Sidorak and Johmak got out, but the Makuta looked back toward the horizon, in the direction of the Kritor fleet.
“Makuta Spiriah, are you coming?” Johmak asked.
Spiriah continued staring at the horizon.
“Keeping us too far away to check them out…” he muttered.
The words of Teridax floated into his mind. Although he hadn’t been there, he’d heard reports of the Makuta meeting.
Something’s behind them. Something important lies behind those ships.
Spiriah shapeshifted himself a pair of wings and took off. By the time the others were aware of what he was doing, he was out of earshot.
“Miserix can stick his head up a canister for all I care. Stealth mission my Crast. And it’s not like I’m breaking any treaty—that is, even if I am, the Kritors did it first.”
Several miles away, Krax spotted the Makuta and cursed in an ancient Matoran dialect.
“Should we fire on him?” asked one of the captains.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK?!” snapped Krax.
Spiriah grinned at the Kritor attacks. With his powers, they meant little to him.
He glided over the lines of Kritor boats until he was within view of the island.
Makuta Spiriah didn’t often visit the Southern Islands, nor did he tend to distinguish them. One thing he did know was that most of the northern islands in the chain tended to be more forested. Few of them were barren, and even those that had some barren spots tended to be… deserty. None of them were covered from one end to another in solid grey rock.
As the clouds parted and the sun shined through, Spiriah raised his hands. The rocks on the island beneath seemed almost to glitter and shine—reflecting the sun’s light back in his eyes. Some of the grey even seemed to flash red and green, for some—
And then it struck him.
Those weren’t rocks. That was metal. Pure metal. Swords, armor, shields, machines. Some of it was reflecting the sun at him; other parts were showing him. There was a shout down below and the grey mass shifted as one. Thousands of Rhotuka, Kanoka disks, and assorted projectiles fired at him.
In an instant, Spiriah was gone.
“What did you see?”
“There were hundreds of thousands of Kritor soldiers. I don’t know what they are planning, but it doesn’t look good.”
Spiriah stood before Miserix, Teridax, and Antroz in the Convocation chamber. Other Makuta were rushing in to hear the news.
Miserix scowled and leaned over the table. He pointed at Spiriah.
“I’ll deal with your insubordination later. In the meantime… I suppose we can assume the other blockades are just like that?”
“Likely, yes,” said Teridax. “Armies like that on each of the primary islands associated with the Kritor blockades.”
“So Karzahni, to the north, Artakha to the northwest, Artidax to the southeast, Bythrain to the northeast, and Spiriah’s buddies to the southeast.” Bitil said, rushing in.
“So how do they plan to use those armies?” Icarax said.
Teridax snapped. “What does it look like, Icarax?”
“I know, I know. Invade the Central Bodies. But our forces can easily stop them if they try to take it all back.”
“They wouldn’t take it all back; Kragator’s too smart for that. No. Those forces are all aimed at one location and one location alone. Look toward the center, the area they’d meet.”
“The Southern Continent?” Chirox asked.
“Give or take a several kio west.”
“What did you say?” Kragator roared.
“I said one of the Makuta—Antroz or Spiriah judging from his mask—flew over our southeastern fleet.”
“What are your orders, my liege?”
Kragator cursed in ancient dialect and slammed his sword into his throne.
“Launch the fleets.”
General Botar stepped forward.
“But Emperor, they aren’t ready yet. Besides, we still have five days until the truce was scheduled to end.”
Kragator whirled and raised Botar into the air by his neck.
“What did I say, Botar? Launch the fleets.”
Those in the throne room rushed out to carry out their orders. Kragator leaned over his throne.
“We strike now.”
“So this is the entire Alignment,” said Kelrik.
He was standing on a pile of rubble overlooking a field down beneath. Below him, about a hundred, maybe two stood or sat, engaging in various activities. The Toa of Iron masked his disappointment well. Although he’d only ever been promised a few hundred members of the Alignment, he’d still hoped for perhaps five hundred, maybe a thousand. Two hundred soldiers was nothing compared to the millions the Kritor Empire and the League of Makuta each had.
He turned around and walked over to where Helryx was talking with her top commanders. Although he himself was not one of them, he was still permitted to watch and listen.
“The Kritor curtains have been lifted,” a commander named Geev said. As we speak, fleets, armies, and supply lines are moving across the Matoran Universe, skipping over most Makuta-held lands, moving for Destral.”
“What do you mean ‘most’ Makuta-held lands?” Zekrim asked.
“The Kritor forces have been stopping to attack official members in the League of Makuta. Islands like Xia, Zarnor, Stelt, and Daxia have been hit. We believe that Kragator means to launch a siege of Destral, and these islands, being the ones most tied to the Makuta, are most likely to bail them out. By decimating these islands, the Kritors ensure they don’t get hit from the outside. Even if the Makuta teleported there, there’s nothing the islands could give them right now.”
“And what’s going on with this force from Karzahni?” Yara asked pointing to the force launched from Karzahni.
“That army sailed up to Metru Nui, landed there for a few hours, and then left. We can only assume the Kragator forced Turaga Dume to submit to him.”
A noise of miscellaneous groans, sighs, and some cursing tore from the commanders. Metru Nui, the jewel of the Matoran Universe, the last standing free island, had been conquered. There remained no land in the Matoran Universe that hadn’t been conquered by the Makuta or Kritors.
“There it goes,” Helryx whispered. “The last sign of hope in this desperate world.”
Yara pointed again to the map. “Has that fleet that sailed from Artakha engaged Destral yet?”
“They have. And they’re enough of a force to keep the Makuta and their equipment pinned up for now.”
“Mata Nui save us all.”
Helryx cursed. Her decision to help the Kritors during the Makuta onslaught had backfired. It appeared Bythrain had taken its time coming out of its depression, taking the opportunity to rebuild its strength in full.
She stared hard at the map. “So… the Kritors have been holding the sum total of all five of these forces in Bythrain all this time. To build up these armies, the Kritors must have reached the bottom of the barrel to establish five fully-fledged armies. Just before this campaign was launched, Bythrain’s population must have been one-fifth its normal size.”
Helryx looked up. “But now that their armies have launched, Bythrain must be almost completely abandoned.”
Her commanders stared at her, expectantly.
“Kragator traditionally leads his armies from Bythrain,” she continued. “Aside from the Battle of Nynrah—here—and occasional visits to the field, he coordinates with his Generals from his fortress.”
One of Helryx’s commanders nodded. “Even if he did visit Metru Nui, he’ll return soon.”
“Even if he goes to Destral, he’ll probably return shortly.” Helryx said.
Zekrim shook his head. “Kragator commands from his fortress because most of his generals are leading campaigns in several places at once. He can’t be with any of them because he can’t be in multiple places at once. Plus Kritor communication lines are built to move quickly, but only when directed toward Bythrain. The Empire functions better when he remains at Bythrain. But if they do launch a siege of Destral, and all his armies are all in one place, not only can he lead them all at once, but communication would be infinitely faster with him there. I’ll bet Kragator be there. At Destral.”
Helryx frowned. “And if he is… Bythrain will be abandoned enough to allow us to infiltrate… and wait there for his eventual return.”
“And kill him?” one of the commanders asked, shocked.
“Yes. The Kritors will have just crushed the Makuta, with any luck. The Kritor Empire has been made so dependent on its Emperor that killing him would cause it to collapse. All empires fall.”
The commander shook his head. “But that’s dishonorable. Besides, at this point, the collapse of the Empire would leave it in disarray—Bythrain in utter chaos—much less the islands it’s conquered.”
Helryx locked eyes with the commander, advancing on him. Other commanders stepped out of her way.
“Let me tell you something, Atrix. Being a leader meant making difficult decisions, something I have always known. In my time, I have sent agents on missions I knew they might well not come back from. But it had to be done. Likewise, I am aware of the consequences this mission might have. It is not something I look forward to. But it must be done. That is what all of us signed up for. I will not tolerate hesitation or fear anymore. Not now. Not after we have come so far.”
Helryx returned to the map. “Kragator would not have launched this campaign if he didn’t have an ace, or a series of aces up his sleeve. If but one part of his plan fails, the Makuta will lash out and destroy the Kritor Empire in one fell swoop. The League of Makuta will reign supreme over the universe, and goodness knows what they have in store. But if he succeeds and his plan works out, the League of Makuta will be crushed. If my plan fails, the Alignment will be crushed and the Kritor Empire will continue its path of conquests, beyond this universe. But if it works, both empires will lie dead at our feet. There’s too much of a chance that this will go wrong. But if it works, the world itself will be in our debt. We will reshape the universe.”
Two days later, Admiral Krax’s flagship, the Annihilator, glided to a near halt next to the Crusher Cruiser, or Botar’s ship, and he leapt over. Judging from the presence of Fortag and Karian, leaders of the Artakha force; Botar and Trinuma, leaders of the Karzahni force; and Lorgon, and Hazat, heads of the Artidax force, Zarnor and Metru Nui had fallen.
“So Daxia’s fallen…” Fortag asked Krax.
“Where is Hydraxon?”
“He’s a few minutes behind. His ship, the Horizon was hit in an onslaught from some Varim. I’m thinking the Makuta allied with the Varim. Not that it will do them much good.”
“Alright. Kragator and Tobduk say they’ll be here tomorrow on the Oblivion. Xia and Stelt have been defeated by them.”
“Have you commenced attacking?”
“Yes.” Trinuma indicated the fortress. “We’ve been pummeling Destral with Rhotuka, Kanoka, and regular canons.”
“How have the Makuta taken to our presence?”
“They’ve unleashed Rahi, sent Visorak out, shapeshifted into higher forms. They realize we haven’t launched our true forces yet. They’re throwing about as much effort into this battle as we are right now.”
“Good. And when Tobduk arrives with his weapon…” Krax smiled.
As Helryx made her way down to the beach, she couldn’t help thinking about Kragator. He and she were the last two remaining: Koram was dead. Mata Nui knew where Sheriem was. Kragator’s death would make her the last of the old Archcommanders.
Was it worth it? He seemed to sincerely believe his cause was a just one. Could it be? Would uniting reality under his rule be a good thing or a bad thing?
She shook her head. No. She’d set out to stop him and stop him she would. He defied Mata Nui and the Great Beings; he had to be stopped. He had no place in her universe, and if their last meeting had confirmed anything, Kragator still hated her, whether or not he let it show. Helryx had attempted to take something from him he would not forgive her for; his future. And if Kragator would not work with Helryx, he would have to be stopped.
Mounting the flagship sailboat of the Alignment fleet, she signaled the others in the fleet to take off.
The Oblivion blazed into the Destral sea like an avenging archangel. As the rest of the Bythrain fleet joined the other ships in circling the Makuta headquarters, Kragator’s flagship overtook the Crusher Cruiser and the other generals’ warships. The Kritor commanders quickly leapt over, onto Kragator’s ship.
“Xia and Stelt have fallen. Makuta fleets, taken by surprise when we emerged, have been decimated. Tell me you eight have had the same success as our Bythrain fleet.” Tobduk greeted the generals.
“All goes as planned,” Trinuma said. “Daxia and Zarnor have also fallen. Makuta fleets have been crippled. The Makuta can tell we haven’t launched our full attacks yet, so they haven’t launched any either.”
“One thing they have been doing is teleporting back and forth from Destral,” said Hydraxon. “But one of our Akaku-scouts has reported that at this moment, all of the Makuta are present in the fortress. We expect Miserix wanted them all present to fight in the battle.”
“Very good,” Kragator said. “When I activate the Mask of No Powers in a few moments, they will be incapable of teleporting out. In an hour we will launch the final stage. Ready yourselves.”
Makuta Miserix gazed over the battlements at the circling Kritor warships. Their blitzkrieg attacks through the Makuta League had been fast; they’d not even stopped to cement their victories. The four Makuta League islands will have no doubt rebuilt in a few days, but the Kritors no doubt planned to crush the Makuta before the Makuta League could send help.
He turned to Lieutenant Teridax.
“You say Kragator’s activated that mask of his?”
Miserix frowned. The Makuta had been expecting this, but it still felt crippling nonetheless. He fought to suppress an overwhelming sense of helplessness he’d only experienced once before; at the Battle of Nynrah.
“Did we finish importing everything… and everyone… we needed?”
“Good. They’ll start attacking any moment now. Pull everything together as quickly as possible.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Teridax departed and Miserix resumed gazing out at the sea. One of the great players would be eliminated today. Either the Kritors or the Makuta. Only time would tell.
“Ervik, today you will witness the fall of one of the two mightiest empires the universe has ever seen.”
Ervik, who had been standing on the bow of the ship, looked back at Kragator who was approaching.
“It may be the Makuta,” Kragator continued, “Or it might be the Kritors. One thing is for certain; by day’s end, either Miserix or I will stand victorious over the Matoran Universe.”
“You aren’t certain you’ll win?”
“Of course not. One of the greatest mistakes a Barraki can make is underestimating an opponent. When a tactician maps out a battle plan, he designs it against a phantom enemy, against a ghost. No enemy behaves exactly as anyone could predict; everyone is unique; they behave likewise. That is why I have built-in backup plans. They can be activated if Miserix doesn’t behave as I anticipate. Even then, he will likely act in a way I have not anticipated. The thing to remember, young Toa, is that no battle plan ever works perfectly. Master strategists aren't regarded for their ability to create a perfect battle plan, but for their capacity to salvage a broken one. That one’s for life as well as war.”
“What will you do if he beats you?”
“If he beats me, I will behave honorably. I will behave as I would hope he will behave were our positions reversed. That said, one of us of us probably won’t be around by the time the battle ends.”
Kragator turned to look at Ervik. “Do you see my sword and my mask? They are the most important symbols of the Kritor Empire. The Sword is my last vestige of my membership in an organization called the Archcommanders. It is a sign of power, of command. It is featured on every Kritor flag and banner. The Mask is the symbol of my power, my dominion. It was the product of my victory over the two most feared beings of the Matoran. It represents power and gives me another physical edge over my equals. My mask and my sword hold the keys to the empire. He who holds both holds power over the empire. My soldiers know that. I mean for Tobduk to inherit my mask for the time being.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Ervik asked.
But Kragator said nothing.
General Tobduk approached them from behind. “Lord Kragator, I’m ready.”
“Good. I believe the Atrak will be ready in about fifteen minutes—”
“No!” Tobduk pulled Kragator aside.
“Kragator, please! They invaded my home. Visorak was the land of my people for tens of thousands of years before they invaded. Let me have my vengeance.”
Kragator stared at his second-in-command. Tobduk’s service had been exceptional. If it had been any other soldier, Kragator would never bend his plan to satisfy a vendetta, but Tobduk’s hatred of the Makuta had been rather helpful to the empire. Wouldn’t it be good to allow Tobduk a final triumph?
Kragator frowned. “Very well then.”
“Thank-you, my liege.” Tobduk turned around, but Kragator grabbed his shoulder.
“You have fifteen minutes until I unhinge the gates to chaos.”
Tobduk rushed off. Kragator looked back at Ervik.
“To answer your question, Ervik, I am, taking steps to ensure my legacy lives on. I have taken steps to ensure I have an heir.”
Kragator looked back at the sea.
“But in the meantime… Death enters the fortress.”
Arrin swam silently the final stretch to the shore, ducking underwater as often and for as long an amount of time as possible. All around him, Alignment agents were also making their way toward the fortress. They’d long since abandoned their boats—those were too obvious and the Bythrain fortress had provisions for boat attacks—and were swimming the rest of the way.
Arrin pulled himself up on shore and quickly found cover behind a large rock. Slowly other Alignment agents were also catching up. Being a Toa of Iron, dwelling in water for any extended period of time was far from preferable, but this mission was far too important to worry about rust. Kelrik soon joined Arrin.
“Where’s Zekrim?” asked Kelrik.
Arrin, pointed to the shore along his right. Kelrik nodded and watched Zekrim. On his signal, the agents would silently move for the “breech”, a small crack in the fortress which some Alignment agents were no doubt already exploiting. Using that, they would make their way into the fortress, past oblivious Kritor soldiers and guards, to special hiding spots where they would wait silently until Kragator’s return. Arrin shifted uncomfortably.
“I’m really worried about this mission,” Arrin muttered.
“Worried about getting killed?”
“No. I’m worried about the waiting.”
Kelrik twisted and looked at Arrin.
Arrin continued. “I mean, sure getting killed would be nasty and all… but waiting several days, maybe weeks on end in one hiding spot? Madness would be a fate worse than death.”
“Well, I can see—”
“I mean, what would Callah think of me if next time we saw each other, I was a raving, paranoid, lunatic?”
“Arrin, I think she already—”
Arrin stopped to listen. Kelrik got in a crouching position.
“I think that was Zekrim’s signal.”
Arrin sighed. “Well, here we go.”
“Oh, shut up, will you?”
Grimly, the two Toa started up the coast, doing their best to remain hidden by the tall grass. As soon as they reached the fortress, they hung close to it, making their way to the location of the “breech”.
Tobduk fired a shoulder-mounted Cordak Blaster at the cliff side, blasting a hole in the rock. Frowning, he held his finger on the trigger, firing repeating blasts. He had only a limited amount of time; any moment now, the Makuta could notice his presence and attack him.
His pounding yielded results, and a cave rapidly cut into the side of the cliff. Tobduk stopped right as he saw a tiny hole in what was left of the back of the cave. He chuckled and stuck his finger through.
Air, he smiled grimly. He stepped back.
“The most dangerous enemy of the Makuta?” he shouted. “Get ready, you’re just about to meet him.”
A battle shout tearing from his lips, he unleashed a final blast and leapt through the wreckage.
Miserix turned at the sound of Mutran racing up to him. Mutran, naturally a scientist and no athlete, gasped, trying to catch his breath.
“One of the Kritor Generals has broken through the cliff side. He’s using some sort of staff with Matoran symbols and a Doom Viper’s head to destroy Makuta bodies. One of the Makuta tried to use Anger on him and that only made things worse.”
Miserix scowled. “This has to end. Summon the Queens and tell Teridax to ready himself—it’s time to strike.”
Mutran nodded and ran off. Within moments, the looming figures of Cahdok and Gahdok appeared on the Mutran’s tower. The presence of the Bahrag was one of the many last minute preparations made before the arrival of Kragator and his mask.
“Ready your hordes: it’s time to strike.”
Cahdok stared at Miserix. “Our Bohrok are not mindless foot soldiers. We will not send our Bohrok in until we have full assurance you too have an army at the ready.”
Miserix strode over to the edge of his tower. He was not worried about being spotted by the Kritors; the tower was high enough he was well out of range of any weapon they had (certainly of any weapon not immune to Kragator’s mask). Besides, they Kritors were already aware of his presence. What they didn’t know of was the presence of the Bahrag, and Miserix intended to keep it like that until the last minute. This battle required absolute precision. Any deviation from the plan and it might not work. Stick with it, however, and the Kritor fleet would be so much driftwood.
“Your swarms are hidden all throughout the Great Barrier. When we summon the Bohrok and the Bohrok-Kal, they will descend upon the Kritors and Kritor lands, laying waste to them.”
“Yes, but we will not allow for them to be the only army that—”
“However, all throughout the Great Ocean, there lie Rahkshi and Rahkshi-Kal pockets, awaiting the call to rise upon the world. When the Bohrok swarms descend from the heavens and the Rahkshi hordes ascend from the depths, they shall meet with the Visorak and together our joined forces will strangle the universe.”
Gahdok smiled. “Good.”
“There is also a special type of Rahi, known as a Red Serpent we have made. Alone it is wild, but when united with a Kranata, the elite Rahi will emit an energy that will throw a being back with such force that if there is a solid object behind the target, they will fuse. They too await the call to arms, to strangle the world in its entirety. Don’t worry; the Kritors thought they knew what a siege is, but they will learn the true definition very shortly.”
Gahdok strolled over to the edge of the tower. “And you say the Rahkshi await all throughout this sea? Even beneath Destral?”
“Yes, as a matter of—GAHDOK, NO!”
Miserix yanked the Bahrag away from the edge, but the damage was done.
“Kragator, did you see that?”
Kragator ran over to the side of the warship and looked where the lieutenant was pointing. Yes, there he saw a glimpse of it. A red insectoid-looking monster pulled straight out of the legends.
So this is how the Makuta hope to defeat us.
“Unleash the Atrak,” he shouted.
“But my lord, they still aren’t—”
“I said let them out.”
The soldier bowed. “Yes sir.”
Arrin and Kelrik moved slowly through the dungeons, freeing Kritor prisoners and signaling them to lie low. Wordlessly they obeyed.
As they came to the last cell, Arrin walked up to bars.
“Who are you?” he whispered.
“My name is Cootol. I’m from another universe.”
“An other-worlder, eh? Alright, Cootol. Stay down and be quiet. The two giants go to war in the skies; it’s up to us to topple them from beneath.”
The mighty Atrak leapt over the sides of the Kritor warships with all the agility of a fish diving into the water. With powerful strokes the mighty fighters advanced on Destral. From the fortress above, the Makuta forces were able to pick off Atrak here or there, but the rest of them remained intent on their destination.
At the lead were Atrak commanders, intelligent beings who had avoided the backsliding of the rest of their population. When the Kritors had first encountered the Atrak, they had observed that the race had claws capable of tearing through all solid substances, including protosteel. However, most of the species was backsliding intellectually, fighting with each other and losing their intelligence. The Kritors intervened, halting the Atrak civil wars. The Atrak were forced off of their island and dragged to Bythrain where the unintelligent saw their animalism nurtured and their intellect sapped. The intelligent were brain-washed to be fine with the treatment of their brothers and trained as commanders of their people. All of them were taught to hate Makuta.
So now here they were, converging on the Destral fortress.
The first few Atrak found Tobduk’s breach; others began tearing through the fortress walls. With ease their claws tore through the armor, weapons, flesh, and mechanical parts of the unevolved Makuta. Kragator and Ervik watched from the Oblivion, listening as the screams and howls of the inhabitants of the fortress were torn, limb from limb, part from part, as pieces from toys.
“So Destral falls,” Kragator mused. “My ancient enemies, the Makuta. Now fallen. Perhaps, in the end, they were simply scientists, stepping out of line.”
An explosion rocked the side of Destral, casting flames cascading up the side of the building. Aided by the hailfire of the Kritor warships, the fires quickly enveloped Destral. The Makuta were trying to use their many powers to eliminate the flame, but between the Atrak, the vengeful Tobduk, and the pounding from the warships, they had little time to do so. It was absolute anarchy within the fortress, and not even the shadows could hide the Makuta from Kragator’s fury.
“Keep firing. Blast Destral to oblivion.”
It was over.
The war, the culmination of the history of the Broken Order Universe to that point, was done. Yet there was no rejoicing. Word flew from island to island, reporting the Kritor victory. But no one celebrated. Not even the Kritors.
They were too well disciplined for one thing. Millennia of military service will do that to you. Besides, the war was only beginning. The Matoran Universe was only the first step in a conquest extending as far as the multiverse. Besides, the lands of the Makuta technically weren’t put down yet, although they doubtless wouldn’t take long.
Yet they did allow themselves to relax. Kragator would first take steps to ensure an iron hold on the universe before resuming his conquests. They would have to work still, but not conquer.
Kragator stepped up to the front gate of the Destral fortress. His mask and sword were unusually absent.
“Open up,” he said.
A Kritor soldier on top of the gate nodded and within moments the drawbridge creaked downward. One of the ropes snapped and the left side of the bridge crashed down on the ground beneath. Moments later, the other side caught up.
Kragator stepped inside for the first time since the resolution of the near-war at the dawn of Kritor/Makuta tensions. His first time in Destral had left an impression; glorious halls lined with flags and Exo-Toa, busy labs jutting off from the main halls, massive chambers filled with Visorak webs and cocoons—Kragator almost found it hard to believe this was the same fortress.
Corpses lined the halls, those of Visorak, Rahi, Makuta, Bahrag, and some of the races the Makuta had allied with. Kragator was even surprised to see some Varim corpses; apparently the Makuta had secretly made them part of the Makuta League as well. Not that it seemed to matter in the end.
And yet, there were no corpses of Rahkshi, Kraata-Kal, or Hydruka anywhere in the fortress, much less Bohrok, Bohrok-Kal, or Bohrok Va, or Red Serpents. No doubt they were somewhere stationed, doomed to forever wait for the call to descend on the Kritor forces. Only now those orders would never come. The Makuta and Bahrag were dead and now those hordes would never be called upon, certainly not in the near future. Kragator might yet have a plan for them when he began his invasion of the multiverse.
At length, Kragator found his way to the Convocation chamber. As he walked along the room, he reflected on the memories made here, the experiences, the decisions that had changed the fate of the universe. It was almost a shame genocide had been the only answer.
“Perhaps in some other universe… we could have been good allies,” Kragator sighed.
“Are you ready, my lord?” asked General Tobduk from the doorway.
“Yes, I am ready. Bring them in.” Kragator took his seat on the throne of the Makuta. “Let Destiny be no longer in my way.”
The Kritor High Command and Ervik entered, followed by leaders of the major species in the universe, particularly those under Kritor command already. Tobduk entered bearing Kragator’s mask and Ervik holding his sword. Moving on opposite sides of the long table of Convocations, they approached Kragator and bowed.
Kragator stood up from the Makuta throne and bowed on one knee. Tobduk stood and moved to put Kragator’s Mask on his head, but at the last minute, Kragator seized the mask from Tobduk and crowned himself. He then took his sword from Ervik and stood. Tobduk and Ervik stepped back and bowed on one knee. Kragator smiled as Tobduk said
“I declare you Emperor Kragator, Great Spirit of the Matoran Universe.”
As the Kritor warships embarked for Bythrain, the fleet made stops to affirm control of the Makuta lands. The territories fell fairly quickly; Zarnor, Xia, Stelt, and Daxia were in no position to fight, especially now that their guiding force was gone. The continents also gave up without any fighting—not only had they never been uniformly loyal to the Makuta, but upon hearing the conquest of those who’d brutally conquered them, they were easily intimidated into submission. Makuta outposts were the last to fall, but as they had no leadership from Destral and no support from the other four islands of the Makuta League, they collapsed quickly.
And so, as the Oblivion once again was embraced by the Bythrain harbor, all the Matoran Universe had formally declared loyalty to Kragator. The emperor knew he should feel a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of relief, but to his surprise all he felt was an overwhelming desire to sleep once again in his own bed.
Still, before he could do that, he had some work to be done, such as reforming the Kritor communication networks so that Bythrain could send messages with ease to all the new parts of his empire, establishing a universal code of conduct for his universe, and taking steps to ensure that even if Mata Nui wanted control of what Kragator now knew to be his body back, there was nothing he could do about it. Wordlessly he walked into his throne room.
“Ervik, take this down. I’ve decided I’m going to write the Kragatorial Code first.”
Kragator rested his sword along one of the walls Ervik took his usual seat at the side of Kragator’s throne.
“First of all, the four islands left of the Makuta League, as well as the Varim, will resume its former functions, only now it shall work for the Kritors. Additionally, I want to unite like races throughout the Matoran Universe, much as the Makuta League was united. The Matoran Universe will be more efficient than ever before when I tie it together.
“Furthermore, to increase efficiency, I want to relocate like species—by force if necessary—close to each other, to decrease communication and transportation deficiencies. The Great Beings, I’m sure, intended for this to be the case, but it never happened.
The sounds of shouting and battle echoed through the door to the throne room. Kragator stood up, alarmed.
“Ervik, go over to the window and tell me what you see.”
Ervik ran over. “I see—I see battle! Lots of warriors and fighters I’ve never seen before fighting with our soldiers!”
Arrin leapt with leaps and bounds to the top of the Bythrain fortress. He was determined to be the one to apprehend Kragator, yet Kelrik insisted on accompanying him—and that was to say nothing of the warrior on their heels. That only encouraged Arrin to run harder.
He reached the top of the main stairway and ran down along the short hall, sending his iron powers to blast open the throne room door as he went. The looming Kragator was immediately visible, but Arrin tripped on his own heels as he saw the second being in the room.
“Ervik!” he shouted.
Kelrik ran into the room, almost tripping over Arrin.
The Toa of Plasma stared at them.
“Arrin? Kelrik? You’re with the Alignment?!”
Dumbly, Arrin nodded.
Kragator stepped forward.
“Well, I see my promise to reunite Ervik with his friends is fulfilled, if not in the manner I had hoped. I will see to it that you two are treated well when the Alignment is beaten.”
Kragator slowly began walking forward. “I should’ve expected Helryx would resort to these guerilla tactics to beat me. Still, I will not let her tear apart my empire or destroy the legacy I have built for myself. She failed on Keetongu Island; now she will fail here.”
Arrin stood up again. The sounds of Alignment agents on the stairs behind him were getting closer.
“You cannot beat us now. Your armies are scattered throughout an entire universe, putting down the remaining resistance. What little you have here is exhausted from the fight at Destral. There is no way you can beat us.”
Kragator stopped and stared at the Toa before him, Toa of Iron by their colors, and wondered if they were right. Perhaps Helryx had seen the best window to defeat him. Communication was down, loyalty hadn’t been infused to the Universe’s citizens, and his army was exhausted by the Makuta. Had Helryx truly outsmarted him?
No. He had come too far to be beaten here. He continued advancing.
“Your leader cannot be allowed to win. My legacy will not die.”
Kelrik couldn’t speak. Arrin did his best not to shrink before the advancing imposing, ten-foot emperor. “The Kritor Empire is finished. Ervik, I’m ashamed to see you on the wrong side.”
Ervik stared at his hands. Was Arrin truly right?
Alignment troops were about to flood into the throne room.
Kragator stopped just short of Arrin. Could this Toa be right? Was the Empire about to fall? He sighed.
“Go to Helryx. Tell her I—”
A sword erupted from Kragator’s chest. Arrin leapt back, thinking it was a surprise attack on Kragator’s part, but when the giant emperor staggered back, falling, nearly crushing Ervik, his attacker, as he fell. The room shook when he landed.
Ervik crawled over to his emperor’s head. Leaning over, he whispered in his ear
“Your legacy will live on, in me.”
Weakly, Kragator smiled at Ervik.
“The Toa is right; the Empire will fall. But you have seen the path I chose for you…”
Helryx sat on Kragator’s throne, brooding. Now it was truly over.
Kragator had fallen at last to her plan. The Kritor Empire would unwind quickly. Kragator had made no effort to make his empire any less dependent on him, even after his depression. His generals, while exceptionally talented, relied on their emperor for supervision and peace between them; and so the Kritor High Command would be the first to fall apart. Once that was gone, their legions would collapse with no lords to command them. They were soldiers, built for war; Helryx would have to supervise their conversion to peacetime.
Helryx would never understand why Kragator had left his empire so dependent on him, even after his depression, but knowing him, it had to be intentional. That disturbed her.
Now she would have to reshape the universe. Since the end of the time before time, since the rise of the Kritor Alliance and Brotherhood of Makuta, the world had only known strife, only known fear, only known service to the two superpowers. It was left to Helryx, the victorious Barraki of the Matoran Universe, to see the universe’s conversion to peacetime. It was a daunting task, but she could do it. If Koram could inspire Kragator and if Kragator could conquer the known universe, Helryx could reforge the universe.
It would be united as never before, more efficient than it had ever been.
The Alignment was going to work to align the Matoran Universe for the first time ever. Helryx would fulfill her destiny at last.
Arrin and Ervik stood along a rail overlooking the seas surrounding Bythrain. Arrin looked at his teammate.
“You were a lot of help back there.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just… everything took me by surprise.”
“You mean Ervik?”
“Ervik, Kragator’s size, the way he talked—I think I expected an evil, sadistic monster, but the way he talked… almost sad… perhaps he only meant for the best.”
“I was once told something that really stuck with me.” Arrin said. He looked at Kelrik.
“I was told that ‘Everyone is the hero of his own story.’ Kragator, the Makuta, even us. I don’t think anyone thinks they’re truly evil, they’re just trying to do stuff with the stuff they’ve been given. Even the evil people. Maybe people like the Makuta have gotten so carried away fighting people for survival that when they see opportunities for wealth and power, instinct tells them to sieze it. We may never know Kragator’s true intentions, but maybe he just wanted to help.”
Kelrik looked at Arrin.
“Sometimes you really scare me, brother.”
Arrin sighed and turned around, leaning is back against the rail.
“I hope they don’t hurt Ervik.”
Kelrik turned around as well. “Not only was he a member of the Kritor High Command, but he broke the Toa Code. Helryx wants to unite the Toa forces and she want him to at least stand trial as an example.”
“I know, I know. But he wasn’t aware of what he was doing. We only just became Toa… what, a year ago?”
“True. But still… He doesn’t seem like the same person we knew before the war.”
“He’s just shaken. And that doesn’t make him any less of the Ervik we know and love. If Helryx hurts him, so help me…”
Arrin’s words drifted into space. Kelrik looked at him and then looked straight ahead again.
“I know. I agree with you.”
“Ervik’s going to get out of there, we’re going to find Callah, and the Toa Uniran will continue defending the universe and fighting for truth, justice, and the Matoran way.”
“I don’t know, Arrin. There's a feeling I can't shake...”
They both looked back at the sea.
“Somehow I think Kragator’s left a mark that will never be fixed.”
- Toa Uniran
- Bolrow (a member of Lurker's species) - deceased
- Retti (a member of Gladiator’s species)
- Withoy - mentioned
- Three members of Tracker’s species
- Teraak (a member of Gladiator’s species) - deceased
- Heerah (a member of Gladiator’s species) - deceased
- Dark Hunters
- Kritor Empire
- Makuta League
- Roodaka - mentioned
- An alien from an alternate universe where Mata Nui began conquering other worlds
- Inhabitants of a Matoran village on a Southern Continent
- A Turaga of Psionics on the Southern Continent
- Matoran in a village on the Southern Continent
- Some Su-Matoran tourists
- The crew of a Skakdi pirate ship
- A Skakdi captain - deceased
- The Skakdi crew - deceased
- Two survivors
- Some Av-Matoran in the chambers above Karda Nui
Story Notes and Trivia
- Destiny's Way is the first book written by ToaGonel in Greg Farshtey's style of writing, with minimal planning and letting the characters do the heavy lifting.
- The image in the infobox represents the conflict between the Kritor Empire and the Brotherhood of Makuta. The Kritor Battle Flag was made
involuntarily by Darkblade9.
- Gonel planned to begin releasing chapters as soon as MOCs are finished for the main characters; however, time constraints forced him to release chapters ahead of his first MOC blog. Chapters were released twice a week, June through July.
- Since this first story (or at least the first few chapters of the story) seem rushed or all over the place, it’s just because I’m simultaneously trying to get the story set up, the plot developed, the situation established, as well as putting the Toa in viable positions for where they have to go. Apologies if it seems messy.
- Also, bear with me for the first two chapters. Not only are they perhaps unnecessarily long, but they are also the most boring (in my opinion). Also, I was working on finding my footing most there. Revisions are in order, of course, (I’ve already cut a significant portion of it) but until then, just please just tolerate it for the other chapters. I promise, they start picking up.
- The Dark Hunter “Pacer” is named for a drill in my gym class where, for those not aware of it, runners stand in a line and run back and forth along a distance of 20 yards(?). They are tested for how many times they can do that while the time allotted for one lap decreases over time. Anyway, Pacer’s power is running and he runs to the volcano and back.
- How Pacer ended up being a good guy is beyond me as he was intended to be the opposite.
- “Glaze,” on the other hand, happened to be named such because the author happened to be thinking about doughnuts when he chose the name. Specifically, Krispy Kreme’s doughnuts.
- Matoran World, of course, is a reference to the guidebook Bionicle World.
- The Skakdi pirate crew is not a reference to BionicleChicken's Pirates story.
- Well, maybe a little bit.
- Albestein (or however I wrote it in the story) when Yara is talking about space-time, is an abbreviated version of Albert Einstein.
- When Arrin first meets people, especially just after serving in the Dark Hunters, he refers to people as being in (a Dark Hunter's) species. This is done because, at this point, Arrin naturally wouldn't know the actual species name and instead would use Dark Hunters as points of reference. With Kelrik, the narrator helps him out.
- The mental barrier Zekrim has that keeps Dweller from scanning his mind is developed from studies of Ce-Matoran conducted by the Alignment under Helryx. These experiments parallel those made by the Order of Mata Nui in the Core Universe.
- When Kragator meets with Tren Krom, he uses his Mask of No Powers to protect him from Tren Krom’s telepathy/mental powers. Ironically, he could’ve gleaned more information of the universe’s nature from Tren Krom had he not activated his mask powers, as Tren Krom’s encounter with Makuta Mutran in the Core Universe can show.
- Yes, Fortag’s theory about the Southern Continent being a skull covering some “bygone giant’s face” or Karda Nui is a reference to when Mata Nui covered the Great Spirit Robot’s face in the Prime Reality.
- The eleventh chapter is written without any concept of time. The sophisticated reason for this is to show how quickly time seems to be rushing in the universe as the final moves of the Kritor/Makuta War are played. The unsophisticated reason is because writing about how long the final moves took to make is boring and stupid. Especially since in the Prime Reality, wars took centuries.
- In the eleventh chapter, Kragator gives Ervik some advice about the fallibility of battle plans. This quote was made specifically as something Gonel could enter in the Featured Quote voting for the Main Page. This quote was later incorporated into the story.
- The eleventh chapter (or the Fall of Destral) features numerous allusions to the Destiny War of the Prime Reality, the great war between the Order of Mata Nui and the Brotherhood of Makuta. In particular, these include the following:
- In the first section, Helryx's speech about the tough decisions of a leader is parodied from the second section of the fourth chapter of the book Destiny War.
- Tobduk's declaration regarding the most dangerous enemy of the Makuta is drawn from the third/final section of the sixth chapter of the book Destiny War.
- Additionally, the staff he carries in his invasion is the same one he demonstrated in the second section of Brothers in Arms which also details events in the Destiny War.
- The eleventh and twelvth chapters make allusions comparing Kragator to Napoleon in the real world.
- His siezure his mask from Tobduk at his coronation at the last minute and his placing his mask on his head himself is meant to immitate the Napoleon's crowning when at the last minute he took his crown away from the pope and crowned himself.
- His plan to enact a Kragatorial Code over the entire universe is based on the Napoleonic Code instituted across most of Europe.
- As the reader may tell, Gonel has made numerous references to the book's title, (one even made in this page's archives). He has long-since lost track of how many times he's made these references.
- The title Destiny's Way can also be seen as paralleling to the book Destiny War in the canon universe where the Order of Mata Nui (the Prime Reality's version of the Kritor Empire) faces off against the Brotherhood of Makuta (which doesn't reform into any Makuta League). In both books, the wars described are the culmination of thousands of years of brewing conflict coming to a head at last in the battle for control of the universe. Unlike that book, however, no side is more good or evil than the other.
- As of June 27, 2016, or the completion of the publication of Part One (Chapters One through Eight), Destiny's Way is the fiftieth longest page.
- As of July 18, 2016, or the completion of the publication of Part Two (Chapters Nine through Thirteen), Destiny's Way is the twenty-seventh longest page.