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Quest for the Masks
QftM banner2
Story
Setting Mata Nui (island)
Date set In the Time Before Time.
Timeline
Next City of Legends

Quest for the Masks is a novel-based rewrite of BIONICLE's first years told along the lines of a fantasy genre rather than science fantasy.

The story itself follows the Toa, six beings bestowed with elemental powers, as they fight to free the island of Mata Nui from the tyranny of Maktua.

The story is rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and romantic themes.

Quest for the Masks

Prologue

The Legend of the BIONICLE

Gathered friends, listen again to our legend of the Bionicle...

In a time, before time, the Great Spirit descended from the heavens to the earth. Carrying his children, the ones called Matoran, to the paradise he had created.

They were numerous, separate, and without purpose. So, the Great Spirit illuminated them with the Three Virtues: Unity, Duty, and Destiny.

They embraced these gifts from him, and name their home "Mata Nui" after the Great Spirit himself.

But their happiness was not to last.

For Mata Nui's brother, the Makuta, was jealous of the honors that the Great Spirit had received, and betrayed him. He cast a spell over Mata Nui, enthralling him in a dark slumber.

Without the Spirit protecting his home, Makuta was now free to unleash his shadows.

And unleash them, he did...

But Makuta's rule was not to last. For Mata Nui had created six, legendary heroes, to protect the Matoran in case such an event happened.

He imbued each of these Toa with a single power over the forces of nature, and gave them weapons and armor to channel their abilities.

These Toa rested in the ocean beyond the world, until such a time that they would be needed.

And with Makuta's coup successful, the Toa would awaken from their rest, to save the island from the dark brother's tyranny once and for all...
Old Mata Nui Map

Book One: Quest for the Masks

Chapter I

Dawn was breaking on the island of Mata Nui. Cool winds swept the beaches, creating marvelous patterns in the sand. Small birds fluttered on the winds, circling the beach and looking for shellfish or other small animals that could prove a good meal.

The last stars slowly began to vanish from the night sky, and the island's twin suns slowly began to illuminate the land.

A tide rolled in, carrying the usual flotsam of seaweed, driftwood, and the occasional bones of some poor fish that hadn't escaped its pursuer.

But today, the tide carried with it something else. A great silver cylinder had washed onto the beach. It's shining smooth exterior was covered with weeds and alga, signifying an extensive period at the bottom of the ocean.

The waves deposited the cylinder onto the beach, and slowly receded. Dawn further illuminated the landscape, and the sky began to turn a bright blue hue of day instead of the violet and gold of dawn.

One of the small birds floated down, its technoorganic wings flapping as it perched itself onto the large cylinder. It eyed the cylinder's curved front end, and pecked at it, to see if it could be the remains of some great ocean creature that had died.

The sound of rapping on hollow metal responded each peck. The bird cocked its head in wonderment. Then, air began hissing out from a small, thin line that separated the curved top of the cylinder from the rest of it. The bird, startled, took to the air and observed from above.

The cylinder's hissing stopped after about ten seconds. Then, the top slowly began to rotate. It then fell off, revealing an unlit, hollow interior.

A red-armored hand reached out from the darkness, and clasped the edge of the canister.

The bird, more frightened than before, flew off.

The being slowly pulled himself out of the canister that contained him. He was large, clad in crimson armor that reflected the sunlight well. Flame-like patterns on his shoulder armor seemed to dance as he moved in the light.

The being himself was dazed however. He tried to think of where he was. Who he was. But all he could remember was sleep... and nightmares...

Tahu...

The word rolled through his head. He pondered it for a few moments. It seemed like a name. But who's?

Tahu...

The being looked around. Convinced that there was no one else nearby, there was only one being that the name could belong to: himself.

Tahu eyed the beach. It was a beautiful view. Golden sands, sapphire water, and emerald trees beyond...

Then, something glinted in the sand near the top of the canister.

Tahu walked over, and found that a blade, which had once been affixed to the canister top's inside, had fallen off. He picked up the blade. Although it was heavy, and cumbersome, Tahu decided that it was better than nothing.

He turned towards the jungle, ready to enter, but a sound from behind him stopped himself. He pivoted to face the canister top once again, and found that a hatch had opened.

Inside rested a crimson mask-- the same color as Tahu's armor. Tahu put his blade in his right hand, and retrieved the mask. It had two eye holes. Below the eyes it had six slashes on either side of the face. Tahu turned the mask around, and pressed it to his face.

Immediately, he felt a surge of energy course through his body. Glorious power. So much power!

The metal object warmed as it touched his skin. He felt the mask meld with his skin and form to his features, causing it to look almost exactly like his face!

The blade of the sword burst into flames. Tahu was startled, and dropped the weapon. As soon as it left his hand, it became metal once more, dead and cold.

That's strange, Tahu thought. He picked up the sword once more. As soon as his hand grasped it, it became flame. Yet, it did not burn him.

He swung the weapon back and forth, casting a trail of sparks behind it. He then made a stabbing motion. As he did this, a stream of fire jumped forth from the sword and struck the sand, fusing it to glass.

Nice... Tahu thought. He did it again, and again, and again.

He then thrust his palm forward, and flames sprouted from it as well.

Tahu. Master of fire! That will definitely do.

He once again turned towards the jungle, and promptly entered it.

Chapter II

Onua clawed out another chunk of dirt and rock from the wall in front of him. There was little light, but that didn't bother him. Onua was perfectly fine with darkness. Even enveloped in shadow, he could still make out nearby objects fairly well.

He threw the dirt behind him, and continued the process again and again.

He didn't know where he was headed, but he felt compelled to go where he was going: a little further down, a little further forward.

The black-armored Toa of Earth kept moving on. While he dug, he thought about his time in the canister. Just how long had he been in that thing anyway? He paused a moment and eyed his arm. The organic tissue underneath his armor had finished regrowing. When he emerged from his canister, the tissue was very deteriorated.

He decided to turn his thoughts back to the digging. No point in pondering a past that he knew nothing about. Who knows? Maybe what was ahead would hold some answers...

Onua pushed his claw through a dirt wall, and then tried to grab a nearby rock. Something was wrong. There was no rock, dirt, or soil behind them.

He pulled his hand out, and air rushed in behind him. He shrugged, and ran through the wall in front of him.

Onua looked around. He was inside some sort of artificial cavern. It was massive, with light-emitting stones illuminated what appeared to be a village or city below. The buildings were hewn into the walls. A small stream ran through the city's center.

Onua walked across the cavern. As he neared the village, he could see smaller, humanoid beings scurrying about. They were about two masks shorter than he was, and physically weaker.

When he came to a stone arch that seemed like a ceremonial gateway, the beings took notice. They froze at the sight of the large, powerful Toa of Earth.

Onua walked through the gate, and the smaller humanoids ran into their shelters. All except for one. He was clad in purple-and-black armor, and wore a mask not all that dissimilar from Onua's: a diamond-shaped octagon, with slashes along the cheeks and forehead, with two squared eyeholes.

"Hello?" Onua said.

The little being stood silent.

Perhaps we don't speak the same language, Onua thought. "Hola?"

"I'm sorry, Toa Onua, I understand you fine," the little one said. "It's just, I didn't expect you..."

"You know who I am?"

"Yes," he said. "The Turaga said you would arrive someday."

"The Turaga?" Onua asked.

"Yes, our village leader," the purple-masked being answered. "He told us of ancient prophecies, far older than him, that foretold your coming."

"Could you take me to him?" Onua asked.

"Yes, I'm sure he'd want to see you. I'll go fetch him. You wait in the riverside plaza. He'll be there shortly."

"Thank you."

"Oh, by the way, my name is Onepu, captain of the Onu-Koro Guard. Welcome to our city." He bowed, and then ran off.

Onua walked to the river-- which was an apt name. It rushed from one side of the cavern to the other, and, if one got close enough, roared as loud as any rushing surface rapid.

The Toa of Earth sat on a bench underneath a statue. He looked up at the large carving above him, and dropped his jaw.

The claws, the armor, the green jewels underneath the eyeholes of a great mask...

The statue was him.

"Toa Onua!"

Onepu was running towards him. Another, smaller, hunched being followed him. He wore a gray mask, and dull green eyes glowed from behind it. In his right hand, he carried what appeared to be a drill-like tip mounted on a staff.

"Welcome, Toa Onua," the being said. "I am Turaga Whenua. We have much to discuss."

Chapter III

Gali observed the village that a young being named Maku had brought her to. Many of the beings (which were called "Matoran") went about on their day to day business, barely taking notice of the Toa of Water standing amongst them.

Gali had washed ashore on a reef off the coast of an island that the Matoran called Mata Nui. She had rescued a small Matoran fishing boat and its crew, Maku included. Believing Gali to be a Toa, beings that, according to legend, would defeat a powerful, dark being named Makuta, they brought her back to Ga-Koro.

Ga-Koro was a small town built on large, floating platforms. Homes were built mostly out of wood or large leaves harvested from the nearby jungles, and lit with glowing stones mined from another city called Onu-Koro.

In front of Gali, and dictating the tour of the city, was Turaga Nokama, Ga-Koro's supervisor and leader. The ancient Matoran was about a mask taller than a normal Matoran, but still smaller than Gali. Evidently, Toa were just tall.

"So," Gali asked, looking at the buildings around her (most of which she stood as tall as), "there are more like me?"

"Yes," Nokama answered. "The legends foretell of six Toa, each embodying the elements of Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Ice, and Stone."

Gali generated a sphere of water in her palm, floated it there for a moment, and then dispersed it. "I take it I represent water?" she asked sarcastically.

"Of course," said Nokama. "And this is your city. Ga-Koro. "Water Village" in our older tongues. Your home."

Gali noticed that her name contained a portion of the city's in it. 'Ga'. She wondered if that meant something. No point in pondering it now, however.

"Does my name have a connection with the village," the female Toa of Water asked.

"Most likely, yes," the ancient one answered. "Ga, as I said before, is the old Matoran word for water. You represent water. Therefore, there is some connection."

The Toa and Turaga came upon a wooden balcony resting above a large, saltwater bay.

"Our village rests in Naho bay," the Turaga said. "It sustains our village, but also protects it from invaders. Only one bridge allows anyone in, yet our boats and prowess with swimming can let anyone out."

"Naho..." Gali whispered. "Where'd you get the name?"

"Long ago, in the Time of War, a great Ga-Matoran hero named Naho lead her forces against the combined hordes of Ta-Koro, Onu-Koro, and Le-Koro," the Turaga related. "She was an amazing war hero. When I was a Matoran, I served under her authority."

"You were a Matoran?"

"Yes. When we reach a certain point in our lives, some Matoran transform into Turaga. Only one Turaga can exist at a time, and none know exactly how it happens. Only that it is the Great Spirit's will that we become one.

Gali nodded. "And this 'Time of War.' What happened? What caused it?"

Nokama closed her eyes and shook her head. "A... dispute happened between Po-Koro and Ta-Koro. The Turaga of Ta-Koro at the time, Sejanus, was planning on leading an assault on the Makuta himself. He demanded that Po-Koro provide weapons and tools to aid his city in the war effort.

"However, the Turaga in Po-Koro was not going to devote so many resources to an endeavor which could not be achieved. Of course, old Sejanus was adamant about attacking the Dark Spirit and ending his reign without relying on old prophecies.

"Sejanus rallied with the Turaga of Le and Ko Koros. Po-Koro's Turaga, fearing imminent attack, allied with Onu-Koro. Thanks to the harsh desert landscape and supplies coming from the tunnels of the Earth Village, the Earth and Stone alliance held strong.

"The Turaga of Fire then turned to Ga-Koro, asking the Turaga of the time, Oriana, to help complete an assault on Po-Koro by boxing the village in and pressing on it from all sides.

"However, Oriana wished to remain independent from the war. Sejanus would not tolerate this, and sent his forces to invade our village.

"Luckily, Naho was not only able to fend off his troops, but, at the same time, never lost a single Ga-Koran life.

"About two years later, Po-Koro went on the offensive, and attacked both Ta-Koro, Ko-Koro, and Le-Koro at Tren Krom Break, where each of their village's holds connected. The Po-Koran army marched over the Mangai Volcano, and assaulted all three legions there.

"All three sides to heavy losses. That was when Naho stepped in. After waiting for the opposing armies to weaken themselves enough, she marched into the Break, and captured Sejanus and the five other remaining Turaga. A peace meeting was held in Ga-Koro, and the time ended.

"After the war, all five remaining Turaga were executed due to their war efforts. Myself, Vakama, Onewa, Whenua, and Matau were chosen to ascend as Turaga. We brokered peace treaties, and returned our island to its original state."

Gali gasped. One Ga-Matoran had ended a war between five opposing legions. That was amazing.

"Once the meetings had been adjured and the treaties signed, I named this bay after Naho, to commemorate her role in ending the Great War."

Gali thought for a moment. "What happened to this Naho, then? Is she still alive?"

"Sadly, no," Nokama answered. "She died while defending a supply caravan from a Muaka Tiger attack. Her memorial is in the city square, and her remains are buried in the ocean beneath it."

The Toa of Water felt a pang of sadness. Such a great leader had fallen prey to a simple beast of the wilds.

"Now, though," the Turaga began, "we should focus on writing new histories. You must meet your fellow Toa. They will most likely meet at Kini Nui."

"Kini Nui?"

"The Great Temple, dedicated to Mata Nui. It sits at the base of Mangai between the Le-Wahi and Ko-Wahi holds. You should head there immediately."

"Yes, wise one. I'll be sure to return when I can." With that, Gali bowed, did a backflip, and dove gracefully into Naho Bay, swimming towards Hura Mafa River. The canal would take her further inland and closer to Kini Nui.

Chapter IV

Kopaka, Toa of Ice, master of the cold and the storm, was annoyed.

He was hiking along the frozen snowdrifts of a region that the local Matoran called "Ko-Wahi". He was searching for an artifact at the top a mountain. Ihu, was the name of the edifice, if he had heard correctly. It had been named for an ancient scholar who had mentored the current Turaga of the Ice village.

Of course, the cold didn't annoy him. If anything, he found the mountain slope's chills relaxing. The annoyance was shouting to him from a ways back.

And it had a name: Pohatu.

"SLOW DOWN!" the bronze-armored Toa of Stone yelled from behind. He was struggling to move through the large snow drifts, as he had more body mass than Kopaka, and he didn't seem to know exactly how to move in the snow.

Kopaka let out an angered sigh. "Will you be quiet?" he yelled back in a cold tone. "Do you really want to start another avalanche?

"Hey, that wasn't my fault!" Pohatu yelled back.

Kopaka rolled his eyes. He had been covered in a mass of icy rocks when Pohatu had first showed up. Of course, Kopaka was able to shatter the boulders quite easily using his powers of ice. He just didn't feel like being friendly to the man who had nearly killed him.

"So why are you going further up the mountain? Don't you want to go somewhere warmer?" Pohatu called up again, ignoring Kopaka's command.

Another angered sigh hissed from the Toa of Ice's lungs. "If you want get out of the cold, then leave me. I'm sure there are sunnier spots on this island."

Pohatu caught up with Kopaka. Unlike the light-footed Toa of Ice, Pohatu had sunk a full foot into the snow drift. "Well, I thought we could team up? You know, since we're both looking for the same items, right?"

"The Kanohi masks," Kopaka said. The Turaga had told him that, to defeat the evil known as Makuta, he and his fellow Toa would have to collect six Kanohi masks each. The masks would give them special abilities that they normally would not have access to. "Fine, you can tag along. I might need a mountain moved, or the whole island lifted..."

"Great!" Pohatu said cheerfully. "So, where are we going?"

"There." Kopaka pointed to the summit of the mountain.

A metal object glinted slightly as a ray of sunlight hit its reflective surface.

It was a good twenty minutes until the pair had reached the mountain's peak. When they did, they found a Kanohi mask, resting on a pedestal that was half-buried in a drift of snow.

"Finally," Kopaka said. He pulled the Kanohi off the pedastal, and eyed it. Kanohi Hau, mask of shielding. It could protect him from any attack save ambush. At least, that's what the Turaga, Nuju, had said.

"Nice," Pohatu said. "So what's it do?"

"Let's find out," Kopaka said, placing the mask over his own. He felt the Hau's power fill his being. A protective shield raised from the mask, and shoved Pohatu a few inches away.

"Hey, what was that for?" the Toa of Stone demanded.

"Sorry," Kopaka said. He mentally called forth his original mask, the Akaku, mask of X-ray vision. He activated its power, and he was able to peer into the island's very depths. He saw through veins of minerals, and too Mount Ihu's very roots.

He turned his attention westward. Through the mountain, he was able to see a temple, with six carved edifices. A group of beings not dissimilar from he and Pohatu had gathered at the temple's center area.

"What do you see?" Pohatu asked, looking in the same direction that Kopaka was. Of course, all Pohatu could see was a mountainside.

"It appears that the rest of the Toa have assembled at the island's main temple."

"Where? I don't see it."

Kopaka deactivated the Akaku's power and turned to Pohatu. "It's that way," he said, pointing towards the direction of the temple. "We should go."

"Okay, meet you there!" Pohatu yelled. He activated his mask, the Kakama, mask of speed, and disappeared at lightning speed. He also left a foot-deep trench in the snow that he traversed over.

Kopaka shook his head. He jumped in the air and used his power to form an ice slide beneath him. He landed on it, and directed the icy flow towards the temple...

Chapter V

Tahu looked back and forth between the other two beings that had assembled at the temple known as Kini Nui. Each seemed physically similar to him, but their armor and masks were different.

One wore a mask that was black as night, behind which dark green eyes glowed. His ebony-gray armor reflected sunlight very well, making it appear as a shade of silver. Instead of hands, he had massive claws, which, Tahu assumed, could probably break through boulders. He said that his name was Onua, and that he was the Toa of Earth.

The other Toa that had arrived was Gali, Toa of Water. She wore azure armor with sky-blue highlights. Instead of eyeholes, her mask had a simple visor. Even then, Tahu could make out bright yellow eyes. Her weapons consisted of two climbing hooks, which she had fastened to her back.

Gali and Onua were engaged in a deep conversation about what exactly was going on. They debated everything from the threat of the Makuta, to the Matoran, to their ability to trust one another-- including Tahu.

Another Toa appeared in the blink of the eye. Had he teleported in? Or was it some sort of illusion created by Makuta?

"Who are you?" Gali asked.

"Pohatu," the bronze-armored new arrival boomed, "Toa of Stone, at your service!"

An ice slide appeared. Tahu turned his gaze toward it and saw a white-and-silver armored Toa riding along its length. The Toa quit generating the slide, and landed between Pohatu and Onua. The slide disintegrated behind him.

"You must be the other Toa," the white being said. He looked around. "Wait, my Turaga said there were six of us..."

"WOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOO!"

From the jungle to the south, an emerald armored being flew from the canopy. He landed on one of the temple's six spires, then back-flipped off and landed on top of the shrine in the center of the temple.

"Lewa!" he announced. "Toa-hero of Air!"

"Nice entrance," Kopaka said in a sarcastic tone that was as cold as his element.

"Thank you," Lewa said, not minding the Toa of Ice's sarcasm.

"I suppose we should introduce each other," Onua said. "Onua, Toa of Earth."

Gali spoke up next. "Gali, Toa of Water."

Pohatu smiled. "Pohatu, Toa of Stone."

"You know me!" Lewa said.

Tahu rolled his eyes. "Tahu, Toa of Fire."

Kopaka stood off from the group, and simply slouched onto one of the temple's spires. "Kopaka. Ice. Enough said."

"Well what's his problem?" Tahu asked.

"Don't need one," Kopaka answered, having listened in on Tahu's comment.

"So," Lewa said, feeling anxious from not moving for more than a few seconds. "What are we going to do? Some wind-flying? Matoran-savin'? Whatever us Toa-heroes do?"

"Actually, that's a good point," Gali said. "We should decide exactly what we are doing. Do any of us know."

"My Turaga said something about masks," Tahu answered.

"As did mine," Gali said.

"Same here!" Pohatu chimed in.

"I think it's safe to say that all of our Turaga have said something about these Kanohi masks," Onua observed.

Kopaka and Lewa nodded.

"So, does anyone know much about these masks?" Tahu asked. "Because all I know is that none of us know where they are, and we need to find them to defeat Makuta. That's what the Turaga said."

Pohatu pointed to Kopaka. "He's already found one."

Kopaka rolled his eyes.

"Have you?" Gali asked.

"Yes," Kopaka responded.

"Where?" Tahu inquired.

"Mount Ihu. Desolate. Untraveled. We should look in similar areas, as those would be the best places to conceal artifacts of power."

Gali nodded. "Agreed."

Onua added some input. "My Turaga said that most of these masks are guarded by viscous beasts called Rahi, which are under the control of Makuta. I haven't faced any of them yet, but I know that I wouldn't want to face one of Makuta's 'pets' alone."

Lewa nodded. "I wouldn't want to punch-fight a Makuta-beast alone either. Or at all, for that matter."

"Then we should split into teams," Tahu said. "That way we can easily ward off these things if we do face them."

"Wait, who made you leader?" Kopaka demanded.

"No one did," Gali said. "He's making a sound decision."

"Besides," Tahu added, "someone has to take charge. I'll volunteer that duty."

"And how do we know that you're capable of leading us?" Kopaka inquired. "We barely know his limits, or anyone else's. What if he can't make the right decisions at the right times?"

"Or what if he's just a jerk," Lewa chuckled.

Tahu unsheathed his sword and held it at his side. "Well, is anyone else willing to volunteer?" he questioned.

No one responded.

"Then I will remain leader until further notice. We'll split into teams. Onua and Pohatu, Lewa and Kopaka, and Gali and myself."

Kopaka turned and began walking towards the jungle. "I work alone." He said.

Tahu felt anger rise up within him, but he decided it best to just let the fool do whatever he wanted. If Kopaka wound up dead, it wasn't Tahu's fault then.

"Okay, Lewa, you can come with us," Tahu corrected. "Let's go."

Chapter VI

One month later...

Lewa jumped out of the way as a large, reptillian fist came down where he had stood moments before.

It had been two weeks since the Toa had split into teams. So far, Lewa had gained four of his masks.

Now, while trying to retrieve his fifth, this... thing had attacked him. Of course, it attacked him in the water. Lewa hated the water.

The Matoran name for the attacking creature was Tarakava. The Tarakava were large, cunning reptiles that killed their prey with large, blunt fists. On this particular specimen's snout was a blackened, rust colored Kanohi masks.

Now, animals don't normally wear what amounted to Matoran faces on their snouts, and the poor condition of the masks was due to one cause: a plague that the Matoran called "infection." Evidently, Makuta had the power to, through the infected Kanohi, control beings. Anyone who's mask was infected was an unwilling servant to Makuta.

And infection didn't exclude this Tarakava from serving the dark lord's purposes, either.

"I could use some aid-help right now!" Lewa yelled, hoping that either Tahu or Gali would attack the creature.

Gali was the first to respond. She leaped out of the water like some sort of odd fish and landed on the Tarakava's back. The creature roared in anger and tried to shake her off.

Tahu responded next. He jumped onto the Tarakava's head, and latched tightly onto the mask.

"I've got it!" the Toa of Fire shouted.

Gali jumped off and joined Lewa in watching the struggle.

The massive reptile jarred its head left and right, trying to shake off the Toa. Tahu held on the mask for his life. When the beast paused a few seconds, to breathe, Tahu took his chance. He planted his feet firmly on the sides of the gigantic beast's head, and pushed away, all the while holding onto the mask.

The beast roared violently and jerked it's head forward, throwing Tahu off.

Tahu landed in the sand. Temper raging, he sprang to his feet and charged. The Tarakava simply swatted him to the side.

"Slag!" Tahu uttered, hitting the ground.

Lewa readied his axe. "So, firespitter," he said derogatorily, "is this all you've planned, hm?"

Tahu, while angered, called up a wall of flame around the Tarakava (instead of Lewa), sealing the creature for a few moments and allowing the Toa to regroup.

"We have to get that mask off it!" Gali said, walking back to them.

"And how do you propose we achieve-get that, water-walker?" the Toa of Air shot back.

Tahu got an idea. "Lewa, do you think you can condense a cyclone around the mask on its snout? Perhaps it could throw the Kanohi off."

"Worth a try-sh-."

The Toa of Air was cut off.

The beast charged through the flames, screeching in anger and heading right towards the Toa.

It raised its clawed fist, and aimed for Gali. Lewa gathered his power, and the Tarakava threw a punch.

It happened extremely fast. Tahu jumped in front of Gali, taking a the full force of the Tarakava's blow. Not even a second later, a cyclone emerged around the creature's personal Kanohi, ripping it from its face and flinging it onto the beach.

For a moment, the Rahi fell still. It then moaned, and then, realizing that it was in shallows, which were not good for hunting, headed for the drop-off.

Lewa heaved a few breaths and then turned to Gali. She watched the creature leave the surface, and then remembered why could perform the action.

"Tahu!" she yelled. The Toa of Fire floated unconscious near the beach. Gali rushed over and dragged him onto the sands. Lewa followed close behind.

The armor around Tahu's midsection had been heavily cracked, and the organic tissue underneath was bleeding slightly. It wasn't a fatal wound, but it was bad.

"Good thing for armor," Lewa said, "otherwise, he'd be cold-dead."

"I'll keep him comfortable," Gali said. "You should go get your mask."

Lewa made a strange gesture at the ocean. "There?" he asked. "It's water, I'm a Toa of Air. Not good buddy-friends!"

"Listen," Gali said, "you already have a Mask of Water Breathing. You'll be fine. Besides, if what your Turaga said was true, it's a Kakama. I'm sure you could use that to get out of the ocean quickly. Besides, after that encounter with the Kane-Ra Bull, I don't trust you around anything wounded."

"Hey, I didn't think-know that it was saltwater I brought to quick-clean Onua's slash-wound," the Toa of Air reminded her.

"Your point?" she asked.

"My point is..." Lewa thought for a moment. "I'll get back to you on that."

Ending the conversation, he called upon his Kanohi Kaukau, which materialized over his face, and waded into the water.

Evidently, whoever had hidden these masks had a nasty sense of humor. He entered the drop-off, and descended into the darkness.

Lewa was glad when he felt wet sand within his palm. He padded the mud, and swam over it. He wanted to get out of the water. It was so cold, and... wet.

Something glinted to his left. He turned, and was glad to find that it was his Kanohi mask. It was the same as the mask Pohatu wore, but colored green. It's streamlined appearance already gave off an aura of speed.

Okay, he thought, now how do I use this to get out of here fast...

Then, Lewa got an idea. He took a deep breath and pressed the Kakama to his face. Concentrating, he focused the mask's power into his legs. His nether limbs moved faster than they ever could normally, propelling him at great speeds through the water.

The Toa of Air broke the surface, yelling as he flew high into the air.

Gali and a recently awakened Tahu watched the scene.

Lewa laughed. "Now this is wind-flying!"

It was at that point that he reached the apex of his flight, and began to descend.

"Crap." Lewa called upon his original mask, the Miru, mask of levitation, hoping to stop his fall. While he succeed in great reducing the speed of his descent, he still faceplanted in the sand about five feet away from Tahu and Gali.

The two laughed and stood up, Tahu moving slightly slower than Gali.

Lewa pulled his head from the grains and straitened his mask. "Alright, five down, one to go. What about you guys."

"One left, too," Tahu said.

Gali held up three fingers. "Three for me," she quipped.

"I wonder how Pohatu and Onua are doing," the Toa of Air asked. "They both had one mask left when we last saw them. They're probably done and relaxing in some Onu-Koron pub right now."

"What about Kopaka?" Gali asked. "None of us have seen him since we split up back at Kini Nui."

Tahu felt a pang of concern for the Toa of Ice. While he was not the most sociable of Toa, he was needed to defeat Makuta. If he was dead, then the things just got harder for the Toa.

"Come on," Tahu said. "My last mask is in some Onu-Matoran tunnel. You said you had one in there, too, right, Gali?"

She nodded.

"Then let's leave-go!" the Toa of Air shouted.

The three walked along the beach, heading for the nearest cave that would lead them to an Onu-Matoran highway.

Chapter VII

Onua yelled as the swarm of small scorpions engulfed he and Pohatu.

"Okay," the Toa of Stone began, "this really isn't what I had in mind. I thought you said the tunnels were safe!"

Onua shrugged. "I haven't seen anything like this before."

The scorpions, known to the Matoran as Kofu Jaga, had attacked the Toa as Pohatu was heading to retrieve his final mask-- the Kanohi Kaukau, mask of Water Breathing.

Pohatu and Onua were forced to the cavern wall. Onua hit it. The stone behind him felt warm. Hm... Onua thought... maybe we could--

"Got any ideas?" Pohatu yelled, throwing one of the Kofu Jaga off his shoulder.

"How far is the mask?" Onua asked.

"According to your Turaga, it should be on a pedestal across a small, stone bridge that traverses a ravine. Of course, he's the same one who said 'You should have no trouble in getting there,' so I don't know if that's trustworthy advice."

Onua thought for a moment. They had started this journey in Onu-Koro, and had traveled in a relatively straight down path. Which would mean the underground ravine should intersect with one of the many tunnels that honeycombed the area around the subterranean Earth village.

The Toa of Earth then remembered something the Turaga had told them when he passed through the Koro about two weeks ago. According to the Turaga, Kofu Jaga enjoyed heat. The scorpions were known as "magma detectors" by Onu-Matoran mining crews, as they were known to be found near, and sometimes in, the molten rock.

Onua felt a painful sting on his leg, and grabbed the source of it. A Kofu Jaga had crawled its way onto his thigh, its tail's end buried in Onua's armor.

The Toa plucked the scorpion from his leg, and examined it. No masks, no rust, no signs of Makuta's contamination anywhere on them.

He concluded that these Kofu Jaga were not controlled by the Master of Shadows, but simply held territory that was conveniently placed to suit Makuta's needs.

But, luckily, Onua formed a plan.

"Okay," the ebony armored Toa said, "I have an idea, but it'll be hard to pull off."

"I'm open for anything!" Pohatu shouted, swiping more of the scorpions off of his legs.

"Okay, on the count of three, run like Karzahni."

"No problem," the Toa of stone said, pointing at his face/mask. "Kakama, mask of speed, remember."

Onua didn't chuckle. "One.

"Two.

"Three!"

Pohatu bolted, and Onua dug his claws into the warm chunk of rock behind him. He mentally called upon his own Kakama, which then switched out with his own Pakari, mask of strength. He then ripped the chunk of rock out of the wall, and triggered the masks power.

Molten rock poured out from the gap in the wall.

Instead of giving chase, however, the Kofu Jaga ran towards the lava, basking in its warmth. The scorpions, after all, were known for being one of Mata Nui's most durable creatures.

Onua caught up with Pohatu, who had stopped short at an opening in the cavern. The Toa of Earth halted next to him.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

Pohatu just pointed forward. Onua looked out the opening.

A small bridge, barely a foot wide, spanned the length of the ravine. Of course, Onua could not see the chasm, as blackness enveloped the bridge on all sides: up down, right, and left.

"Slag!" Pohatu yelled.

Onua turned around at the sound of the Toa of Stone's cursing. The magma had been more plentiful than he had anticapated, and was now gaining on the two Toa. A horde of extremely territorial scorpions charged in front of the lava.

Onua knew there was no time to act. "Move Pohatu!"

Pohatu looked back and forth, trying to decide what to do. Face his fear of the ravines height and blackness, or face off against a lava flow.

"Pohatu!"

The Toa of Stone quickly deduced that whatever was at the bottom of the chasm was not as bad as the horde of chittering, red-hot scorpions advancing upon him. He quickly jolted onto the small stone bridge. Onua quickly followed behind.

Pohatu reached a dead end on the far wall. Luckily, his mask was where Turaga Whenua said it would be, on the bridge's pedestal. He grabbed the Kaukau, and stared at it. The Mask was the same as the one Gali wore, visored, and having a somewhat smooth design to it.

He put it on, and let it fuse to his face. The mask was then quickly replaced with his own Kakama.

"Okay," he shouted back to Onua, "I've got the mask. Now what?"

The horde of Kofu Jaga was now beginning to traverse the bridge. And their territorial nature was telling them that the Toa posed a threat to their magma pool. Chitinous exoskeletons clicking loudly, the scorpions advanced on the Toa.

"Switch to your Miru!" Onua called out.

Pohatu quickly summoned the mask of levitation. "Okay, but why."

"This is why!" the Toa of Earth said, slamming Pohatu off the bridge. He then, too jumped into the darkness.

Both Toa simultaneously called upon the masks' power, causing their fall to slowly decelerate, and then become a steady ascent.

They slowly flew past the horde of scorpions, which were happily bathing in the lava that now covered the length of the bridge.

Pohatu shook his head and looked at Onua. "Never. Do. That. Again," he said.

Onua chuckled. "As long as I don't need to."

Pohatu frowned.

The two Toa quietly made their way up the ravine. They eventually reached a wider stone bridge that spanned the length between two tunnels. They landed on the bridge, and examined a sign that had been placed near the left wall.

"Onu-Koro ahead," it spelled.

Pohatu let out a sigh of relief. "Glad that that's behind me. Hey, you said that they had some bars here, right?

Onua nodded.

"Well, what do you say we go buy a few cups of ale. You know, to celebrate, since we have all of our masks now."

Onua smiled. "I'll take you up on that offer."

The two continued down the Onu-Koro tunnel. But something stopped Onua. He, in turn, grabbed Pohatu and halted him.

Onua, fashioned to be well suited for combat underground, had a fantastic sense of hearing. And right now, he thought he heard the sound of a torch.

"Be quiet," he told Pohatu. The Toa of Stone responded, properly, with silence.

Eventually, even Pohatu heard the crackling sounds of something ablaze. Footsteps soon accompanied the crackling.

Pohatu whispered, "What do you thi--"

Onua put a finger to his mouth, the universal Matoran symbol for "be quiet." Pohatu didn't finish his sentence.

Now, voices could be made out.

"... anyway, I'm probably gonna head for tha surface after seein' y'all through here," a heavily accented voice said.

Onua sighed. "Midak," he said.

A grey-armored Matoran appeared from the tunnel, a small reed in his mouth. A straw hat rested on his back, with a string holding it around his neck.

Behind Midak, Toa Tahu, Gali, and Lewa followed.

Midak caught notice of Pohatu and Onua. "Well, would you look 'ere!"

"Pohatu, Onua, brother Toa-heroes!" Lewa said. "How've you been doing, deep-delving in such dark caves?"

Onua chuckled. "We've run into some snags."

"Snags?" Pohatu asked, a hint of anger in his voice. "You call a scorpion horde a 'snag'?"

"Scorpion horde?" Gali asked. "How did you survive?"

"Oh, not Nui Jaga," Pohatu said, recalling the massive, heavily armored scorpion he and Onua had 'run into' while searching the Po-Wahi desert for masks. "Kofu Jaga, the little ones that seem to love lava."

Tahu nodded. "I saw them in Ta-Koro. Turaga Vakama said that they are often a nuisance at best."

"Yes they are," Pohatu said. "Especially when they swarm you by the thousands."

Gali shook her head. "So, how many masks have you collected?"

"Six for each of us," Onua said. "We were just heading back to Onu-Koro to celebrate."

"Could you come with us?" Lewa asked. "I'm sure we could use the help-aid with the mask-finding."

"And I'd like to get outta these here tunnels," Midak added. "You could guide 'em for me, and I can get back to my Ussal-crab pens. Sure they need feedin' by now."

Pohatu glared at Onua and then pointed at his legs, which were covered in sting markings from their encounter with the Kofu Jaga.

"We'd like to," Onua said, "but I think we could use the break. Good luck, and good hunting."

"We'll meet at Kini-Nui, then," Tahu ordered. "Goodbye, Onua. Pohatu."

The two groups split up, with Lewa, Gali, Tahu, and Midak heading north for Po-Wahi and Onua and Pohatu heading south for Onu-Koro.

Chapter VIII

Kopaka frowned. He had one mask left, and had spent a day scouring the volcanic region of Ta-Wahi for it. He hated this place. The heat, the lack of precipitation, and the dryness in the air.

And it was Tahu's home.

The journey had taken the Toa of Ice to a lava pit. In the center of the pool was a small island, on which laid his final mask, a Pakari, mask of strength.

Kopaka readied his ice sword and aimed it at the island. Using his elemental powers, he created an ice bridge that spanned over the molten rock and onto the island. After about two seconds, it promptly melted.

Okay, Kopaka thought, new strategy.

He pointed his sword at the lava itself, and blasted it with ice energy. The lava quickly cooled into hard, black rock.

The Toa of Ice smiled to himself, and tested the bridge. It was solid. He walked across it to the small lava island. He reached it, and grabbed the Kanohi mask. He put it on his face, and it quickly dissolved into his original mask.

He could finally return to the freezing temperatures of Ko-Koro.

Kopaka turned around, and prepared to walk across the bridge. But before he could take a step, a noise made him turn around.

The rocks where the mask had once sat had begun to shift and move, slowly taking form. The rocks coalesced into a vaguely humanoid form that was roughly eight feet high. Instead of legs, however, it simply steadied itself on top of a pile of rubble. Pale, green eyes glowed behind its silicate face.

What in Karzahni is this thing? the Toa of Ice thought.

The rock creature roared, and readied to pound Kopaka into the ground.

The Toa rolled, barely escaping the creature's massive fists. He shot two blasts of ice energy at the monster.

The bolts struck the creature's midsection, but barely phased it. The thing readied another blow.

Kopaka dodged this one as well, but it's fist landed on the stone bridge. The bridge cracked, and slowly sank into the lava.

The Toa of Ice cursed.

While expressionless, the creature seemed to smile at the fact that the Toa was now trapped. The beast threw a punch at Kopaka, who deflected it with his shield. He tried shoving the creature, but it stood there, solid as the material it was made out of.

The creature hit Kopaka, throwing him to the edge of the island. The Toa of Ice rolled to avoid yet another massive blow from the creature's fist.

Kopaka sent forth a stream of ice at the monster. Slowly, a layer of frost built on the creature. Once it was covered, Kopaka eased off the burst.

For a moment, the rock creature seemed frozen beneath a frosty prison. But then the ice quickly melted, freeing the brutish monster.

"Come on!" Kopaka yelled.

The monster rumbled the boulders that made it up, creating a deafening roar. It then hit Kopaka once again, forcing the Toa of Ice onto the ground. Kopaka evaded a salvo of blows that would have easily crushed his skull.

Kopaka backflipped onto his feet.

That's it, he thought. He began calling on what was left of his ice power. "JUST DIE!" He threw his palm forward, from which a massive icicle shot forth. The icy dagger hit the creature between the eyes.

It made the same rumbling sound, but this time out of agony. Kopaka continued this maneuver, throwing icicle after icicle into the creature's rocky form. The monster writhed, trying to dislodge the weapons from its body.

He then summoned as much elemental energy as he could, and then unleashed a full-force blast at the rock creature. A blizzard as cold as liquid nitrogen hit the creature.

It froze. Solid.

Kopaka took his sword and rose it above his head. He brought it down on the rock creature's head, which, along with the rest of its body, shattered.

Kopaka let out a long sigh, and turned to the lava. His energy had not replenished enough for him to cool the molten stone, which left only one alternative.

He would have to jump.

Kopaka got a running start, and leaped off of the island's edge. He soared through the air. But he started falling a little too soon.

Aww shi...

Kopaka grabbed the upper half of a rock that was embedded on the edge of the lava pool. The stone slowly began to dislodge from its position.

"Toa Kopaka!" A crimson armored hand reached out towards the Toa of Ice.

Kopaka grabbed it, and heaved himself onto the solid ground. He looked up at his savior.

A small Ta-Matoran stood in front of him with a cheerful smile on his face.

"Thank you," the Toa of Ice said.

"Anything for a Toa," the Matoran said. "I'm Kapura, Ta-Koro Guard patrol officer twelve. I saw you fighting that thing. I would have helped, but you seemed to have had the situation under control."

"I did," Kopaka said, knowing full well that, at first, he didn't. "I'll put in a good word for you with Tahu. Perhaps he'll get Turaga Vakama to get you a promotion."

"No need," Kapura said. "I'm fine with where I'm at. I have everything I could want. A house, good food, good company, and a date with a Ga-Matoran named Amaya later today." He laughed. "Well, I'm glad to have finally met you, Toa Kopaka." He slowly began to walk away.

Kopaka turned around to look at the island. He turned towards Kapura and said, "I'm glad to have met you, t--"

The Matoran had disappeared.

Chapter IX

Two days later...

Onua and Pohatu arrived at Kini Nui. It had been nearly a week since they had last seen any of the other Toa, and they decided that it was time to head for the Great Temple that now served as a meeting place for the group.

The two were astonished to find Kopaka had already arrived. He was leaning against the temple spire that faced west towards Ko-Wahi.

"Kopaka?" Pohatu asked.

The Toa of Ice nodded, barely looking up.

"How've you been?"

"Fine," the Kopaka responded coldly.

Pohatu shook his head. "I wonder where the others are."

"WATCH OUT!!!"

A green blur emerged from the forest. Onua and Pohatu ducked, just in time to see Lewa, running under the power of the mask of speed, flash by them, and run up the spire that Kopaka was resting on. He shot into the air, and the Toa lost him in the sunlight.

Tahu and Gali emerged from the forest. "Not again," Tahu muttered.

"This has happened before?" Pohatu asked.

Gali laughed. "He was trying to get one of my masks. He thought he could be 'heroic'. Instead..."

The Toa of Air fell from the sky, hit one of the temple's spires, bounced, and landed directly at Pohatu's feet. He let out a sore moan.

"...that happened," Gali finished.

Tahu walked up next to Lewa. "You really have to stop trying to kill yourself, Lewa." He offered his hand to pull the Toa of Air up.

"Maybe you should halt-stop me next time before I go speed-flying again," Lewa grunted. He then pulled himself up with Tahu's arm.

"Do we have all of our masks, then?" Onua asked.

Lewa dusted himself off and cracked his neck. "I've got them all."

Tahu nodded. "So have I. Gali retrieved her last one just before we got here."

Kopaka looked up for the first time since the Toa had arrived. "All of mine are accounted for as well."

"Then that means that we can face Makuta!" Pohatu said.

"Not so fast," Kopaka said. "We might want to check with the Turaga. They could give us some advice. That would be invaluable against an angry god, I would assume."

"And when did you make the decisions?" Tahu demanded. "I say we face him right now!"

"We're going up against something we know nothing about, Tahu! We'll need any help we can get!" the Toa of Ice argued.

"And leave the Matoran open to attack? Why would we--"

Gali shook her head. "Tahu, cool down."

"Like Karzahni I will," the Toa of Fire said. Suddenly, a small raincloud appeared over his head, and a drizzle started.

Gali chuckled, as it was her who summoned the storm. The other Toa laughed. Tahu frowned at first, but slowly joined in the with the laughter. Even Kopaka cracked a smile.

Tahu shook his head. "Fine. We'll talk with our Turaga. But then we meet back here. Got it?"

The Toa nodded.

"Thanks for listening," Kopaka said. "I hope we avoid arguments like this in the future." The Toa of Ice created an ice slide, and skated across it towards his home village.

"See you round! Besides, I want to get back to Po-Koro. A Matoran named Hafu said he was carving a statue of yours truly, and I'd like to see it." Pohatu stated. He then waved good-bye, and triggered his Kakama, bolting off towards Po-Koro.

Lewa simply threw a mock salute, and backflipped into the jungle. He disappeared into the canopy.

"I'll meet you here, then," Onua said. "Good luck, Tahu. Gali." The Toa of Earth then trudged off in the direction of his village.

Tahu and Gali stood at the temple.

"Thanks for making me shut up," Tahu said. "Mata Nui knows where that would've gone without anyone intervening."

"Well, someone has to keep the peace," Gali said, smiling. "Well, I'm going to head back to Ga-Koro. I haven't heard from them in a while, and I'm starting to get worried." She waved good-bye.

Tahu watched her turn around. "Wait!" he called. "Do you need someone to escort you?"

Gali looked back and shook her head. "Don't know why I'd need one," she said.

Tahu put his hand on the back of his neck. "Well, what if there's trouble at Ga-Koro. You could use the help."

"Fine," she said. "Just don't pull another Lewa."

Tahu recalled their last visit to Ga-Koro, during which Lewa had 'accidentally' destroyed a Ga-Matoran fruit stand.

"You won't have to worry about me," the Toa of Fire said. "I'll leave as soon as we arrive. Besides, I have to check up with the Ta-Koro guard. Jaller said he wanted me to observe some of their maneuvers."

Gali nodded, and the two Toa departed on towards Ga-Koro.

Chapter X

Pohatu was the first to arrive at his home village, the desert town of Po-Koro. He stopped just outside of the desert city's gates, and was among a field of statues. Great carvings lined the road to the town's massive portcullis.

Po-Koro itself was surrounded by a wall made of tan stone bricks, quarried from nearby mines. The wall had been built during the Time of War, and had withstood over a hundred years after. Regular maintainance was required, but it could easily withstand heavy pounding before giving way.

The Toa of Stone walked the path to Po-Koro's entrance stopped at the closed gates.

"Hey!" he shouted. "Could someone get the door?"

A gray-masked head poked out of the portcullis. The drowsy Matoran looked down and saw Pohatu, which immediately woke him up.

"Toa Pohatu!" the Matoran, whose name was Piatra, said. "Sorry, I was, uh..."

Pohatu smiled and shook his head. "Just open the gate."

Piatra saluted, and disappeared through the window. A moment later, the gates opened, and Pohatu was able to enter.

The village within the walls could easily blend in with the desert sands around it. Most of the houses were hewn from rock outcroppings, or built with adobe or sod bricks. Small merchant stands dotted the landscape. Mahi, small, goatlike Rahi, wandered the streets and grazed on whatever hardy grasses they could find.

Pohatu headed west, to see the progress that had been made on a Kolhii field that was under construction when he left.

Kolhii is a very widespread Matoran sport , played using hammers and balls. Three teams would use their hammers to try and score in another team's goal. Simple, physical, and challenging. That's why Po-Matoran were the best at it.

The particular field that Pohatu had seen when he left was now completed, and Matoran now dodged back and forth, trying to score goals. But something was wrong. For some reason, none of the designated professionals like Hewkii or Podu were on the field. Only amateurs were playing.

Pohatu found Turaga Onewa, leader of the village, sitting on a stone bleacher. The Toa of Stone sat down next to the elder.

"Practice game?" he asked.

Onewa shook his head. "If only," he said mournfully.

"What's wrong?"

"A virus, or... something," Onewa said. "We Po-Matoran have never been good pathologists."

"What do you mean a virus," Pohatu asked.

The Turaga sighed. "Some kind of disease is spreading through Po-Koro, and has infected many of the Kolhii players. Our star player, Hewkii, has even fallen ill."

"Hmm... anyone else?"

"Yes, Podu, Kivi, and even poor Hafu. Well, I guess the latter deserves it," the Turaga chuckled. "It'll teach him a lesson about narcissism."

Pohatu shook his head. "What are the symptoms?"

"Coughing, wheezing. Sometimes mild aggressiveness. Some more extreme cases exhibit rusting on armor."

"Rusting..." Pohatu whispered. Armor on Matoran and Rahi only rusted under infection. "Perhaps I could help?"

"Possibly. But what if it is some normal plague that will work itself out?"

"What kind of plague causes rust?"

The Turaga pondered this for a moment. "Right. You should visit Hewkii, since he was the first to be infected."

Pohatu nodded. He turned around and headed for Hewkii's hut.

"But don't visit too long!" the Turaga called. "If it is a real plague, we don't want it to spread!"

Pohatu walked through Po-Koro's trading district, and through some back alleys to avoid heavier traffic. He quickly arrived at Hewkii's hut, which was fairly modest for someone who was considered by many to be the best Kolhii player on Mata Nui.

Pohatu opened the door, and walked inside. The hut was arranged in Spartan habit, with only a desk, cooking area, bed, a few cabinets, a closet, trophy case, and some chests resting against the wall. Some herbs rested near the cooking area. Copper masks, trophies of Kolhii victories, were mounted on the south wall. The room was lit by a lightstone that hung overhead.

Hewkii was lying on his bed, coughing terribly. "Pohatu!" he called hoarsely. "I'm sorry I'm not in better condition."

"It's okay. I stopped by to see how you were doing."

"I've been better," the Matoran said, laying his head back on a pillow.

Pohatu walked over to the desk. On it rested several items--none of which were native to Po-Koro. An Onu-Matoran forged silver-and-amethyst ring and several Ga-Wahi water flowers rested on it, partially dried from the arid weather of the desert. A framed sketch of a female Ga-Matoran and Hewkii standing close together rested among them.

"Someone you know?" Pohatu asked as he picked up and eyed the pictue.

Hewkii blushed slightly. "Yeah. Her name's Macku."

"Did you draw this yourself?"

"No, a Le-Matoran artist named Sanso was passing through while I was visiting her. He said he needed practice, so he sketched us. He then let me keep the picture."

"Huh," the Toa of Stone said.

Hewkii entered another coughing spell.

"How do you know her?"

Hewkii coughed again. "I am sick you know."

"Just making conversation," the Toa said. He then smiled and sarcastically ordered "The Toa of Stone commands you to talk casually with him."

Hewkii shook his head. "We're good friends. Played Kolhii a couple of times. And she taught me how to swim."

"What's this ring for?"

Hewkii sank into his sheets. "I'm thinking about proposing."

Pohatu decided to stay away from Hewkii's personal life. He set the picture down. "Well, I guess I should get to the real reason as to why I visited here. When did you get sick."

"About a week after you left to hunt for the Kanohi," Hewkii moaned.

"Anything happen around then?"

"Hmm, I played a couple of matches of Kolhii. Visited Hafu, and bought that..." Hewkii cursed. "Ahkmou."

"What?"

"That treacherous vermin. He's a trader. Was selling some new type of Kolhii ball called a 'comet'. He guaranteed that it would increase my playing ability tenfold. I got sick a day after I bought the thing."

"How do you think that these are the result of the infection?"

"Check it out," Hewkii said. He reached under his bed and retrieved a Kolhii ball and tossed it to Pohatu. The sphere gave off a black aura, and crimson lines crisscrossed its surface. Rust patches covered it. It was clearly shadow-infected.

"You bought this?" Pohatu said, putting the ball into his pack.

"It was supposed to help me play better," Hewkii said. "Turns out its just Ahkmou trying to get rid of the pros. Clever bast..."

Pohatu nodded. "Well, thank you. I'll confiscate this thing."

"Take it. I don't want the thing anymore."

Pohatu waved good-bye and left the hut. He walked towards the merchant district to have a 'chat' with Ahkmou.

When he arrived at the criminals stand, a blue and red armored Ta-Matoran was already giving Ahkmou a piece of his mind.

"What in Karzahni were you thinking?" the Ta-Matoran furiously asked. "Can't you tell that these Kolhii balls are-"

"Woah, settle down," Pohatu said. "Who are you, and why are you way out here, so far from Ta-Koro?"

The Ta-Matoran sighed. "I apologize, Toa Pohatu. I'm Takua, the Chronicler, designated writer of the island's history. I get bored in Ta-Koro often, so I head off to the other villages to see if they have any interesting stories."

"Hmm," Pohatu said. "Well, I appreciate you trying to help, but I'll take it from here. " Pohatu turned to the gray-masked Ahkmou and cleared his throat. "What in Karzahni were you thinking? Can't you tell that these Kolhii balls are infected?"

Ahkmou shrugged. "Hey, I'm just an innocent merchant trying to make his way in the world."

"Fat chance," Takua muttered. "You're the one who scammed that 'Tarakava-blood cure-all' last year in Ta-Koro. You're a no-good con artist, that's all."

"I prefer to call it ingenuity," Ahkmou said proudly. "And besides, I was hoping to win a competition or two."

Pohatu sighed. "Takua, could you please inform Turaga Onewa about this little ploy. Also, tell him to remove all of the 'comet balls' from all Po-Koro homes. They're causing the plague."

"Okay, Toa." Takua saluted, and ran off.

"Now, Ahkmou," Pohatu said, turning to the Matoran. "Why in Karzahni were you selling plague spreading Kolhii balls. I would think that that might cause some hurt to your reputation."

Ahkmou just stared at the Toa. "Like I said, I just wanted to get the pros out of the way so I could win a Kolhii competition for once. Just giving myself and the other amateurs a chance."

"By making them all violently ill?"

"Okay, perhaps I did make a deal with Makuta," Ahkmou said, a twisted smile appearing on his lips. "But I... I... I need to lie down."

Ahkmou turned around and began heading towards his home. Pohatu summoned a wall of stone around the Matoran with a single opening on the top.

"Not so fast," the Toa of Stone ordered. "You do realize that the sale of purposely defective goods violates the Trade Law made after the Time of War, right?"

Ahkmou faked a surprised expression. "Oh my, I seem to have overlooked that little fact."

"Yeah, right." Pohatu said. "I believe that you're due a visit to the courts." He sealed the stone container so that only air could enter. Using his power, he levitated the rock. "And I'll take you there myself."

Pohatu slowly paraded the makeshift stone prison all the way down the main street of Po-Koro. Eventually, he arrived at the main hall of Po-Koro, where, inside, the courtrooms stood.

He threw the stone vessel and it shattered. Ahkmou rolled out of the shards. Pohatu grabbed him by the base of his neck and marched him into the courtroom. The Toa finally deposited the criminal at the feet of two guards.

"I caught this man selling contaminated and defective goods in the main yard," the Toa of Stone informed them. "He infected a large portion of the Po-Koro population, as you probably know. I'd suggest a good long stretch of service in the quarries."

The guards nodded, and grabbed Ahkmou by the shoulders. The Matoran struggled, trying to escape their grasp. As they hauled him off, he yelled insults and curses at Pohatu.

Pohatu felt strange. He didn't want to do that, but it was the law. A rush of conflicting feelings hit him. He decided that it was for the best, and headed outside to aid the Turaga with the removal of the contaminated comet balls.

Chapter XI

Tahu and Gali walked along the jungle path that lead from Kini Nui to Ga-Koro. Gali wanted to swim, but Tahu refused, claiming that fire and water just didn't work well together.

"Well, according to the Turaga, we're supposed to," the Toa of Water claimed.

Tahu shook his head. "Just because the Turaga say we're supposed to work together doesn't mean we have to like it."

Gali laughed. "And why not?"

Tahu didn't have an answer. If he did, it would probably have been something along the lines of "because I don't like Kopaka."

"So," the Toa of Fire said, "how close is your village?"

"Not far," Gali responded. "We should be there in a few minutes."

Tahu nodded, and the two elemental warriors continued their walk to the village.

After about twenty minutes of trekking along the path, the Toa cleared the great jungle and set foot on a sandy beach. Further off, one could see the floating sea village of Ga-Koro resting on the waters of Naho bay. Small houses were built on a nearby beach.

Gali took in the sights of her home, but then began to look worried.

"Something's wrong," she said to Tahu. "Look, some of the walkways have been severed. And I know for a fact that some of the houses are missing."

Tahu had only been to Ga-Koro once, and only for a short while to inquire Turaga Nokama on the locations of Gali's masks.

"Are you sure? Perhaps there was just a storm?" the Toa of Fire theorized.

"No," Gali stated flatly. "Something is definitely wrong. I can feel it."

The two walked closer to the village, and eventually arrived on the outskirts of the beach homes that rested on the border of the main village.

A blue-clad Ga-Matoran ran towards them. She had wore a mask similar to Gali's, and had a satchel slung on her shoulder.

"Toa Gali!" the Matoran called. "Toa Gali!"

"What happened here, Hahli," the Toa of Water inquired the Matoran.

"Rahi attack," Hahli said, wringing her fingers. "It happened so fast, we barely had time to evacuate. Luckily, most of us made it out in time, but Nokama was trapped in one of the huts. She said they'd seal it off so that water wouldn't get in, but the air has to be getting stale by now."

"Was the Turaga with anyone else?" Tahu asked.

"Yes," Hahli answered. "The building she was in also held the village council, a few of the elders, and some of our government officials. If they die, I can't imagine..." She began to sob.

"We'll save them," Gali comforted.

"Wait, what kind of Rahi attacked?" Tahu asked sternly.

Hahli looked up. Her eyes filled with fear at the memory of the assault. "A Tarakava. As big as the mountain, and as black as night."

Tahu looked at Gali. She shook her head. Tarakava were big, but not that big.

"When was it last seen?" Gali inquired.

"About an hour ag-"

A massive roar erupted from the waters surrounding Ga-Koro.

"There it is again!" Hahli ran back to the village to warn the Matoran.

Tahu unsheathed his sword. Its red hot blade ignited into flame. Gali retrieved her two tools, which were fitted on her back: two hooks, made for climbing the slick cliffs of Ga-Wahi.

The pair ran to the village and stepped onto the causeway, which lead them to the wrecked town square. The ruins of fruit stands, market stalls, and discarded goods were scattered across the across the large, floating platform that this part of the village was built on.

"Do you see anything?" Gali asked.

Tahu stood behind her, his back facing hers. "Not yet," he said, scanning the waters."

The Toa didn't have to wait long, however. Within two seconds, the great beast burst from the ocean.

It was a Tarakava, but not like any either Toa had seen before. Its body was mottled black-brown, and its scaly hide gleamed poisonously in the sunlight. The claws on its fists were oversized, and made of an obsidian-colored material. On its snout was a pitted and rusted Kanohi Kakama that matched its hide exactly. The creature was under the sway of Makuta.

"Mata Nui!" Gali exclaimed. She raised her hooks above her head, and then leveled them in front of her, ejecting a blast of liquid at the monster.

The creature didn't even shrug as it charged the platform. Gali and Tahu leaped away as the infected Tarakava tore the wooden structure in two, and then it submerged. The gap left by the attack separated the two Toa.

"Gali, are you okay?" Tahu shouted from his side.

"I'm fine," she responded.

Tahu leapt from his side to hers, and stood at her back again.

"I really hate these things," Tahu muttered.

"You're telling me," Gali said.

The creature burst out of the water again, and roared violently. Tahu and Gali unleashed two streams of fire and water at the beast. It simply seemed angered by this attack, and charged once again.

Tahu switched from his usual Kanohi Hau to the Pakari, mask of strength. He then drew his free hand back and focused the mask's power into it. When the Rahi was close enough, Tahu unleashed a blow that rivaled the Tarkava's in bone-shattering ability. The Tarkava went airborne, and landed in the shallows near the beach.

Gali dived into the water. Tahu followed her along the causeway.

Meanwhile, the creature regained its bearings and readied itself for another attack. But this time, instead of assaulting the Toa, it turned towards Ga-Koro's shore village.

"Oh no you don't!" Tahu yelled.

He threw a bolt of fire at the creature, but to no avail. The beast hauled its serpentine body onto the shoreline, and slithered into the village. It thrashed around with its great fists and tail, destroying the houses of the inhabitants and refugees. Matoran ran screaming as their homes fell from the creature's attacks.

Gali flew out of the water, and landed gracefully on the beach. Tahu ran beside her. She wore an angry look on her mask.

"I've had enough," the Toa of Water exclaimed. She then raised her right hand and made a fist, which she pulled towards her body.

Tahu wondered what she was doing. But whatever it was, it was working. The Tarakava halted for a moment as a strange sensation overwhelmed it.

Tahu looked at Gali, who appeared to be concentrating extremely hard at the task she was attempting. Globules of water appeared from the Tarakava, and slowly floated towards the exasperating Toa of Water.

Tahu caught on. He began to heat the air around the beast, hoping to dry it.

The infected Tarakava screamed in rage as its body's water was slowly drained from it. The creature's hide began to wrinkle from the forced parching. It readied to charge, but was so weak from dehydration that it could barely even slither towards its attackers.

"Tahu..." Gali grunted exhaustedly, "get... the... mask..."

Tahu nodded and dropped his heat field around the Tarakava. By now, it was too weak and dry to mount any kind of counterattack. The beast collapsed as the Toa of Fire reached it.

Tahu looked at the gigantic water reptile's head, which was nearly as big as he was. He grabbed the infected Kanohi, which rested just in front of the crests over the beast's eyes. He slowly pried the mask off.

Gali slowly returned moisture to the nearly-dead Rahi. Slowly, the creature regained its strength. As the water entered its body, however, the black coloration began to fade, and was replaced with a deep blue-green.

Gali sighed and collapsed as the last drop of absorbed water left her. The Tarakava, now back to full strength--but no longer infected--rushed back to the safety of Naho bay.

Tahu sprinted back to Gali, who was lying motionless in the sand. He knelt down next to her.

"Gali..." he whispered.

The Toa of Water's eyes opened, and she looked at Tahu. "The Turaga..." she murmured.

Tahu suddenly remembered Nokama and the Ga-Koro officials trapped in the underwater hut. "I'll be back Gali," he said. "Just... stay alive. Please."

With that, he summoned his mask of water breathing, and, against his usual better judgment, waded into the bay.

While not as spiteful of water as Lewa, Tahu shared a dislike of the substance. Mostly because it made him feel weak, powerless. It was as if the water around him doused his internal fire as well. Were he to be attacked here, he'd have to rely on physical power only.

Tahu swam through the shallows and under the decimated Ga-Koro. Light was exceptional in the bay's clear waters, and he could see many varieties of coral, shallows fish, and Matoran debris that filled the area.

He spied the hut, which was made out wood that had been sealed with mortar and thatch. He made his way to it, and found a glass window that allowed him to see in.

Within the hut were several Ga-Matoran. Turaga Nokama rushed to the window, and looked at Tahu. Judging by her expression, she was wondering why it was not Gali who had come to their aid. The Turaga pointed upward. Tahu followed her gesture, and found that a rope was attached to the top of the hut.

The submersed Toa of Fire grabbed hold of the rope, and followed it to the surface. He broke through the water and discovered that it was attached to a pulley system that rested on a wooden platform that was built onto a large rock. He leaped onto the pulley's platform, and pulled a lever that should activate the apparatus. Nothing happened.

Tahu examined the machine, and cursed. An essential gear was missing from the machine. Without it, a current-powered wheel would not turn, and, likewise, the hut would not rise.

Tahu dove back into the water again, hoping to find the missing component. He rifled through the flotsam that littered the seafloor, but only found the remnants of old Matoran fishing materials and other items.

Tahu shook his head. He had to hurry, as the hut's air would be too stale to maintain the Matoran inside much longer.

He swam around, searching desperately for the object.

Come on! Tahu thought angrily.

He stopped as he saw something glint not far from the rock outcropping that the pulley was built on. He quickly neared the location, and found two Keras crabs fighting over something: the missing gear.

Tahu cursed. Keras were one of the most aggressive Rahi in the ocean. Even sharks would not attack the viscous, Toa-sized crabs. He scouted around them, trying to find a way to retrieve the gear without pushing the Rahi to attack.

Tahu then got an idea. He focused his power over heat into the water around him, slowly raising the temperature. Eventually, the water enveloping the crabs became boiling hot. The viscious crustaceans decided that being boiled alive was not worth their shiny metal find. They dropped the gear, and scurried away from the boiling zone.

Tahu quickly lowered the temperature and retrieved the gear. He swam as fast as he could to the pulley, and jumped onto its platform. He inserted the gear, and pulled the lever.

The apparatus began to creak as it slowly raised the council's hut to the surface. Within a minute, though, the hut broke the surface and its door opened.

Grateful Ga-Matoran surrounded Tahu, cheering him for his victory over the Tarakava, and saving them from asphyxiation.

Turaga Nokama finally emerged from the structure, and bowed at the Toa. "Thank you, Tahu" she said, "for saving us. Relations between fire and water have never been well, but we shall remember this service. Thank you, Toa."

Tahu nodded. "I don't deserve all the thanks, Gali-" he remembered where he left Gali. "Gali!" he exclaimed.

He rushed to where Gali laid. She was conscious though, and sitting up. Evidently, she, Hahli, and Macku had watched Tahu's efforts to save the Turaga and her council.

Tahu sat down next to Gali. "Are you okay?" he inquired.

She smiled. "I'm fine," she said. "Tired, but unharmed. I can't believe we took that thing on our own."

Tahu nodded. "But remember, it was you who took it down. I just removed the mask."

Gali shook her head. She looked out towards the western horizon. The sun had begun to set on the scene, and the ocean reflected its red-orange and violet glow into the night sky. The light then reverberated off of the clouds, creating a glorious scene.

"Thanks," she said. "For the help with the village, for saving Nokama..." "Gali, we're Toa," Tahu stated. "We're supposed to do this. You would have completed it much better instead of me."

"Oh, stop being so modest, Tahu," Gali quipped. "The fact is you did that. It's honorable to a great extent."

"Honorable..." Tahu gazed at the sunset. "That reminds me, I have to head back to Ta-Koro. I'm sure Vakama would like to hear about this." Tahu stood up and thought for a moment. "And, if you ever need anything, just send word."

Gali lifted herself from the sand. "I will."

"Hey, you might like Ta-Koro. It's got great farmland."

"But Ga-Wahi has the best scenery," Gali said. "Nokama said that the harvest moon is awe-inspiring."

"Then I'll have to see it some time," Tahu responded. The two stared at the sunset for a few moments. "Until we meet again, then?"

"Yes," Gali said. "I'll see you at Kini-Nui."

"Goodbye, Gali." Tahu switched to his Kakama and jetted off towards his home village.

Gali watched him depart, secretly hoping to see him like this again.

Chapter XII

Two days later...

The village of Le-Koro rests in the jungles of its hold, Le-Wahi. The town itself rests in the canopy of the great jungle, built on circular, timber platforms that encircle one, if not more, tree trunks. Ladders and rope-and-pulley elevators grant access to the village from the forest floor. Rope bridges span between each platform, allowing for quick transit between each area of the village. However, the more daring Matoran attempted to traverse areas using vines that hung down from the canopy.

Of course, Takua was not one to swing from vines. He safely traversed the span of Le-Koro. Light filtered through the leaves above as he walked towards the main square, site of a large concentration of meeting and marketplaces.

Under normal circumstances, the Ta-Matoran chronicler wouldn't come to Le-Koro, as he hated the jungle. Flies bit at ones skin, and the moist heat quickly sapped one's stamina. Coupled with clinging mud and hostile Rahi, Le-Wahi could count as one of the most inhospitable places on the island.

But he had a reason. While traversing between Po-Wahi and Ta-Wahi, he met an Onu-Matoran who informed him that the Turaga of Le-Koro, Matau, had been captured during a Rahi attack on the jungle village. Evidently, a swarm of Nui-Rama--giant, wasp-like Rahi--had taken the Turaga back to their hive deep within the forest. Lewa had gone to help as soon as he returned, but hadn't been seen since.

And, being a seeker of stories, this was a perfect time for Takua to pay a visit to the village of air.

He made it to the town square, and found a few Le-Matoran quietly dozing in hammocks strung far off the platform between tree branches.

"Have any of you seen Kongu?" Takua asked, hoping to find the leader of the Le-Koro air force and surrogate leader in case of emergency.

A lime and green armored Matoran named Tamaru peeked over from his hammock, which was closest to the ground (he was one of few Le-Matoran with acrophobia). "Yeah," he called down. "He's in the meeting-hut, waiting for update-news on the Nui-Rama situation."

Takua nodded. He never understood the Le-Matoran "treespeak", the convention of doubling up two synonymic words. "Thank you."

Tamaru returned to his dozing, and Takua began the short walk towards the large meeting house of Le-Koro.

The inside of the hut was wooden, and torches burned on sconces that held them far enough away from the wall to keep the house from burning. A large, rectangular dining table was situated in the center, and chairs lined either side of it.

However, instead of food spread across the table, there were only maps and sketches of the Nui Rama hive. At the far end, a teal-green Matoran--Kongu--poured over the diagrams.

"Kongu, I presume?" Takua said.

"Chronicler," the Le-Matoran said, waving him over. "You ever fly-ride before?"

"Not that I can recall," Takua said.

Kongu scowled. "Hear-listen," he said. "I'm going to need the aid-help of a scout on a fly-mission shortly. You history-write, correct?"

Takua nodded.

"Ever-good," Kongu said. "After this mission, I'm sure you'll have plenty to scribe-write."

"What do you mean?"

"We're going to rescue-save the Turaga," Kongu said condescendingly, as if Takua should know about this. "When a Toa-hero can't retrieve our leader-Turaga, then it's up to the traditional Air Force to pick up where he left off."

"And why are you taking me?"

Kogu smiled slightly. "Because you just happen to be here, and I have slots to fill."

Takua frowned. Flying was never a fantasy he had hoped to follow through on.

Kongu gathered his maps and put them into a backpack slung on his shoulder. "We'll saddle up the birds, then." Kongu shouted. He produced a trumpet from his pack, and when they had left the hut, blew it.

Le-Matoran Air Force members scrambled to retrieve their gear--mostly consisting of bows and arrows, armor, and light provisions in case they were downed in a fight. The Matoran then headed for a large, wooden platform that spanned easily four-hundred feet over a clearing--the air strip.

Kongu lead Takua to a large dome structure. Le-Matoran carrying luminescent crystals ran around, preparing to direct air traffic that was readying for takeoff.

Kongu signaled to another Matoran who stood on a platform on the dome. The Matoran nodded, and pulled a lever, which opened two great doors on the domes front face.

A great Rahi bird emerged, with black and purple feathers covering its body. It had large, red eyes and an orange beak. It spread its giant wings, which gave off a green, bioluminescent pulse. It let out a strange caw.

Kongu walked over to the bird, and signaled to another group of Matoran. They brought up a ladder and propped against the birds hide. Kongu crawled up the ladder, and took his position on a saddle that was mounted on the birds back.

"Ready, Takua?" he called down.

Takua looked astonished. "I'm not getting on that thing," he firmly stated.

Kongu shook his head. "I thought you liked getting great history-stories. What better help-aid can you get than experiencing them first hand?"

"I can't exactly write on the fly," Takua quipped.

"We have others to get off the ground," a Le-Matoran traffic controller yelled. "Kongu, take off now."

"Takua, get on. Now."

Takua, shaking wildly, slowly climbed the ladder and mounted the back seat of the Kahu bird's saddle. He swallowed the lump in his throat, and nodded at Kongu.

Kongu kicked the ladder away, and waved a signal to the traffic director, who in turn raised his yellow and green crystals. Kongu grabbed the reigns to his bird, and leaned down. The director lowered his crystals. The bird took a running start for takeoff. Takua began to scream.

The bird sped off the runway and into the sky, heading south towards the Nui-Rama wasp hive.

"Not so terrible-bad," Kongu said mockingly at Takua.

Takua clung to the saddle as hard as he could, and tried not to look at the jungle that stood one-thousand feet below them.

Two other birds joined formation with Kongu's at the lead. Each had a pilot reigning the bird, and a gunner with a bow and arrow. The archer scanned the horizon, taking note of any threat that appeared.

"There!" Kongu called. "About twenty miles off!"

Takua opened his eyes. Off in the distance, he could see the great, beveled structure of the Nui-Rama hive. It seemed like a beehive, but much greater in scale.

An archer on another bird began to yell. "Wasps!" he screamed, readying an arrow from his quiver.

"Form tight," Kongu yelled over the wind. "Archers!"

The other archer readied his bow as well. Takua didn't have one.

The great swarm of giant wasps entered range of the weapons. They fired.

Several of the wasps fell as arrows penetrated their carapaces. Other wasps scattered, trying to break the Matoran's formation. The Matoran fired more salvos of arrows at the hornets, trying to deter the beasts from the

"Break formation!" Kongu shouted. The other two birds dove left and right, taking most of the hornets with them. Kongu and Takua screamed ahead, speeding straight for the Nui-Rama hive.

The great, recess-covered, beige structure filled their view very quickly. Kongu searched for an entrance, and found one near the northern side. He dove the bird into the passageway, and they were lost in the hive's darkness.

The two Matoran and Kahu bird flew out of the tunnel and into the large central chamber, which was walled with smaller "rooms" in honeycomb pattern. Bioluminescent sludge (the excretions of the Nui-Rama) glowed a faint, sick yellow on the ground, eerily lighting the chamber.

Kongu landed the bird and hopped off. Takua silently followed him. The bird found an excretion-free spot and lied down to avoid being sighted.

"Where are the Nui-Rama?" Takua silently inquired.

"They're out prey-hunting," Kongu said. "They'll be back by sun's-down, though. We have to hurry."

"What about the others?"

"They can help-handle themselves," Kongu stated almost coldly. "Besides, those archers could hit a gnat's wing from two-hundred yards."

Takua didn't feel much better with Kongu's modesty. He looked around the chamber, trying to get a better view of the hexagonal cells that lined the walls. More glowing feces dropped from above. Takua squinted, and found that a horde of young, flightless Nui-Rama were holding onto the ceiling

"Takua!" Kongu called. "I've found Turaga Matau!"

Takua rushed over to where he assumed Kongu's voice came from, and tried to avoid the accumulated piles of Nui-Rama guano on the floor. He entered a chamber, and found Kongu, who was cutting the light-green armored Turaga down from the wall with a combat knife. Matau was melded into the wall with the saliva and chemical material that the great wasps excrete from their mouths.

Takua rushed to help. He aided Kongu, and the two eventually freed the trapped village leader, who then thanked them both.

"Kongu, we were always ever-brave," Matau said. "It was fool-hearted of you to come here, though. You risked yourself and the life of the Chronicler as well."

Kongu shook his head. "Then why don't you tell us that story-tale about you trying to aid-help the old Turaga when he was brought into the Ta-Koro prison-jail for death-dealing?"

Matau held up an arm, signaling Kongu to be quiet.

Takua looked around. "Wait," he began, "where's Toa Lewa?"

"Looking for someone?" a dark, raspy voice sounded. The sound of a being running in the shadows could be heard.

"Who's there?" Kongu called into the darkness.

A metal object dropped in front of the Air Commander's feet. He picked it up, eyed it for a second, and gasped.

It was Lewa's Miru.

"Thanks for coming," the voice taunted. "But I'm sorry to inform you that you won't be leaving any time soon."

A being dropped down from the hive's ceiling and landed outside the entrance to the room that contained the Matoran. Yellow eyes, the same color of Nui-Rama feces glowed behind a rusted mask. The being carried a war axe in one hand, and was clad in deep, emerald armor.

"Toa Lewa?" Kongu asked, frightened.

"Good guess," Lewa said. But his voice was not his. It was the same raspy tone of the one that had taunted them just moments ago. "But Lewa isn't home right now."

"Run!" Matau yelled. But there was nowhere to go.

Lewa, infected by Makuta's taint, charged.

The ground between the dark Toa and the villagers erupted. A column of dirt and mud spattered across the room, blinding everyone in it. When they wiped the mud from their eyes, Kongu, Takua, and Matau were astonished.

Onua, Toa of Earth, stood in front of them.

"Out of my way!" the dark Lewa ordered. Using the power of his infected mask, he leaped high into the air, raising his axe, bearing down on Onua.

Onua quickly switched to his Hau, mask of shielding, which deflected the dark Toa of Air's blow. He hit the ground a few feet away, and rose to his feet.

For a moment, Lewa's eyes returned to their normal, pale green color. "What's happening to me...?" he choked. "My body... not my own! MY MIND! GET OUT OF MY MIND!" He screamed, clenching his mask. His eyes returned to the sickly yellow.

He threw another axe blow at the Toa of Earth, who dodged it with ease. The two fought for a minute, Onua's claws against Lewa's axe. The eventually moved into the darker areas of the hive. Every now and then, a flash of sparks from the metal weapons' collisions illuminated the area in a flash of yellow. Clanging echoed across the hive.

Lewa landed a solid punch on Onua's midsection, throwing him into the hive wall. Onua looked up at the infected Toa of Air, and smiled. He switched to his Miru, and, rather than levitating himself, extended the mask's effects to the area around him. A cloud of rubble surrounded the Toa of Earth. He then gave a mental push to the cloud, and it sped towards Lewa.

The dark Toa dodged, or destroyed most of the rubble that reached him. But then, a rather large beetle that had been picked up in Onua's levitative area of effect slammed into the Toa of Air's face, knocking the Makuta tainted mask off his face and onto the floor. The rusted object disintegrated into a cloud of shadowy dust.

Lewa fell to the ground, and Onua let out an exhausted sigh. "Sorry about that, friend," Onua said, offering his hand to the maskless Toa of Air.

Lewa took his hand and pulled himself up. "I'm... sorry," he said sorrowfully. "I came to save-rescue the Turaga, and those wasps... they tied me down, and then... just darkness..."

Onua put his clawed hand on Lewa's shoulder. "Don't worry," he said, "you're back to normal now."

Kongu approached, holding Lewa's mask in his hands. "Toa, you'll most likely need this."

Lewa smiled and retrieved the mask from the Matoran. He pressed it to his head, and it melded with his organic face.

"Well," Matau announced. "I guess we should quick-leave before the Rama-swarm returns."

Kongu and Takua nodded. They found the Kahu bird, which was resting anxiously in a chamber in the cavern's wall. They, along with Matau, boarded the creature, and set off skyward. Lewa and Onua followed, using their masks of levitation. After exiting the wasps' nest, they headed back to Le-Koro.

---

"Le-Matoran do know how to throw a party!" Takua yelled, raising his ale glass in the air. Four more air force pilots, Kongu, Matau, Lewa, and Onua raised their glasses as well. They then downed the glasses.

"I'm sorry to say this Lewa," the Toa of Earth began, "but Onu-Koro meaderies know how to brew much better drink."

The Toa of Air smiled. "I hate to say this, but I agree with you!"

The two broke out laughing. The group of pilots began an old Le-Koran drinking song, and Kongu joined them. Every verse, they took another drink.

Takua laughed. Unlike Onu- or Le-Matoran, he couldn't hold too much drink. He retrieved his journal from his pack, and made sure that he had recorded the journey in full. Kongu's piloting skills, the Rama hive, Lewa's infection, Onua's rescue, and their escape. It was all there.

The Chronicler decided not to stay for the party, and headed off towards another platform. On a park bench there, he found a yellow-armored Matoran writing in a book of his own. The Matoran's silver mask was different than most Takua had seen, however. It had a pattern that seemed to resemble a humanoid with his arms and legs extended on it.

"A fellow writer?" Takua asked the Matoran.

"Yes, Chronicler," the Matoran said, not even looking up from his pen and paper. "But I write fiction."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"What are you writing now?"

The Matoran cocked his head. "Actually, I'm proof reading. This is the last novel in a series I've been working on for a while now."

"A series?"

"Yes."

"How many books?"

"Hmm, about seven now."

"Seven?" Takua said, shocked. "How are you getting these published."

The Matoran looked up from his work. "A publisher in Ko-Koro is working on it for me. He read the first one, and liked it. He wanted me to finish this one before the series is released."

"So what's this book titled."

The Matoran smiled. "Eternal Darkness," he said.

"Interesting title," Takua commented. "I'll have to read it when it comes out."

"All right then," the Matoran said. "Just go to any book store and look me up." He rose from his position, and put his book into a backpack. "Well, I'm off."

"Goodbye, umm..."

"Oh, right! The name's Varkanax. Again, look up my book!"

"I will. Goodbye, then, Varkanax."

"Good travels, chronicler."

The two Matoran parted on their ways.

Chapter XIII

Tahu watched from a tower as the Ta-Koro Legion marched on a parade ground below. Standing next to the Toa of Fire was Jaller, the yellow and crimson clad Matoran General of the Legion. He was very young for his position, and, at times, seemed almost too casual to be a military leader. But his knowledge of tactics was legendary, and he rarely ever lost a man when he first joined the military. Under his guidance, Ta-Koro rarely had trouble with Rahi attacks or caravan assaults.

Of course, he had his faults. It was rumored that the Ta-Matoran had a drinking problem. Nothing notable, but he would steel himself away from time to time to visit a bar or club where ale flowed. He often denied the reports and stated that it was spread by a lower-ranked officers who wanted to take his position. But they always turned out to be true. It's very hard to not recognize one of the most famous being in Ta-Koro.

Jaller barked commands at the men below, who followed them strictly. The Ta-Matoran legionnaires were clad in heavy armor, and carried both a spear and shield. Their heads were protected by a helmet, which had a large crest running across the middle from the front and tapering towards the back. The armor was colored black and gold, which shimmered in the red glow of Ta-Wahi's volcanic atmosphere.

Tahu's mind was elsewhere while the maneuvers took place. More specifically, Ga-Koro. He seemed to be having trouble getting the elegant Toa of Water out of his mind.

"All units, halt!" Jaller shouted towards the Legion's formations. The Ta-Matoran froze in place, but the sound of their boots marching still echoed off of the surrounding mountains. He turned to Tahu. "Well, what do you think?" he asked.

Tahu shook his head out of his daydream and examined the Legion. "You have one great military," Tahu said.

Jaller chuckled to himself. "And to think that this is just a remnant of the imperial military we once had."

"Imperial?" Tahu asked. "I didn't know Mata Nui ever was under control of any empires."

"Well, it wasn't," Jaller said. "But, about two millennium ago, Ta-Wahi was. An old Turaga named Tarius began to think that Ta-Wahi was too great a hold to participate in the old feudal system we once had. After inheriting the position of king from the Turaga before him, he conglomerated Ta-Wahi, and declared it a sovereign empire."

An astonished look came upon Tahu's face. "What happened after that?"

Jaller cocked his head from side to side. "Well, he began taking more fiefs, uh, land grants, from the other kingdoms. Eventually, a good chunk of Ga-Wahi and Le-Wahi also belonged to us. It was around then that he actually built the city of Ta-Koro, which became capital of the Inferno Empire, as he called it."

Soon, though, war broke out. The ice kingdoms soon performed the same action, and developed the Empire of Ice, which claimed what is now Ko-Wahi hold. They mounted an assault on us, creating the War of Fire and Ice."

Most records of that era were destroyed, so no one really knows much about what happened afterwards. All we know is that the hundreds of separate kingdoms and fiefs were soon conglomerated into the holds. Eventually, the two empires gave up their status, and began the elemental-hold system, which stands to this day."

"How long did the empire last?" Tahu inquired.

"About two generations, so five hundred years." Jaller responded. He turned back towards the Legion, which were still standing straight at attention. None had moved even an inch. "Dismissed!" the General yelled.

The Ta-Koro Legion broke ranks as they headed back to the village and their barracks. Tahu and Jaller descended the tower, and began the walk back to Ta-Koro.

While koro means "village" in an ancient Matoran language, many of the villages could amount to towns or cities. Ta-Koro was a metropolis. Built on an island in a lake of lava, the city of fire was impenetrable. Its walls towered fifty feet in the air, and were twelve feet thick. Inside were parade grounds, marketplaces, homes, galleries, museums, and the building that was once the imperial palace. The way in or out of the city was via a stone bridge that rested in the Lake of Lava. The bridge was made of a series of great stone columns, which, at a moment's notice, could be lowered back into the lake. Coupled with the Legion and the hostility of the surrounding environment, Ta-Koro had never once been invaded.

Tahu and Jaller walked across the bridge, and through the towns massive portcullis. They entered the city, whose buildings loomed like great monoliths above them.

"Well, I'm heading back to the barracks," Jaller said. "I have business to attend to. The recent influx of Rahi attacks is calling my attention." The Matoran bowed, and headed off.

Tahu, however, headed for the Imperial Palace, which now served as the living quarters for Vakama, the current Turaga. The building itself was actually rather small, and only had a total of twenty rooms. The Turaga, more often than not, could be found in the library, where he would study Matoran prophecy and legend, hoping to discern the future (or past), and interpret events.

Tahu entered the Palace, and strolled through the great marble halls. He admired the architecture, but ignored the statuary. The images of armor-lacking female Matoran did not amuse him.

The Toa of Fire eventually entered the library chamber. Bookshelves about a foot taller than Tahu were stacked with large tomes and scrolls. Ta-Koro's library often boasted about having the largest collection on the island, even though Ko-Koro's Tower of Thought was easily fifteen times as large.

He found the orange-clad Turaga reading from a mountain of books on a desk at the back of the library. Vakama was furiously researching... something.

"Slag," the Turaga said. "It's times like this when I really wish I had Nokama's mask of translation..."

Tahu moved in closer. "Turaga?"

Vakama jumped back. "Oh, Tahu. Don't sneak up on me like that. I don't need a heart attack at my age."

"Forgive me Turaga," Tahu said. He picked up one of the books on Vakama's desk, and eyed it. The cover was an ebony black with crimson trim. As the torchlight reflected off of it, a blood-red shine was given off. Across the front cover was one word scrawled in gold ink: Rahkshi.

"What's 'Rahkshi'?" Tahu inquired.

Vakama shrugged. "An old legend really. The word either means 'Demon of the Shadowed Night' or 'Sons of Darkness'. I'm not entirely sure. But the first translation seems accurate, because that's what they are, really. Demons. Creatures of immense power over destruction. The book states that they are the embodiments of physical and emotional pain."

Tahu set the book on the table. "Why were you looking up horrifying stuff like this?"

Vakama sighed. "Well, usually just to learn. But, being an old legend, and how many of the legends are recently coming true..."

"I highly doubt anything like this exists," Tahu said.

Vakama nodded. "Indeed. But, I must inquire. Why are you here? Shouldn't you be meeting with the other Toa to challenge Makuta. You do have all your masks, correct?"

Tahu nodded. "I do, Turaga. But we were hoping for advice on Makuta. We're going up against a god. We need all the help we can get."

"Hmm, let me see," Vakama got up from his chair and hobbled off, disappearing around a bookshelf. A few moments later, he then reappeared from another, carrying a large, purple and black book. "Here it is!" he exclaimed, setting the book on the table. "The Tome of Makuta."

Tahu took up the book, which felt wrong in his hands. He opened it. The book was hand-written, possibly by a madman judging by the script. He began to read.

Father of darkness, brother of light. Chaos' balance, reality's blight. That is Makuta. He is all. He sees all. He knows all. His domain is all. After Mata Nui's fall, the great god that is the Master of Shadows took his place as ruler of the earth, water, air, and sky. But he is not just shadow. Makuta is power. He's strength, and dominance. But most of all, he is the Void.

The book descended into a blaze of gibberish that was impossible to read coherently. Tahu closed the book.

"This offers no help!" the Toa of Fire exclaimed.

Vakama shook his head. "I'm sorry, but there's not much on the Makuta. It's hard to gain knowledge on a being that drives those who experience his presence insane. That's the only tome that is legible."

Tahu let out an angry sigh. "Sorry, Turaga. Well, I thank you for your time. I'm going to get some sleep."

"You're welcome, Tahu," the Turaga said, bowing. "And remember, walk in the light."

Tahu left the room.

"Safely, in the light..."

___________________________________________


Tahu ran, leaping over great rifts in the ground. Oily, black shadows loomed around him as he sprinted across the grey, ash-covered terrain. Behind him, large, insectoid beings chased. They had blazing blue eyes and visible organs on their heads that resembled brains.

Tahu noticed something to his left. Onua and Pohatu stood, as if they were watching the events. Tahu rushed over to them. He put his hand on the Toa of Earth's shoulder, who promptly disintegrated into a cloud of dust. Pohatu also collapsed.

Tahu stepped back, into a puddle of .. something. He looked down, and found a pool of blood with Lewa's mask resting in it. Tahu leaped back. He wanted to scream, but nothing came out.

Tahu ran more, hoping to escape his fellow Toa's corpses. He tripped over something, and found the dead body of Kopaka. A wound induced by a spear pierced through the Toa of Ice's chest. His eyes were still glowing slightly, even though the Toa was clearly dead.

Tahu turned around. He could see the creatures bearing down on him. He ran forward, but stopped suddenly.

Gali stood in front of him. She was frozen in place, but seemed to be calling out to the Toa of Fire. Tahu tried to run towards her, but couldn't, as his feet refused to move.

A being arose from behind the Toa of Water, and a glowing, red hot weapon stabbed through her midsection.

"No!" Tahu screamed allowed. His feet unfroze, and he ran towards her. Gali fell into his arms. He wanted to do something, but what? He had no knowledge of medicine.

Then, Gali began to melt. Slowly at first, but then she passed through Tahu's hands. Tahu gasped, and stood up.

A noise caused him to turn around. A great being stood in front of him, clad in blood-red armor. Its helmet concealed a serpentine head. Orange, reptillian eyes glared at the Toa of Fire. The creature retrieved a spear, and stabbed it through Tahu.

Tahu felt his midsection open, and air rushed into the wound as the creature removed its weapon. Tahu fell to his knees, still looking at the monster. It smiled, and hissed out a word that the Toa of Fire was all too familiar with now: Makuta.

Tahu woke up. Beads of sweat formed along his skin. He wanted to scream, but refrained from it. He looked at his hands, which were still material.

Just a dream, he thought. Like so many of the dreams he had before awaking on Mata Nui's beach, it was a terrible nightmare.

Tahu got out of his bed and walked down the halls. So shaken was he that he failed to notice the being leaning on the column that stood beyond his room.

"Tahu!"

Tahu jumped and looked at the being. It was Kopaka, propped up against the pillar in a casual position.

"We're supposed to meet at Kini Nui today, correct?" the Toa of Ice inquired.

Tahu nodded. "Yes."

"Good. I've taken the liberty of notifying the others already. They'll be there shortly."

Kopaka was surprised that his action was met with gratitude.

"Thank you, Kopaka," Tahu said. "I'll be there shortly..."

Kopaka nodded, and switched to his Kanohi Kakama. The Toa of Ice disappeared through the exit doorway.

A Matoran approached Tahu. "Toa Tahu," he said.

Tahu turned around, and found Takua standing next to him. "Yes, Chronicler."

"I was wondering if I could accompany you to Kini Nui? I record history, as you know, and I'm definitely going to record the fight with Makuta."

Tahu sighed. "You can come along, but you can't witness the fight. You'd probably become collateral damage."

"But-"

Tahu shot Takua a glare.

"Yes, Tahu," he resigned.

"Good. Then let's depart. We have a great deal of work to do."

Chapter XIV

Tahu and Takua made their way along the path to Kini Nui, the Great Temple that rested near the exact center of the island (the true center lay within the extinct Mangai volcano). Along the way, Takua made many inquiries about the Toa, ranging from their personalities to favorite drinks and past times.

Tahu tried to keep his temper as low as possible while dealing with the Matoran, who had begun to annoy him. The two passed through the Charred Forest, a large wood that covered a great portion of Ta-Wahi’s land. Once a beautiful, lush, green forest like those on the rest of the island, it was now a burnt husk, as a lava flow had wiped the original forest out ages ago. What few trees left after the flows decimation caught fire, and all their leaves burnt off and their bark was seared black. But, a strange force preserved the trees, and left them as a petrified reminder of what Ta-Wahi once was.

The two then left the forest, and entered the Great Ash Wastes, which was not an apt name at all. The “Wastes” were in fact dotted with Ta-Matoran farm steads. The soil of the Great Ash Wastes was the most fertile on Mata Nui, and was perfect for growing vegetables like beans and corn, and grains like wheat.

Farmers scurried to and fro across the plains, bringing with them equipment for harvesting the year’s wheat crop. Some stopped and bowed at the Toa. Tahu didn’t enjoy the reverence, however, as it made him feel too superior to the Matoran. He was not a god. Just a being imbued with power; nothing more than a Matoran that could heat his food without having to build a fire…

The two eventually left the Great Ash Waste and entered into a grassland that rimmed the Mangai Volcano. The black mountain raised high into the air, and cast a shadow over a portion of Ta-Wahi. Tahu contemplated the edifice. He felt that there was something terrible lurking at the mountain’s roots.

After yet another hour or so of travel, the pair arrived at Kini Nui. The rest of the Toa had already assembled, and waited around the central shrine. Pohatu, Lewa, and Kopaka were all propped up against the temple’s spires, and seemed to be dosing.

Tahu walked up the steps of the temple, and nodded to his fellow Toa. He then shot a smile at Gali. She returned it, and then quickly turned her gaze away from him, probably trying to avoid suspicion. Tahu laughed on the inside.

Pohatu stood up from his leaning position and turned towards Tahu. “Well, are we ready to face the Master of Shadows once and for all?”

Not once, and certainly not for all… a voice chimed in Tahu’s mind.

Lewa jumped up excitedly. “I’m sure-ready,” the Toa of Air said, readying his axe. “Let’s show the shadow-master what we Toa can do!” With that, Lewa summoned a gust that rushed around the temple and blew skyward, carrying a slight amount of dust with it.

Kopaka looked at the emerald-clad Toa and nodded. “For once, I agree with you Lewa. We should deal with the Makuta before he decides to wipe us out.”

“Agreed,” Gali said.

Tahu was about to agree with the rest of them when Onua spoke up.

“Wait just a moment,” the Toa of Earth said, holding up his clawed index finger. “What if Makuta sends Rahi after us? My Turaga says that the entry to Makuta’s lair is below the central shrine. If we are attacked in a tunnel, our odds of making it to him are greatly decreased.”

Tahu put his hand to his chin. “You have a point. If we don’t have some sort of defense against Rahi, we’ll be fighting a two-fronted battle between the god and his pets…”

“What if we quick-seal off the entrance?” Lewa suggested.

“No good,” Onua countered, “unless you wish to be sealed down there forever.”

“I have an idea!” Takua said, catching the Toa’s attention. All six turned towards the red-and-blue clad Matoran. “What if I gathered a group of Matoran to hold off any Rahi that try and attack you from behind?”

“Could you hold this area?” Gali asked in a worried tone. She hated any situation that put Matoran in jeopardy.

Takua nodded. “If you remember, we’ve fended off Rahi invasions for millennia before you arrived. I think a few of us could hold the temple while you take on their master.”

“How long would it take to ready a group?” Tahu inquired. “We need to set off as soon as we can.”

“Give me until tomorrow morning,” the Ta-Matoran said. “I can get at least six of us together by then.

“Then off with you!” the Toa of Fire commanded. “And good luck!”

The Chronicler bowed, and ran down a path that lead to an Onu-Koro tunnel.

“What if he’s not back by morning?” Kopaka asked in his usual, cold voice.

“Trust me,” Tahu responded, “he’ll be back. Ta-Matoran always keep their word.”

“I’d hope so,” the Toa of Ice said, turning in the direction of his Koro.

“Worried?” Tahu asked.

“No. I’m content knowing that I may not be alive in the next few days,” Kopaka said. “It’s the Matoran I leave that I’m concerned about.”

Tahu shook his head. “Listen, Kopaka there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

Kopaka raised an eyebrow, the only one his mask allowed. “And what would that be?”

“If ‘I die,” Tahu said.

Kopaka sighed. “Tahu, I highly doubt you’ll be the one to perish on this mission.”

“But if I do,” the Toa of Fire continued, “I want you to replace me as leader of our group.”

An astonished look overwhelmed Kopaka’s features. “Why me?” he asked. “What can I do for us? I’m no better than you!”

Tahu let out a long, drawn out sigh. “Because you can make tough decisions quickly. Because you can keep calm under the harshest of circumstances. And because I know how much you care for the team, even if you try to mask it.”

Kopaka looked skyward, and pondered what Tahu had said. He then turned back to the Toa of Fire. “I am honored to accept the position of surrogate commander,” he said. “But, personally, I never want to fill it.”

Tahu bumped his fist with Kopaka, and said, “For my sake, I’m glad you don’t.”

The Toa of Ice cracked a smile.

_______________________________________

Hours passed as the Toa waited for Takua to return with his own group of defenders. Many found their ways of passing the time.

Onua and Pohatu discussed their travels while searching for the masks, and their adventures afterwards. The conversation eventually devolved into a rating of which was better: watching Kolhii or drinking Onu-Matoran mead and ale.

In the meantime, Lewa practiced a backflip. He vaulted into the air, and spun while retrieving his axe. He landed on the ground in a fighting position with his axe ready. He practiced it over and over as the hours passed, and eventually perfected the motion. He then added the power of his Miru to it, and began performing higher and higher vaults. Finally, he jumped, flipped and spun, retrieved his axe, and landed on a spire. He laughed, and jumped down, landing softly on his feet.

Gali had traveled down to a nearby lake, and was enjoying the cool, relaxing water. Her thoughts wandered to the Toa, and what they might face when they reached Makuta. Eventually, however, her thoughts turned to the Toa of Fire, and how she might feel if he didn’t make it. What would he feel if she didn’t make it? Questions she might never have the answer to…

Back at the temple, Tahu contemplated the shrine, under which the tunnel leading to Makuta’s lair descended. He ran his fingers along the altar’s smooth surface, and contemplated the temple itself. He walked over to a spire, and leaned against it, trying to figure out how to open the seal.

The spire behind him rumbled, making Tahu jolt away from it. He turned in time to see an ovular slot appear in the stone edifice’s surface. The slot opened, and revealed a carving of a Toa’s face. The carving moved forward, and replaced the area where the cover had once been. All five of the other spires responded in a similar fashion, each revealing a carving.

Tahu eyed the sculpture in front of him. All the carvings were similar in design, and this one in particular caught his eye. The slant of the chin, the slightly wide jaw…

It was his face.

Tahu called for the other Toa, who gathered at the temple and eyed the stone carvings that now stood on the spires. Each of them found their effigies, and then began to inquire Tahu.

“What do you think this means?” Onua asked. A sign? A warning?”

Lewa admired his carving. “Whoever etched-carved these was good, but not good enough!” he boasted.

Gali looked at the carving of herself. She ran her fingers along the face’s edge, and then along her mask. While the other Toa argued, she did something she never thought she would do.

She removed her mask, which carried the essences of her other Kanohi with it.

Tahu saw the gesture. “Gali!” he called.

The Toa of Water didn’t listen, and placed her mask on the carving. The mask turned to liquid and disappeared into the stone.”

“Gali!” Tahu yelled. “You just destroyed your mask!”

Gali let out a short laugh and shook her head. “No I haven’t,” she claimed.

A moment later, a new mask appeared. It was her default mask, a sapphire-colored Kaukau, mask of water breathing. But something had changed. The mask gave off a golden aura, and, as sunlight reflected along its surface, gave off a golden hue.

Onua eyed the phenomena for a moment, and then placed his mask on the corresponding carving. Within moments, an gold-glowing ebony Parkari appeared on the effigy. Onua removed the mask, and placed it back on his face, feeling it mingle with his skin.

Then, energy surged into him. More power than his original mask had. “I can feel it!” he exclaimed. “These golden Kanohi... they have the power of all six masks!”

Each of the Toa stared at Onua for a minute, and then placed their masks on their carvings. Each received a gold-auraed Kanohi.

The Toa of Earth turned to Gali. “How did you know that this would happen?”

Gali smiled. “It was something Turaga Nokama said. ‘Like you, your masks shall fight as one.’ I didn’t think she meant literally until now.”

Tahu smiled as he placed his new Kanohi on his face. He admired Gali for many things, and her wisdom and cleverness definitely topped the list.

Night came a little while after the Toa retrieved their new masks. The stars began to peek out from the blue sky as it faded to the blackness of light. Some of the Toa made beds in the grass, and others contemplated the night’s shadow.

Tahu, however, found Gali, who was standing on a cliff edge that provided a clear view of the ocean and stars. Gali was eyeing the scene, which amazed her.

“Nice location,” Tahu said, walking up next to the Toa of Water.

Gali nodded. “I know. I like the stars especially,” she said, looking up. She pointed at a group of stars that were nearly overhead. “Do you see that group? They form a constellation that represents us. The Toa.”

Tahu looked up. Sure enough, there was a group of six stars arranged in a distinct pattern. Even more astounding was that each star burned the color of a single Toa. Tahu smiled.

Gali turned back towards the ground. “I did have something I wanted to talk about,” she said, wringing her hands.

“What is it,” Tahu asked.

“What if we don’t make it back?”

That was the question on all the Toa’s minds.

“We’ll make it back, Gali,” Tahu said, but a whisp of uncertainty rendered the comment void.

“But what if one of us doesn’t?” Gali said. “What if ‘’you’’ don’t make it?”

“Then I don’t make it,” Tahu said, looking back at the stars that hovered above the horizon.

Gali shook her head. “And what will you have to show for it? What can you say that you’ve experienced in your life. We’ve only been here such a short time!”

Tahu sighed. “Well, I can say I’ve seen the Ta-Koro legion practice maneuvers. I can say that I’ve fought beasts controlled by an angry god. I can say that I’ve watched a Toa of Air destroy fruit stands that evidently had offended him in some way.”

Gali let out a laugh, looking back at the ocean.

Tahu decided that he should tell her what he thought of her now, while he still could. He mustered all the courage he had in him, as feelings weren’t something he liked to exhibit.

He placed a hand on Gali’s shoulder. She turned back to him.

“And I can say that I fell in love.”

Gali looked at Tahu for a moment, trying to figure out if what he said was true. The two stared at each other for a long moment. Gali then looked down at her feet, and whispered “I… I love you too.”

Tahu smiled, and put his arm around Gali. If this was the last moment he’d get to spend privately with her, this is how he wanted it to be…

___________________________________________


Morning broke on the island of Mata Nui, and the sun’s first rays awoke the Toa. Well, the sun, among other things. Takua had arrived with a group of five other Matoran: Hafu, a Po-Matoran carver; Tamaru, a Le-Matoran archer and pilot; Macku, a Ga-Matoran fisherwoman; and Kopeke, a Ko-Matoran guard; and Taipu, an Onu-Matoran blacksmith.

“This is it?” Tahu asked, looking at the small group.

Takua nodded. “They may not look like much, but they can hold their own against much greater odds.”

Kopeke walked up next to him and agreed. “We’re Matoran,” he said. “We know how to fight.”

The Toa nodded.

“Mata Nui bless you, then,” Pohatu said.

Hafu bowed. “I’ll be honored to carve monuments to you after your return, Toa.”

“And our headstones if we don’t,” Lewa quipped.

The Toa glared at him.

“That’s me!” the Toa of Air announced. “Always ever-cheerful!”

Tahu sighed. “Then now we strike at Maktua! Once and for all!”

Again, the voice appeared in his head. ’’You know that’s not true…’’

The Toa approached the shrine at the temple’s center. Tahu raised his sword above his head. “Makuta, we’re coming in!” he shouted.

But before he could bring the weapon down to shatter the altar, it slid apart into two halves. An opening was revealed, and inside was a darkness that avoided description. It appeared that it radiated in waves, like heat.

Then, the world around them boomed with a voice. The voice of Makuta himself greeted them.

“I welcome you, then, Toa.”

Tahu stepped back, and looked at Gali. He then turned defiantly towards the tunnel, and took the first step in.

Chapter XV

Darkness. Unimaginable darkness. The tunnel was filled with it. The pure blackness that suffocated one as they walked, that threatened to crush one with every step. Worse yet, the darkness encroached on one’s very soul, and seemed to break any notion of hope or victory that the Toa felt.

The only light that the Toa could follow was provided by Tahu’s glowing blade, which currently functioned as a makeshift torch.

It had been easily twenty minutes since the last ray of light from the surface had vanished in the darkness. Tahu felt strange in the tunnel. He eyed his flickering sword, which only lit the tiniest portion of the tunnel. He could barely make out his fellow Toa’s faces.

Except Gali’s. He had made sure to stay near her and save her from any danger that presented itself. Nothing would happen to her.

Tahu looked behind him and was able to make out the faint outline of the rest of the Toa. They all walked forward, filled with resolute. Except Onua. Rather than paying attention to what lay ahead (as if any could see it), the Toa of Earth was eyeing the tunnel walls. He ran one of his fingers along the surface of the stone, and a strange expression came across his face.

“Onua,” Tahu called. “What’s wrong?”

The Toa of Earth did not take his eyes off the wall. “The entire tunnel is,” he said worrisomely. “I’ve seen dozens of tunnel makes during my time on Mata Nui, and I know for a fact that no machine, shovel, or pick can carve a tunnel this smooth.”

“What are you suggesting?” Kopaka asked as he began his own observation of the walls.

“Simple,” Onua stated. “This place is not Matoran made.”

Tahu’s sword dimmed slightly, and the pressure in the tunnel heightened. Makuta then spoke. “Of course it’s not!” he exclaimed. “Why would I inhabit such mortal filth? I live in lairs fit for kings, not peasants like ’’you’’!”

Tahu felt rage build up in him. “Yes! You hide like a Kinloka rat, and then cower, hoping that ‘peasants’ like us don’t reach you!”

The darkness around them pulsed with Makuta’s speech. “Hide? Kings do not hide, Tahu. They wait for the enemy to reach them. Then the enemy has proved itself worthy, and can thus engage in combat with the king himself. I fear, however, that you shall never reach me.”

“And how do you think-know that?” Lewa asked in an insulting tone. “What if we have some more trick-traps that you don’t know about.”

The darkness retreated from Tahu’s blade slightly, but then returned. “You? Surprise me? I suppose you have no idea who you are truly dealing with!”

“We know full well, Makuta!” Gali shouted.

“So you know that I am every shadow, every bit of shade on this island? That I alone defeated Mata Nui in combat? That I have seen ages and eras pass like grains of sand in a simple hourglass? That I can see into your hearts?”

The last question seemed to pierce into the Toa harder than any weapon.

“I know every dark thought you have,” Makuta continued. “Every shadowy impulse, every foul notion that went through your head. Fools! I do not control simple, physical darkness like the Matoran have had you believe! I am darkness! The shadow that sits in your very soul! The one you shall never be rid of, no matter what you would believe!”

“For instance, I have broken into Lewa’s mind, and seen his thoughts about a certain female that is now amongst you!”

The Toa turned to Lewa.

“I have pierced into Tahu’s heart and seen similar thoughts there as well!”

Gali glared at Tahu.

“Gali…” Tahu whispered, shaking his head.

Makuta continued. “I have witnessed the emotional stirring within Kopaka, who I have found to be one of the darkest of you all! I have seen Gali’s thoughts on Tahu!”

Now it was Tahu’s turn to glare at the Toa of Water.

“Even the ones who appear pure and virtuous are covered in shadowy filth as well!” the Master of Shadows shouted. “Onua constantly philosophizes about death and destruction, and has once contemplated what would happen if he brought down Onu-Koro’s pillars!”

“Onua?” Gali asked.

Onua shook his head. “I… I was just think about structural integrity… I wouldn’t actually do it!”

“Or would you?” Makuta boomed. “And Pohatu! You think yourself everyone’s friend! Do you happen to know why? It is because you feel insecure and alone! That you are unlovable, no matter what you try to do!”


Pohatu put a hand on his face.

Tahu had heard enough of the Dark Lord’s spouting. “In the name of Mata Nui, shut up!” he screamed.

If Makuta’s expression was visible, he would have been smiling. “But, I can sense the light amongst you. Your… ‘’virtues’’… So, I will give you a chance to prove yourself to me, so that you can face me in combat.”

Lewa looked defiantly into the darkness, and yelled “And what would you have us do?”

“Defeat my guards!” Makuta boomed. “If you can, then you are worthy to ‘’die’’ in my presence!”

The shadow around Tahu’s blade retreated, and the pressure eased.

Tahu looked around. Some of the Toa stared deeper into the tunnel defiantly. Others, like Pohatu and Gali, sobbed. Kopaka simply stood with his eyes closed, letting out heavy sighs. Tahu could see that a barely contained rage was appearing under the Toa of Ice’s usual cold collectiveness.

Tahu approached Gali, who was on her knees at the moment. Tahu couldn’t tell if she was praying or crying at the moment.

He placed a hand on her shoulder. “Gali, I’m sorry…”

She looked up at him, her yellow eyes staring into his. “I know,” she said quietly. “And I am too.”

Tahu swallowed and stood up. Gali rose quickly after him.

“Toa!” Tahu called out. None of them responded. ‘’Okay, that didn’t work,’’ he thought. “Guys!”

The Toa raised their heads and looked at him.

“I guess now we have some idea of what Makuta is capable of,” the Toa of Fire said. “But remember, it is our destiny to defeat him. He may not act afraid, but he ‘’is’’ afraid. I know we’re all shaken about his revelations of our most secret of thoughts, but if you wallow in your shame, then he’s wielded them correctly as a weapon. And that is what he wants!

“So do you wish to give Makuta the advantage, or will you stand and fight against him?”

The Toa all sat silent for a moment. Then, Pohatu stepped forward.

“I’m ready,” he said, cracking his knuckles.

Onua stepped forward next, and nodded.

Gali looked at Tahu and raised her head and smiled.

Lewa backflipped. “I’m ready too!” he yelled.

Kopaka walked forward, and snapped his fingers in his armored hands. “Let’s kill the bastard,” he said coldly.

Tahu raised his sword, and the Toa cheered. And then, they fell.

Tahu never remembered leaving the floor in the cavern, but he felt like he had. He spun end over end in a freefall spiral in darkness. He then hit the ground. Hard.

The Toa of Fire got up and shook his head. He grudgingly looked around. Instead of the dark tunnel they were in before, this dome-shaped cavern was lit with a faint, dark, sickly green light. The circular floor of the cave made the Toa of Fire feel like he was in some sort of arena.

“Where are we,” Lewa groaned, shaking his head side to side.

“Another cavern,” Onua stated. “With no way in or out. Not even above. Makuta sent us here.”

Gali, Kopaka, and Pohatu rejoined the group.

“What just happened?” the Toa of Stone demanded.

“We were teleported,” Gali observed. “But for what purpose?”

Tahu reexamined the arena-like architecture of the cavern. Then, he began to realize the exact purpose of the cave.

“This must be where we face his guards!” he exclaimed.

Not even a moment after the sentence left his mouth, a great, circular door opened on the far side of the “arena”. The noise of clinking chitin and grinding teeth could be heard echoing from it. Suddenly, two great Rahi beasts emerged from the entrance. They were crabs, but unlike the small Ussal or Keras, these creatures were ‘’massive’’. Each one was easily height of a Toa, and the span between their arms was great. Their gigantic pincers could quite easily grasp an unlucky Toa.

“What in Karzahni are those?” Tahu shouted.

“Manas!” Gali shouted. “My Turaga told me about these! They’re extremely powerful, and can quickly dispatch an unlucky being with ease. Their name is the old Matoran word for Monster! She said that no Toa could possibly defeat them alone!”

Tahu readied his sword. “Toa!” he called. “Form a circle, and ready your weapons! Let’s take these beasts out!”

The Toa quickly entered a circular formation. The gigantic crabs then walked around them, looking for a weak spot.

Then, one of them lunged and grabbed Pohatu. The Toa of Stone yelled, and then summoned his mask of strength. Gathering all the might the Kanohi could muster, he slowly pried the crustacean’s claw apart. He rejoined the Toa.

“I don’t think this will work, Tahu!” he yelled.

Tahu frowned and tried to formulate another plan. “Okay, how about this?” he began. “We take them on in threes. Gali, Lewa, and Kopaka will attack one, and Onua, Pohatu and myself shall take the other. Got it?”

The Toa nodded.

“On the count of three then! One, two—“

The other crab grasped Tahu in its claw and held the Toa high in the air, considering him for a meal.

“Three!” the Toa of Fire shouted. The Toa broke the circle and surrounded their respective crabs.

Tahu summoned his power of heat and quickly raised his body temperature to a point that would melt nearly any creature. The chitinous claw of the Manas began to soften, and it hissed in pain. Tahu worked his way out of the molten area of the crab claw and landed between Onua and Pohatu.

“All right,” he said. “Any ideas?”

“I thought that was your job?” Pohatu shouted. The crab swiped its pincer and threw the Toa of Stone across the room.

“Okay, beast,” Onua said flatly. “Let’s brawl!” The Toa of Earth raised his hands above his head and then slammed them into the ground. The floor shook, and a fault appeared underneath the Manas. Suddenly, an explosion of Earth hit the creature and sent it skyward. It hit the dome, and then fell back to the floor, landing with a solid ‘’thud’’.

The creature lay stunned for a moment, but then lifted its bulk off the cave floor and growled.

“Come on!” Pohatu yelled. “Do these things know how to give up?”

Across the cave, Gali, Lewa, and Kopaka had succeeded in freezing the creature to the floor, but its massive claws made it impossible for any of them from landing a final blow.

“Kopaka!” Gali called. “Circle around and see if you can—“

The creature wailed and slammed its fists on the ground, throwing the Toa off their feet. The creature than lifted its legs out of the ice and was free to move again.

“Oh, so happy-great,” Lewa muttered. “Now what do we do.”

Gali sent a burst of water at the creature. The blast hit the Manas, and threw it against the wall. Kopaka froze the water solid, encasing the creature in a thick mold of ice.

“That should hold it a little while,” he said.

In response, the Manas kicked its legs through the ice and began to flail. Eventually, the creature’s movement’s compromised the substance’s integrity, and it was free again.

Kopaka’s eyes widened. “Never mind!” he shouted.

Gali looked at the Toa of Air. “Lewa, I have an idea! Let’s see what happens when we force two elements together on this creature!”

Lewa nodded and raised his axe. Elemental Air energy flew forth from it. Gali fired a burst of Water energy from her hooks, which intercepted Lewa’s stream. The resulting combination quickly formed a thick haze of clouds in the cavern. Then, rain fell, and lightning lanced across the cave. A bolt hit the beast, stunning it.

The Toa cheered, but their happiness was short-lived. The creature’s eyes opened, and it let out a rageful roar.

“Okay,” Kopaka said. “What’s plan B?”

_______________________________

Back above on the island’s surface, Takua and his group, which had nicknamed themselves “The Chronicler’s Company”, sat waiting. The sounds of the Toa had long since disappeared into the tunnel, and they wondered whether or not they’d ever see the heroes again.

Kopeke sat atop the altar, sharpening the spear he had brought with him. The spear was given to him by Turaga Nuju. It had been used in countless counterattacks against the Rahi, and the Turaga felt that the weapon was much needed at the battle, due to its history of luck against the beasts.

Tamaru sat in a tree with a crossbow that he kept with him. The Le-Matoran, while afraid of heights, had been designated as a watchman to keep an eye out for Rahi. He scanned the treetops, looking for signs of any attack force.

Macku had only brought a fishing spear with her. Nothing special about it, but it could be useful against any creature that threatened the temple’s entrance.

Taipu had brought along a multitude of Onu-Koro forged weapons, including several swords for the Matoran in case they’d need spare weapons. Taipu had forged many of them himself, and wanted to see his work be used first hand in the field of battle.

With him, Hafu had retrieved his carving tools. Every Matoran wondered why one would bring tools of creation to battle, but Hafu had the answer. “What I use to make, I can always use to unmake,” the Po-Matoran had boasted.

Takua simply had a bow and a quiver of arrows on him. He been given the items by Kongu while he visited Le-Koro prior to returning to Kini-Nui. He watched the jungle, and readied himself psychologically for battle. He used multiple tactics he’d learned while doing his mandatory service in the legion, one of them being imagining himself dead, with nothing to fear at all.

‘’Yes,’’ Takua thought. ‘’Nothing to fear…’’

Tamaru leaped and nearly fell out of the tree. He turned back to the group and yelled “Incoming! Rahi! Hundreds of them!”

The Matoran readied their weapons and stared into the jungle. Eventually, the sound of legs with four to eight feet was heard, and buzzing wings soon joined them.

The first beast to emerge was a Nui Jaga, a gigantic scorpion native to Po-Wahi. The creature roared and charged the temple grounds. Takua loosed two arrows, which punctured its hide. The scorpion growled and ran even harder.

Kopeke leaped and landed on the creature’s back. He readied his spear and stabbed the monster’s chitinous exoskeleton multiple times. The scorpion screeched in rage and tried to stab the Ko-Matoran with its stinger tail. But, Kopeke was nimble and dodged every last blow. All the scorpion succeeded in was stabbing itself to death.

Kopeke hopped off the creature’s back and smiled. “Easy enough,” he gloated.

A swarm of Nui Rama appeared over the hills, and two great Kanae-Ra bulls appeared from the bush, nostrils flaring. Five Nui-Jaga followed, and a growling Muaka cat leapt over them all, and slowly prowled around the Matoran.

Takua heaved out a sigh. “All right,” he said, “let’s do this.”

_____________________________

Meanwhile, back in the caverns of Mangaia, the Toa had circled up once more. The Manas hissed and waved their claws at the Toa, but they were able to fend the beasts off.

“Any ideas, fearless leader?” Lewa asked insultingly.

Tahu thought for a moment. Every individual attack they made at the Manas had been waved off by the beasts like a bite from a gnat. Not a single attack had been effective against the massive crabs’ onslaught.

Except for Gali and Lewa’s combination attack, which had stunned the beasts.

‘’”No Toa can hope to defeat them alone,”’’ Gali’s words echoed in his head.

“I do,” the Toa of Fire said. “Separate into the same groups we had earlier, and surround them! Then, simultaneously unleash your elemental powers on the monsters!”

The Toa nodded, and once again broke their circular formation. It took a few minutes of fighting, but eventually, both groups were able to surround their prey.

“Now!” Gali shouted.

The Toa blasted each crab with their elements. Tahu, Onua, and Pohatu’s powers became a ball of magma that slammed into the crab, which covered the creature and knocked it against the wall. The molten rock and earth slowly oozed off the creature, revealing an intact, but unconscious Manas.

Kopaka, Gali, and Lewa’s powers had merged into a violent rain and hailstorm, which quickly pelted the beast into submission. Hail welted the massive crab’s exoskeleton, and chilling winds and rain slowly shoved it into an unconscious darkness.

With both Manas unconscious, the Toa collapsed victorious.

“Very nice,” Makuta’s voice boomed. Ethereal gates appeared around the Manas, and drew the creatures’ into their darkness and back to wherever they came from. “But, it’s not over yet,” the Master of Shadows said. “Begin round two!”

The same door that the Manas had appeared from opened again, and from it, six beings emerged. They were humanoid in shape, and were about the size and shape of the Toa. They each wore masks, and carried weapons similar to the Toa.

No, not similar to the Toa. Exactly the same.

“Brace yourselves!” Makuta exclaimed. “Because you’re about to face yourselves.” He then chuckled and added, “You have no idea how many ages I’ve waited to say that.”

The dark facsimiles of the Toa hissed and charged. The Toa readied themselves for another round of combat with Makuta’s creatures.

_______________________________

The Chronicler’s company had fought against overwhelming odds, and won. Around them, lifeless bodies of multiple raw were strewn. The beasts had been waging makeshift war against them, and they had all fallen to spear, sword, or arrow.

The Matoran sat on the temple’s stairs, heaving exhaustedly after a long fight.

“I guess,” Taipu breathed, “I guess that’s it.”

Macku sighed. “It can’t be,” she heaved. “The Toa aren’t back yet.”

Of course, she was right. More noise emerged from the jungle, and another swarm of Nui Rama appeared. This time, though, the force was much larger, and with them they brought great Nui Kopen, wasps that were easily twice the size of a standard Nui Rama. The beasts served as commanders within the insects’ hives.

Oversized Nui Jaga emerged from the underbrush and waved their pincers in the air, threatening the Matoran. More Kanae-Ra and Muaka also emerged. A swarm of other creatures that Takua had never seen before also followed.

Taipu looked at the Chronicler with horrified eyes. “I guess we won’t be going back home,” he said mournfully.

Takua lowered his head, and then glared at the Rahi. All of the beasts hissed and growled. They readied a charge.

Then, the sound of a horn bellowed across the valley that contained Kini Nui. Across the ridge of a mountain, appeared an awe-inspiring sight.

A company from the Ta-Koro Legion, led by Jaller, appeared over the ridge. They were fully armed and armored, and they stood at attention.

A trumpet sounded, and the Le-Koro Air Force emerged above the forest, and circled above the Legion.

Finally, the sound of war drums boomed across the basin, and the Onu-Koro Ussalry, a military force made up of Ussal Crab riders, joined with the Legion.

Jaller saluted Takua and called down to him. “Need any help?” the general asked.

Takua smiled. “Give them all you’ve got,” he yelled back.

Now Jaller smiled. He raised his arm, and then quickly lowered it. “Charge!”

The Air Force engaged with the Nui Rama and Nui Kopen swarm, downing hundreds of the insects with arrows. The Legion and Ussalry charged the land Rahi, spears and swords ready, and attacked. The forces of Matoran and Makuta what many hoped to be their final clash.

Chapter XVI

“Tahu! Look out!” Gali called.

Tahu ducked just in time to evade the smoke-billowing blade of his attacker. The being, who greatly resembled Tahu, wore a blackened mass, and looked like a charred hulk after the passing of a forest fire or lava flow.

“Come on!” it hissed angrily at the Toa of Fire. “Fight me like a true warrior, you ‘’whelp’’!”

Tahu felt anger build up within him. He blasted the ground beneath the attacker with flames. The dark Toa smiled, and waded through the fire unscathed. “Pitiful,” it spat.

Now Tahu was beyond enraged. He mustered as much power as he could, and threw a stream of fire at the rock below the attacker. It melted into a pool of lava. But the dark Toa leaped away before the substance had fully converted, and smiled at Tahu from the other side.

“You amuse me, Toa of Warmth,” the thing laughed. It jumped into and ‘’surfed’’ across the lava, smiling the whole way.

Onua shouted at Tahu while dealing with his own attacker. “Tahu! Make sure you don’t roast us as well!”

The dark Toa brought its sword against Tahu’s own. “Come on,” it said. “Give into the hate that I know froths within you! Let your fire consume me and all around you!”

Tahu fought the creature off, and gasped. This thing was wielding Tahu’s own anger against him?

‘’Clever…’’ Tahu thought. He looked around at his fellow Toa, who were all fighting their own dark effigies.

Gali faced off against a being that was a mirror image of her. Except in the way of color. Instead of Gali’s serene, ocean blues, the shadow creature was the color of a muddy-black oil slick.

The two fought with their hooks, which, at first glance, appeared to be exact replicas. However, further examination showed that the shadow Toa’s were much more sharp and wicked looking than Gali’s own.

Gali blocked another one of the creature’s blows. “Who in Karzahni are you?” the Toa of Water shouted at her attacker.

“Ooh, vulgarity!” the creature chided. “That’s not like us!”

“Like us? What do you mean?”

The being smiled as it repelled one of Gali’s swings. “Gali? Wise and all-knowing can’t understand one simple fact? Gali, I ‘’am’’ you!”

Gali’s eyes widened and she swung her hooks at the monster once again. She then mustered enough power to send a flood at the monster…

Pohatu dodged a flurry of rocky debris that his shadow-self had fired at him. He then yelped and leaped out of the way of a flood that had been fired by Gali.

“Watch it, Gali!” he yelled at her. “I’m fighting as well!”

The creature he was fighting jumped and landed a blow square in Pohatu’s chest, throwing him across the room. Pohatu impacted into the far wall, and rose up from it. He grunted.

The shadow Toa cracked its knuckles as it walked over to him. “So much for your pathetic little team of yours,” it said in a tone that sounded like grating gravel. “And to think you called them friends!”

“I still do!” Pohatu yelled. The Toa of Stone sent a flurry of sharpened rock at the shadow Toa.

The projectiles passed straight through his dark effigy, but Onua was not so lucky. The Toa of Earth shouted as a mass of sharp stones landed on his back. “What in Karzahni was that, Pohatu!” he yelled, deflecting the claws of his attacker.

At another end of the room, Lewa fought his own attacker. The being’s armor was the color of dead or diseased foliage, and it gave off the smell of recent defecation. It swung its axe at Lewa, who quickly dodged the weapon.

“Friend,” the creature hissed like one of the jungle’s pit vipers, “surely you know of Makuta’s power. You’ve experienced it firsthand!”

Lewa was taken back as he remembered his incident with the infected Kanohi. So much power. So much dominating power. Something that Lewa could use right now…

“Listen,” his dark self said. “If you join with us, then we can defeat your pathetic allies, and you will have all the power your frail form can hold.”

Lewa landed another blow against the creature’s axe.

“I would quick-think about that,” Lewa said, mustering his elemental power. “Because I think I already have enough power.”

The Toa of Air unleashed a hurricane in the cavern, which lifted all the Toa and their facsimiles off the ground and into the air. They spun around in the winds until Lewa regained himself and called off the stormy onslaught.

All twelve beings hit the ground. But the shadow Toa were on their feet much faster than the originals.

Kopaka looked up and glared at his opponent, who was the color of snow after a battle: liquid crimson mixed with the purest white. He charged the thing, who met his sword with its own. As their swords clashed, Kopaka sent his elemental power through the blade and into his foe, who froze solid.

Kopaka was ready to call it a job well done, when the creature began to laugh. The ice that encased it was slowly absorbed into the thing’s body.

“Oh so calm Toa of Ice,” the dark being said in an insulting tone, “don’t you realize that only your rage can defeat me?”

Kopaka yelled, and charged the monster again.

Gali deflected another blow from her attacker, and switched to her Kanohi Hau. She then used its force-field power to push her opponent away. After succeeding the feat, which momentarily stunned her attacker, she sprinted towards Tahu. The Toa of Fire had recently succeed in stalling his opponent by punching it into a wall with the mask of strength.

“Tahu,” Gali called.

“What is it?” he asked, heaving out an angered sigh.

Gali breathed heavily. “Don’t you realize that we can’t hope to beat our own selves? They’re using our own psychological faults and elemental powers against us!”

Tahu flared his nostrils. “Then what do you suggest we do?”

Gali was about to begin her sentence, but was cut short. Her dark self used its hooks to slash at her back. Gali fell to the ground.

“So much for her,” the creature chuckled.

Tahu felt anger rise up within him. He let to white-hot jets of flames blast the dark Gali. Instead of simply taking the hit, the creature began to screech. Its body began to evaporate as the fire enveloped its form. Eventually, nothing was left of the shadow Toa except a wisp of steam.

Tahu watched as the remnants of the creature disappeared into the air, and formulated an idea. “Lewa!” he called. “Stop fighting your shadow and create a typhoon around Onua’s opponent.

Lewa clanged his axe against his attacker’s and shouted back, “This isn’t the best time! I’m a little busy at the moment!”

“Just do it!”

Lewa repelled the monster’s weapon and conjured a tornado around the shadow Onua. The being screamed in hate as it turned to dust and was swept away by the winds. Eventually, not even a grain of the creature was left to fight.

Lewa smiled for a moment, and then remembered his own attacker. He turned just in time to deflect the blow of its axe. “Tahu!” Lewa called. “Could you help me out a bit?”

Instead, Onua responded to Lewa’s request, and created a wall of Earth above the shadow Lewa. He then dropped the load, suffocating the creature.

The real Lewa jumped onto the pile and dug in to confirm the casualty, but was unable to find a sign of the creature’s body. “He’s done!” he called out.

Tahu summoned a shield around him and Gali and knelt down by the Toa of Water.

“Gali, are you okay?” he whispered. He ran is finger along the gash on Gali’s back.

Gali coughed. “I… I… I hope so,” she coughed out.

Tahu wished he could help, but his power could not heal wounds. But he and the other Toa needed her help, now more than ever.

“Can you at least muster your power?” Tahu asked. “We figured out how to defeat the shadow Toa, but only your power will work against Pohatu’s foe.”

“I’ll… I’ll try,” she said. Gali then begrudgingly mustered another flood, which impacted Pohatu’s foe.

The shadow Toa wailed as it was caught in the flood. Eventually, the being was weathered away into nothing but a swarm of harmless pebbles.

“Thanks, Gali!” the Toa of Stone called out. He then saw the shadow Tahu ready an ambush blow against the true Tahu. He conjured up a boulder, and threw it at the shadow being. While it didn’t injure it, the attack certainly caught the shadow Toa’s attention. The being charged Pohatu, who was helpless against a fire attack.

A blast of ice froze the shadow Toa of Fire solid. The being, was caught in a running position, and it fell into the pool of lava Tahu had created earlier, melting it into oblivion.

Pohatu turned towards the Toa of Ice, who had fired the blast. He was still engaged in combat with his shadowy foe. Pohatu smiled, and conjured up another boulder, and threw it at the shadow Kopaka.

The last of the dark Toa turned just in time to scream as the boulder hit it. The thing shattered into thousands of shards. Each shard, however, gained its own intelligence, and began to form their own bodies. Kopaka backed up as the army of tiny warriors advanced on him.

Luckily, Tahu watched the scene, and ran over. He stabbed his sword into the micro-army, and superheated the air around them. Each ice-shard soldier quickly evaporated into nothing.

Kopaka looked at Tahu and smiled. “Thanks. I owe you one.”

Tahu didn’t listen and ran back over to Gali. She was still on the ground, wincing from the pain of her wound.

Tahu shook his head, and picked up the injured Toa of Water.

“Tahu…” she moaned. “Just leave me, please. Come back for me if you win.”

Tahu held back a tear and shook his head. “We need you Gali. Especially against Makuta. Unity, remember?”

Gali smiled painfully. “Then I’ll fight as best I can.” A new resolution appeared in Gali’s eyes. “Put me down.”

Tahu set Gali onto the ground. She stumbled on her feet, but could still walk.

Makuta’s voice interrupted all their thoughts. “Alright then!” he boomed through the arena. “You’ve defeated by guardians! I suppose this shows that you might just have the strength to face off against me. Enter!”

The door that all of Makuta’s guardians had entered through opened. Nothing emerged, and the entrance seemed to beckon the Toa to enter.

Tahu nodded to his friends, and they slowly passed through the doorway.

Chapter XVII

The room the Toa entered next was a long hall, built similar to a dining and throne room that castles sometimes had. It was light by torches that were few and far between, and by another source that hovered far above the center of the room.

Tahu was horrified by what he saw. Hovering in the air was a mass of the organic and inorganic parts of the Matoran anatomy.

Tahu looked about the room, which was empty save for the swirling mass above their heads. No doors, no windows, no furniture. Just torches burning on their sconces.

The Toa of Fire raised his sword into the air. “We have come, Makuta!” he yelled.

“Good,” Makuta responded. “For I have been waiting.”

Another door at the far end of the room opened, and out of the entrance walked something none of the Toa expected: a Matoran. Rusted and pitted, but still a Matoran.

Lewa looked astounded. “’’You’re’’ Makuta?”

“Indeed I am,” the Matoran responded, smiling wickedly behind a battered and rusted Kanohi Hau.

Tahu stuttered. “But you’re a—“

Makuta laughed. “I am that which you have sworn to protect.”

Kopaka bumped Tahu. “You know it’s a trick, Tahu,” he whispered. “We have to destroy him!”

“Destroy me?” Makuta asked as if he had been insulted. “You cannot destroy me. No more than you can destroy the sea, or the wind, or the void.”

“You are like the sea?” Gali inquired fiercely. “The sea bears life!” she then shouted. “The sea bore us!”

“I bore you, for I am nothing,” Makuta stated darkly. “And out of nothing you came, and into nothing you shall go.

“I stand by Mata Nui, side by side. I am his brother. The people of this world are builders, but look into their hearts, and you will find the power to destroy. I am that power. I am destruction.

“And I will destroy you.”

“Destroy us?” Pohatu laughed. “You’re nothing but a Matoran!”

Makuta leaned back and smiled. “Were you expecting something else?” he asked. “Something like THIS!”

A tentacle of shadow came out of the swirling mass of Matoran anatomy and slammed into Makuta. All of his Matoran body dissolved except for the Kanohi Hau, which was lifted high into the air.

Tendrils of shadow energy flew everywhere, threatening all of the Toa.

Tahu jumped from side to side, dodging each tendril. He used his sword to slice one of the tentacles in half, but it only reformed with another tendril.

He looked over at Gali, who was dodging the appendages as best she could. But the injury on her back was threatening to leave her to the tendrils.

Tahu jumped over to the Toa of Water and threw up a shield with his Kanohi Hau.

“Tahu, I’m fine, really,” Gali claimed.

“I’ll believe that once you stop limping,” Tahu said, focusing his entire will into the shield.

Gali admired Tahu’s chivalry, but she could very easily hold off the onslaught if she tried.

Further off, Onua threw up a shield to deflect a tendril that was sent after him. The tentacle slammed into the Hau’s protective case and dispersed, but another tendril entered the mask’s vulnerable spot and landed a blow on Onua, knocking him off his feet.

Pohatu dodged shadow coils left and right. His mask of speed gave him the advantage, and his high-speed evasions made it impossible for Makuta to land a decent hit.

Lewa used his Miru to dodge Makuta’s attacks. At first, it seemed to be going well, but the Master of Shadows’ efforts had become increasingly tougher. He eventually smashed the Toa of Air into the ground.

Kopaka threw up ice barriers to deflect the tendrils. While energy consuming, they proved effective enough to keep Makuta’s shadows at bay.

The Dark Lord, seeing as how his original stratagem was not working, forced his shadow appendages back into his central mass, which reduced to a sphere of pure shadow energy.

Tahu glared at Makuta, who seemed to be building up power.

“Toa!” he called. “We have to fight together, or else we have no hope of defeating him! Now, together! Hit him with all you’ve got!”

Tahu sent a stream of fire energy from his sword at Makuta’s central mass. The fire intermingled with the shadow, and the god began to laugh.

Gali painfully readied her weapons and released a jet of water at Makuta’s form. The water, too, entered the mass that made up the Dark Lord.

Kopaka and Lewa both fired torrents of their elements into the beings mass. Makuta’s laughter stopped as their powers entered his being.

Onua and Pohatu added their powers to the mix. Stone and Earth both filled the mass of swirling shadow too.

Then, a hideous sound emerged from the island. It pierced into the Toa’s skulls and their very hearts. It was the unmistakable sound of a creature in pain. Makuta was screaming in pain.

“Keep it up!” Gali called. “We’re beating him!”

Makuta’s form began to shrink in on itself. The Dark Lord realized that he had underestimated his foes, and that this manifestation of himself was not enough to overwhelm them.

“ENOUGH!” Makuta yelled. Six massive tendrils emerged from his form. All of them smashed into the Toa, and pinned them against the hall’s partitions.

“Fine, Toa. This time, you win. As I told your fiery little leader, this would not be the last time we face each other. Now, out of honor, I’m obligated to grant you a request within my power. What shall it be?

Tahu looked at the other Toa, who were all weary from battle. He looked at Gali, and gasped. She was unconscious.

Tahu decided that he would request what they had fought for all along.

“You will retreat from this universe!” Tahu shouted at the Master of Shadows. “And you’ll never return. You shall never harm the Matoran again!”

Makuta laughed. “I did say ‘in my power,’ didn’t I?” he asked patronizingly. “That is not in my power. I can only promise a year of peace. A peace from my power, and only a year. After that time has passed, I will return with more power than you can imagine.”

Tahu looked at the unconscious form of Gali, of the friend he loved. “Fine!” he agreed. “One year of peace! No less!”

“Then it is settled, my worthy opponents,” Makuta chided. “Then back to the mortal realm with you!”

Tahu’s vision blurred, and the world around him disappeared. He felt as if he were falling…

Chapter XVIII

Jaller watched in wonder as the Rahi turned and dispersed back into the jungle. Even more astonishing was the fact that their infected Kanohi disappeared into clouds of rust.

“They’ve done it!” Onepu, leader of the Ussalry, shouted. “The Toa have defeated Makuta!”

Jaller looked around him. Matoran dropped their weapons and cheered.

A gleam of light appeared from the temple. Finally, the blaze faded away. The split altar had reformed itself, and six Toa, in gleaming, polished armor, stood.

“The Toa!” Takua shouted. Every last Matoran bowed at their return.

________________________

Gali watched as all the Matoran around the temple fell to their knees. She felt triumphant, and then realized that she could feel at all.

Gali put her hand on her back, and discovered that the gash from her battle with the shadow Toa had disappeared.

I guess Makuta has a sense of honor after all, she thought.

Tahu looked at the Matoran as well. “Yes, my friends,” he announced, “we have returned. But we bring a warning: Makuta is still alive. We have won us a year of peace for rebuilding, but too few of the prophecies are complete to bring about the Dark Lord’s death! So bring this message to your villages. Prepare for anything!”

The Matoran arose. “Yes, Tahu!” Jaller called from somewhere in the crowd. “I’ll inform Turaga Vakama immediately. Legion, mount up!”

The Matoran began to depart the temple area, except for Takua, who rushed up to Toa Gali.

“Toa Gali,” he exclaimed, bowing low in front of her.

“Takua,” she said.

Takua arose. “I was hoping that you could relate to me what happened down there. Everything! Every battle, every wound, every enemy. That way, I can put it down in the histories of our island.”

Gali nodded. “I will,” she approved. “But, right now, I have other matters to attend to.”

“I understand Toa.” Takua bowed, and then ran off.

Gali watched Takua depart, and then turned back towards the Toa, who were cheering wildly. Lewa was performing flips and energetically celebrating their victory.

Gali found Tahu, and approached him. He had his back turned to her, so she put her hand on his shoulder.

Tahu turned around, and looked into her eyes. Gali didn’t wait for a response. She pressed her lips to his.

The other Toa all stood silent for a moment.

Pohatu laughed. “Would you look at that,” he exclaimed as he watched the two embrace. “Who would’ve thought that fire and water would work together like this?”

Gali and Tahu smiled at each other.

“Harvest moon’s coming soon, right?” Tahu asked.

Gali let out a quiet laugh. “Yes it is.”

“Then I’ll be in Ga-Koro soon,” Tahu finished, letting her go.

“I’ll be expecting you,” Gali said, heading off in the direction of her village.

Tahu turned to the other Toa, who were staring at him.

“What?” he asked.

The Toa all began to laugh loudly. Tahu joined them. Makuta was gone, for now.

In the meantime, they could rejoice. A break in darkness that had not relented in eons had finally come to pass.

Book Two: The Swarm War

Chapter XIX

One year after the defeat of Makuta…

A tremor erupted from the depths of the island of Mata Nui. It was too weak to be felt by the surface, but it rocked the ancient caverns below to the core. But this was no normal tremor caused by tectonic upheaval. It was a message, carried along by the vibrations of the groundquake.

The tremor reached its intended destination: a great cavern, resting far below the hold of Po-Wahi. It awoke two massive beings, one clad in blue, the other, in red.

Both of the reptilian beings rose from the ground. They looked around, their scaly, immortal bodies creaking from a slumber spanning eons.

“It is time!” they yelled in unison. “To cleanse the surface of the blight! To end of the threat of Mata Nui’s light!”

The creatures then screeched loudly, bearing a message to their “children”. Six chambers beyond the creatures’ own began to hum with life.

The adjacent chambers contained large, spherical structures, each studded with large, circular reliefs that were made of a thin, organic membrane. Beneath each membrane rested a body, curled into a sphere. The creatures within had not awoken since their creation.

But, as soon as the two “dragons’” message reached them, they began to stir. The screech had awoken the Swarm.

Of course, the Swarm, heard a different message. Not a screech, but a simple, seven-word phrase.

Clean it all. It must be cleaned.

The large, spherical nests’ reliefs exploded as the Swarm emerged, readying themselves for war.

The two great dragons that lead the army screeched and poetically sang chants of oncoming victory as the Swarm began its march through the tunnels to the surface. The Matoran would now see Makuta’s might. And now, they would pay for their peaceful year.

Chapter XX

Tahu awoke with a start. Beads of sweat oozed down the side of his face. He could feel the salted remains of tears on his cheeks.

The Toa of Fire clutched his chest, making sure he was still material. Still alive.

He scanned the room. Its stone ceiling and walls were the same as they were when he had fallen asleep. No creatures were peering in through the window, just rays of moonlight that peeked through the clouds over Ta-Koro. No blood splattered the walls, just shadows cast by the moonbeams.

He then turned over and looked at his nightstand. The sketch of Gali still rested on it. She was okay. Not a melted puddle resting somewhere on Mata Nui.

Tahu put his feet on the floor and arose from his bed.

Just another nightmare, he thought to himself. The Toa of Fire paced the floor for a few moments, thinking about the terror he had just experienced.

It had been a year since he had had a dream such as this.

Tahu stopped and his eyes widened. One year, he thought, horrified. My peace ends with Makuta’s.

He rushed out from his room and into the halls of the old Imperial Palace. He walked into an old carving room, where the effigies of ancient heroes rested as memorials to their deeds.

To his surprise, Tahu found Turaga Vakama in the room. The Turaga’s staff was resting against the wall, and he himself was sitting in a chair. A mounted magnifier was set in front of him, and he was at work carving gemstones.

Tahu approached the Turaga. “Turaga,” he began.

Vakama jumped, dropping his gemstone and throwing the magnifier off the table. Luckily, it did not break.

“Tahu!” he exclaimed. “Don’t do that! The last thing I need at my age is a heart attack!”

“I’m sorry, wise one,” Tahu said, holding his palm to his head. “But I am glad I found you. I have something I wish to discuss with you.”

Vakama reset the magnifier, and began to work on the gemstone again. “More nightmares?” he asked, carefully carving edges into a shining ruby.

Tahu stepped back astonished. “How did you know?”

Vakama sighed. “You were screaming,” he stated flatly.

“I was screaming?”

“Yes, you were.”

Tahu sighed. He was pitiful.

“I was wondering,” Vakama started to ask, “what are these nightmares about. They must be powerful, as they can break you in your own sleep.”

Tahu shrugged. “Death,” he whispered. “Destruction. Pain. All that I fear.”

Vakama shook his head. “When I was a Matoran, I used to have visions. These were possibly granted by Mata Nui, or I was as the others said: a ‘crosswired freak’. But some of these visions proved to be all to true. Please, give me details. Perhaps I can possibly discern some form of prophecy from these terrors you have.”

Tahu didn’t want to talk about this, but what Vakama asked, he would receive. “Fine,” Tahu said. “I’m… I’m running from some insectoid creatures. They have narrow, glowing eyes and clear skulls. The carry shields of some type, and act intensely hostile.

“Then, I find the Toa. They’re all dead in horribly gruesome ways. Some turned to ash, some stark dead, and others just remains in pools of blood. Only Gali is left. One of those things is approaching her from behind. It try to save her, but I can’t move. Then, the creature stabs a white-hot shield into her. After she falls, I can move again.

“When I take her into my arms, she melts.” Tahu prevented a tear from leaving his eye. “And then, another creature appears. It’s tall—much taller than me. The thing is carrying a spear, which he slays me with.”

Vakama turned from his project and stroked the long chin of his Kanohi. He then closed his eyes and thought.

“Turaga?” Tahu asked.

“These dreams are premonitions,” the Turaga said, not opening his eyes. He was in a state of deep thought. “From Makuta, judging by the fear they induce, but I can discern parts of it.

“The creatures you see, they’re a force you’ll encounter. Possibly soon. They are a threat that will bring you and your fellow Toa to your limits. Your unity and duty shall all be tested.

“But the last spear-wielding one. It represents a darker threat in the future. Something that will shatter all of you, not long before your final fight with Makuta.

Tahu said. “And my death? Will this come to pass as well?”

Vakama remained silent.

“Turaga?” Tahu beckoned angrily.

Vakama let out a long, deep sigh. “Not just yours,” Vakama said. “All of you will fall.”

“What should I do, then?” Tahu asked, sitting down.

The Turaga opened his eyes and looked at Tahu. “You’ll have to be strong, and try not to remain too attached to the Toa.”

“What?” Tahu inquired angrily.

“Especially with Gali,” Vakama continued. “I know how you feel about her, but the legends state nothing of your bond.”

“What of the legends?” Tahu shouted. “Are we to live exactly by what they dictate?”

“I don’t know, but this coupling between you two could cause tension that could break you, making your nightmares truer than they are now!”

Tahu stood up and walked to the window. He gazed at the Lava Lake, and then shut his eyes. “Are we not free?” he asked quietly.

Vakama did not answer.

Tahu shot an angered glare at the Turaga, and then quickly stormed out of the room.

“Tahu!” Vakama called, grabbing his staff and following the Toa. “Where are you going?”

Tahu grabbed a cloak off the wall and put it over his armor. “I’m going to Ga-Koro,” he said coldly. The Toa then called upon one of his mask’s multiple powers, and sped out the door.

Vakama put his weight on his staff, watched the Toa depart, and sighed. The Toa of Fire was stubborn, and his stubbornness could ruin the Toa in more ways than they knew how.

Chapter XXI

Pohatu and Onua were walking through the plains of Po-Wahi. The two had been hiking the desert on patrol, as it had been a full year since Makuta’s “defeat”. If they found anything, they’d have to immediately report to Tahu and gather the others.

But, in true Onu and Po-Koran spirit, the two were debating about sports and drink.

“Okay,” Pohatu said, “I’ll agree that Onu-Koro brews the best mead, as I know this from personal experience. But Kolhii is much better than any drink.”

Onua let out a deep laugh. “Then you, my friend, have never truly drunk good, earth-brewed mead!”

The two walked through the hold’s sandy plains and rocky outcroppings. They continued the debate, which slowly began to delve into the depths of choices of women within their villages.

Luckily (depending on how one views luck), their debate was cut short.

“What’s that?” Onua inquired, cutting Pohatu’s opinion of Ga-Koro short.

“What’s what?” Pohatu asked.

Onua stood there silently. “That sound. It seems like… marching…”

Pohatu put his ear to the wind. Over the hot, desert winds, he could make out the distant noise of boots marching. Hundreds of armored, metallic boots. An army was on the move.

“How can that be?” the Toa of Stone inquired. “The Ta-Koro Legion isn’t doing any parades. And if they were, they’d stick to the roads.”

“I know,” Onua responded. “That’s why I’m worried.”

Onua switched to his Kanohi’s speed ability, and ran over the ridge ahead of them. Pohatu followed as well, but he didn’t have to go far, as Onua had stopped atop another nearby ridge.

Pohatu paused alongside the Toa of Earth. The sound of marching was deafening. Pohatu looked in the direction of Onua’s gaze, and was astonished.

Below the ridge’s sheer edge was an army. One much larger than the Legion, or any Matoran army in existence. Thousands of tan, metallic, insectoid centurions marched, chattering like great locusts as they moved. Towering over the “standard” soldiers were several great colossi, moving slowly over the army’s bulk.

“What in Karzahni are those?” Pohatu asked.

Onua just stared at the army. “I don’t know…” he whispered.

The army entered a field of rocks that impeded their progress. The colossi let out a terrifying screech, signaling that they could not move through the boulders.

The smaller creatures responded, sending forth multiple vanguards into the field. The metal soldiers raised their shield-like weapons, and aimed at the rocks. The weapons unleashed a burst of seismic energy, and the boulders were reduced to dust. The army continued its march.

Pohatu’s eyes widened. “They’re headed for Po-Koro!” he exclaimed.

The Toa of Stone’s voice echoed through the canyon, but only one colossus turned to look at the Toa. It eyed them for a moment, and then continued the march with the rest of its horde.

Pohatu turned to Onua. “Get the Toa,” he said. “I’m going back to Po-Koro.”

“Pohatu, wait!” Onua called, but it was too late. The Toa of Stone had already sped off towards his village under the power of his mask.

The Toa of Earth sighed, and sped towards Ko-Koro, the nearest village. The desert terrain blurred and slowly transitioned to the cold, mountainous crags of Ko-Wahi. Only a few minutes time passed before the Toa of Earth arrived in the city of ice.

He ran through the gates, startling the white armored Ko-Matoran guards.

Snow was falling on the village, as usual, and Matoran ran about with shovels, clearing the stone paths to allow travel between buildings.

The Toa of Earth headed for the Tower of Thought, where Kopaka and Nuju, the village’s Turaga, could be found.

He entered, and sure enough, they were inside, conversing.

Well, conversing in the way that only Nuju could. The Turaga, years ago, had decided to communicate in the language of bird Rahi, and thus always required his translator, Matoro, to be with him. The Turaga’s habit had eventually lead to the belief that he was senile or just flat out mad.

But the truth was quite simple really: Nuju believed that if you wanted to have a conversation with him, one would have to work for it.

The Turaga whistled thrice, and made a slashing gesture with his staff.

Matoro, a young, blue-and-white clad Matoran, nodded and turned to Kopaka. “The Toa of Earth approaches,” he said.

Kopaka turned and eyed Onua, who was breathing heavily after his run.

“Onua,” Kopaka announced. “What are you doing here?”

Onua took a moment to catch his breath, and then returned to the conversation. “An army has entered Po-Wahi.”

“What?” Kopaka exclaimed.

Nuju made several sharp clicks.

“I can’t say that,” Matoro said, shaking his head.

“Is this true?” Kopaka inquired.

“Yes,” Onua responded. “Pohatu and I saw it with our own eyes. Metallic creatures. They destroyed boulders as if they were stale cakes. Worse yet, the creatures are now making their way to Po-Koro!”

Kopaka’s eyes widened. “Then that is where I shall head!” he exclaimed, walking towards the door.

“No,” Onua ordered. “You need to get Lewa. I’m going to find Gali. Meet me in Ta-Koro. Vakama might be able to discern what exactly this army is, and why they are here.”

Kopaka nodded, and disappeared through the doorway. Onua followed him.

Nuju and Matoro stood silently in the halls. Matoro turned towards the Turaga.

“Turaga,” he began, “what kind of creatures were they talking about.”

The Turaga sighed, and, for the first time in years, muttered a word in Matoran. It was short, yet carried an inherent sense of disaster with it.

Bohrok,” he said.

Chapter XXII

Tahu walked along the wooden causeway into Ga-Koro. Clouds had gathered in the sky above, and a cool drizzle had begun to fall on the village. For a day in the early summer, the air was quite chilly.

Tahu walked through the village. He pulled his cloak’s hood over his head to block out some of the rain. He felt cold enough after the long night.

The Ga-Matoran didn’t mind the rain. They walked to-and-fro from their huts to their places of work. Some did have some cloaks or hats, but many didn’t have anything on but their usual armor.

Tahu walked onto the docks and admired one of the newer ships. It was a rather large galleon. It had three masts and was sturdy compared to some of the other boats resting in Ga-Koro’s small harbor. The boat wasn’t finished however, and construction of internal rooms and bays was still ongoing.

At the end of one of the piers, he found Gali. She was staring out across the ocean’s great expanse. She, too, was not wearing any coat or cloak, and was only clad in her armor.

Tahu approached her, but she didn’t take notice. “Gali,” he said.

She turned, slightly startled. “Tahu!” she exclaimed. “Sorry, I- I was just thinking…” Her gaze wandered back to the ocean.

“About what?” Tahu inquired.

“About the fact that it’s been a full year since Makuta made his promise,” she said. “His threat returns today. He said he would.”

Tahu put his cloak on Gali. She accepted it.

“I know,” he said. “We go back to fulfilling our destiny today as well…” Tahu remembered Vakama’s prophecy. Their destiny might well involve their deaths.

“Destiny…” Gali whispered. “All we know is that it is to defeat Makuta. How do we get there? What more challenges must we face before we finally are able to achieve it? The legends leave many more questions than answers.”

Tahu chuckled. “You’re telling me,” he muttered.

Gali looked out at the ocean once more. A streak of lighting flashed across the sky. A thunderclap sounded moments later, breaking Ga-Koro’s silence for a minute. The final echo of the explosion passed.

Gali turned back to Tahu. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“I’m fine,” Tahu responded, sternly.

The Toa of Water cocked her head. “I’ve known you for over a year, Tahu. Something is most definitely wrong.”

Tahu closed his eyes and rolled them under their protective lids. “Vakama thinks that the prophecies forbade us from being together.”

Gali shook her head. “He should have said that a year ago, then,” she said, taking Tahu’s hand.

Tahu accepted her grasp. The two stood silently for a few moments, until the Toa of Earth came speeding into view, bringing an end to the pair’s “moment”.

“Gali!” Onua called. He then saw Tahu, and added, “I hope I’m not interrupting anything important.”

Tahu shook his head. “Not at all,” he said.

Onua nodded. “Well then, meet me at Ta-Koro. We have much to discuss.”

“What’s happened?” Gali asked worriedly.

Onua sighed. “We have to hurry. Po-Koro’s going to be under siege soon. Vakama may have some idea as to what is happening.”

“A siege?” Gali and Tahu exclaimed at the same time. “What—“

“I’ll explain on the way. Just use your masks, and let’s get to your village as fast as possible.” Onua ran off under his mask’s power, quickly carrying him across the bay and to the nearby hills.

Tahu looked at Gali. “We’ll talk later then?” he asked.

Gali nodded. “Fine,” she said.

Both Toa summoned their mask’s power over speed, and followed Onua’s path.

________________________

Within minutes, the three had finished their speedy trek between the two villages and had arrived back in the fiery city of Ta-Koro.

The bridge across the Lava Lake had been lowered into the molten fluid, and it appeared that the city had readied itself for attack. Guards lined the walls, weapons ready. Something bad was about to happen.

“The Toa approach!” a guard announced.

The bridge raised out of the Lava, and the Toa ran across it. As soon as the Toa had passed through the gate, the bridge was quickly lowered.

The Toa entered the Imperial Palace. Inside the main hall, Lewa and Kopaka had already assembled with Vakama.

“Where’s Pohatu?” Gali inquired.

“He’s in Po-Koro to help ready for the siege,” Onua informed her.

Gali shot him a look that asked “Why did you leave him?”

Onua added, “He insisted.”

Tahu greeted the Lewa and Kopaka. “Lewa, Kopaka, it’s been awhile,” he said.

Kopaka nodded.

“I wish we were meeting under happy-kind circumstances,” Lewa stated.

“Agreed,” Gali said. “Now, why have you gathered us here, Onua?”

“Because an army is heading for Po-Koro,” he said.

Vakama pondered this for a moment. “What kind of army?” the Turaga asked.

Onua shrugged. “A large one. Some kind of horde consisting of metal creatures. They’re insectoid in shape, but larger than Toa in size. Gigantic colossi travel with them.”

Vakama closed his eyes. “Then it is as I feared,” he said. “Follow me.”

The Turaga lead the Toa to the Imperial Palace’s library. He then disappeared in between two large bookshelves. The Toa waited for the Turaga, who was muttering something to himself. Then came the sound of many books falling off the shelves.

Vakama cursed. “Oh, well, Soren can pick it up later...” he whispered.

The Turaga reappeared from the shelves, carrying with him an old, tattered book. He opened the book, which shuttered with a loud creak.

“Here we are,” Vakama said. “If I’m correct, this army you saw is just one of the hordes of a legion known as the Bohrok, an ancient term that translates directly into ‘the Swarm’. They are powerful creatures consisting of six breeds.” He flipped though the book some more. “The Tahnok, which control fire and magma. The Kohrak, who wield the power of ice. The Gahlok, which can flood basin’s and weather mountains. The Pahrak, who can turn the very rivers to dust. The Nuhvok, which burrow deep to collapse the surface and cause great earthquakes. And, worst of all, the Lehvak, which burn through all materials with their powerful acid.

“Now, the colossi. They appear to be called Kaita, an old term meaning ‘of many wills’. The colossi consist of three or more Bohrok merged into a single, giant entity.”

Vakama furiously flipped through several more pages. “Now, within each Bohrok is an organic creature, a Krana. The Krana are the true force behind the Bohrok, as they control the bodies of the creatures, and are directly controlled by the swarm’s two queens. But beware,” Vakama held up a finger, “if a Krana attaches to your face, it shall sap you of all will, making you a loyal servant to the Swarm.”

“Wait?” Kopaka interrupted. “You said something about ‘queens’. What are those?”

Vakama flipped through the book some more. “The queens, yes. They’re called the ‘Bahrag’. Hmm, interesting…”

“What is?” Gali asked.

“Bahrag is the ancient Matoran term for ‘dragon’. They control the swarms directly. If you defeat them first, I assume that you’d defeat the swarm in its entirety!”

“Then where do we begin?” Tahu asked, resting his hand on his sword.

“It’s not that easy, Tahu. The Bahrag’s chamber was sealed off by Mata Nui. After Makuta created them. The only way one could open the way into their chamber is by use of something called the ‘Makoki Stone.’”

“And what is that?” Kopaka asked.

Vakama sighed angrily and set his current tome on a nearby table. He then walked back into a path between bookshelves, and disappeared into the stacks of old books and scrolls, searching for a manuscript on the ancient stone.

Between five and ten minutes after entering the aisle, Vakama emerged, carrying a small book and a map.

“Alright,” Vakama said, opening the volume. “This tome says that the Makoki was separated into three fragments to prevent anyone from disturbing the Bahrag. Sadly, Makuta did not need to enter their chamber.”

“But now we need to,” Tahu interrupted.

“Yes…” Vakama sighed. “So, to enter, you’ll need to retrieve the three fragments.”

“Great,” Lewa muttered. “Another look-hunt for some silly artifact. Why are we always seek-looking for stuff?”

“Because the Great Spirit wills it,” Gali said. “Now calm down, Lewa.”

“So where are these fragments?” Tahu asked.

Vakama smiled. “Normally, I’d have to translate and decipher the text within this book as to the whereabouts of the Makoki fragments. Luckily, I found this map.” Vakama held up the old, paper chart. “It shows the assumed location of all the fragments.

“One appears to be hidden within an underground chamber resting at the roots of Mount Ihu.

“Another is located in an old temple that is located in the great dunes of Po-Wahi.

“And the last, in a shrine underneath the waves of Naho Bay.”

Tahu pondered for a moment. “Then we best split into teams,” he announced.

Kopaka began to speak. “I work al—“

“But each fragment is protected by some kind of Guardian Spirit,” Vakama interrupted.

“Guardian spirit?” Onua asked. “What kind of spirit?”

“Creatures, meant to deter any who cannot prove themselves worthy of the stones,” the Turaga answered.

“And how do we prove ourselves worthy?” Gali inquired.

“By defeating the spirits, of course!” Vakama exclaimed.

“So then, group-teams?” Lewa asked.

“Right,” Tahu said. “Gali and I will retrieve the fragment in the water temple. Lewa and Onua, you two can search for the one in Po-Wahi. And Kopaka and Pohatu will take care of the fragment beneath Ihu.”

“One problem with that, Tahu,” Kopaka said. “We’re short one Pohatu.”

“Of course! He’s defending his village!” Gali exclaimed. “We have to leave soon, or else Po-Koro will fall.”

“Turaga Vakama!” a voice called out. Jaller emerged from the entrance to the library.

“What is it, General?” Vakama asked.

“Forgive me, Turaga, but I was listening to your tales of these ‘Bohrok’.” Jaller said. “They sound like a great threat to the villages. I’ve already taken the liberty to dispatch messengers to warn the other holds, and detachments of the Legion are already en-route to every village, save Po-Koro.”

“Why not Po-Koro?” Gali asked, anger creeping within her voice. “They’re the ones who need it most!”

Jaller sighed mournfully. “The Legion can’t march fast enough. By the time we arrive, Po-Koro will be a smoking ruin.”

“Tahu, we have to go help Pohatu!” Gali said, turning towards the Toa of Fire.

Tahu sighed. “Gali, we need to get those fragments. Pohatu can help evacuate his village, hopefully. And then he can rejoin us and—“

“No, Tahu!” Gali shouted. Tahu had never seen her this angry before. “I will not stand by while our friend loses his village. I’ll go there myself!”

Tahu looked at her eyes, which were full of a angered fire. “Fine. Gali and I will assist in defending Po-Koro if we can make it in time. The rest of you, head for the chamber under Mount Ihu. Hopefully, we can meet up and get the other fragments.”

The Toa nodded, and separated into their teams. They exchanged a few short goodbyes, and then summoned their masks’ power of speed, and headed off towards their respective destinations.

Chapter XXIII

Turaga Onewa stood next to two of his village’s Matoran, Hewkii and Hafu. They were standing on top of one of Po-Koro’s many wall walks and observed the horizon. Far off, black clouds of smoke were billowing, and a reddish glow blazed in the distance in the early dusk light.

“They come,” Onewa said, his eyes locked on the oncoming destruction.

“Who is ‘they’,” Hewkii asked cautiously.

Onewa rested on his staff. “They are the Bohrok. A swarm of ancient creatures bent on the destruction of our way of life.”

“That’s encouraging…” Hafu grumbled.

Hewkii observed the fires on the horizon.

“Those are the Tahnok,” Onewa explained. “They use fire as their primary weapon.”

“And they’re advancing,” Hewkii observed. “Fast.”

Onewa sighed. “Then there is no choice. We must evacuate the village.

Hewkii nodded. “Toa Pohatu already began helping the others load their carts for escape.”

“There’s one problem,” Hafu said, looking at the advancing horde. “They’ll be at the main gate in no time.”

“Then we must block it,” Onewa said flatly.

“How?” the grey and tan armored Matoran asked.

Hewkii and Onewa both looked at Hafu. Hafu in turn looked at the path to Po-Koro, which was lined with his finest statuary: carved effigies of the six Toa.

He jumped, astonished. “I will not bring down my greatest creations!” he shouted furiously.

Onewa shook his head. “I’m sorry, but we need more time to exit through the back entrance.” The Turaga began heading down a ladder and back into the town.

Hafu crossed his arms.

“I’m sorry, old friend,” Hewkii said, putting his hand on Hafu’s shoulder. “I’ll assemble a team to keep you safe while you bring down the statues. Meet me at the gate shortly.” Hewkii followed the Turaga’s path.

Hafu turned back to the road and let out a heavy sigh.

_______________________________________

Pohatu heaved the pack of bricklaying gear on Bour’s cart. Bour was an old, crotchety Matoran that was known for his witty, cranky attitude.

“There you go,” Pohatu said, turning towards the orange and tan Matoran. “Anything else?”

“Oh, no,” Bour said in his loud, gravelly voice. “I’ll just finish hooking up these Mahi to the cart and be off to the docks for departure.” He began pulling ropes to the large, ox-like Rahi that stood patiently in front of the overstuffed wagon.

Pohatu wiped some sweat off his forehead. “Okay then, good luck. I’ll see you on the other side.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Bour said. He waved off Pohatu.

Pohatu walked across the road. All around him, Po-Matoran of all ages began piling whatever form of transportation full of their valuables, whether it be carving tools, favored discs, or heirlooms from long passed mothers and fathers.

Then, a rumble came from the portcullis. The gate was open, as they would be using it to evacuate the city.

A guard stationed on the wall began to yell. “Ambush!” he announced. “The Bohrok are at the gates now!”

Pohatu turned to the entrance. Distant flames lit it a bright red-yellow. The silhouettes of Bohrok slowly emerged from the fire.

Suddenly, a great, stone object slammed down in front of the advancing army. Another fell from the opposite direction, blocking off their attack.

“Mata Nui!” Hekii called, running towards the gates. “Hafu! He’s still out there! He’s bringing down the statues!”

Pohatu’s eyes widened. “I’ll get him!” he yelled. He triggered his mask’s power, and ran towards the gate. He jumped over the wall, and landed on top of one of the felled statues.

Hafu stood in front of one of the carvings. Five Tahnok surrounded the poor Matoran. One of the creatures raised its razor-sharp, shield-like weapon, preparing to execute the shivering Matoran.

Pohatu ran as fast as he could to Hafu. Within a few seconds, he had swept Hafu up and carried him to the edge of the village wall. He threw the Matoran to the top of the wall. Hafu landed safely, and looked down at Pohatu.

“Get to the rest of the village!” Pohatu called up to him. “I’ll hold them off!”

Hafu nodded wide-eyed and ran off. Pohatu turned to face the oncoming Bohrok, which were now angered that their ‘prey’ had been stolen from them.

Pohatu pounded his fists together. “All right!” he yelled. “Bring it!”

The Bohrok readied a charge. Then, two massive streams of fire and water slammed into the oncoming creatures, throwing them out of Pohatu’s way. As the jets died down, Pohatu could make out two figures: the armored, powerful form of Tahu and the slight, graceful body of Gali.

“Am I glad to see you two!” the Toa of Stone called, smiling at his fellow heroes.

Gali nodded. “Sorry we’re late,” she said, glaring at Tahu.

Tahu shrugged. “We have a lot of stuff to go over.”

“Well, tell me later,” Pohatu said, “because we have more problems on the way!”

More Bohrok had arrived, and were beginning to surround the Toa. Soon, they had been herded into the heart of the attacking swarm. Tahu, Gali, and Pohatu were now standing with their backs facing each other.

“Well, this should be fun,” Gali said.

“Just like old times, huh?” Tahu quipped back.

“Impossible odds against advancing armies of Makuta’s creatures? I like this,” Pohatu chimed.

The Bohrok slowly began to tighten in around the Toa.

Tahu exchanged glances with his friends. They both nodded back at him.

The mechanical insects began to raise their weapons.

NOW!!!” Tahu shouted.

The Toa unleashed three, conical jets of elemental energy from their hands at the Bohrok. The creatures were pelted with barrages of fire, water, and stone.

After about a minute of sustaining such a demanding onslaught, the Toa lowered the hands and dispelled their powers.

Dead Bohrok and their battered Krana were scattered across the field. The Krana within the Bohrok husks revealed two sets of long, spider-like legs and crawled out of their former bodies, heading south and away from Po-Koro.

The Toa collapsed, falling into sitting positions.

“That,” Gali heaved, “was fun.”

Tahu smiled. “Hot, sweaty, physically exerting, and fun? Reminds me of that one night we spent to—“

“Shut up, Tahu,” Gali ordered, shaking her head and restraining a laugh.

Pohatu stood up and examined the horizon. “You guys might want to get ready for round two,” he said. “There’s more.”

“What?” Tahu exclaimed. He looked at the edge of the horizon, and saw Pohatu’s find. Hundreds more Bohrok were advancing upon them.

“Mata Nui protect us,” Gali whispered.

Pohatu looked at Tahu. “By now, they’ve cleared the village,” he explained. “I think we should attack this swarm at its heart. Onua and I saw a large group of Tahnok and some black-armored ones in Tiro canyon. We can trap and destroy them there.”

“Agreed,” Tahu said, watching the oncoming swarm. “How do we get there?”

“Follow me!” Pohatu shouted. He sped off under his mask’s power. Gali and Tahu followed him.

______________________________________

The Toa stopped at the edge of Tiro Canyon, which was one of the largest gorges in Po-Wahi. Eroded in between two massive rock edifices, the canyon once held a great river and a small lake that supported all kinds of life.

Of course, that was years ago. Now the canyon was a dry, desolate waste filled with sand that had blown in from the nearby dunes.

Now, though, a legion of Bohrok had made their home in the canyon. Tahnok and Nuhvok roamed around, preparing for what appeared to be another march.

Pohatu turned to Tahu. “Any ideas?” he asked.

Tahu observed the Bohrok, and then the canyon walls. “There’s only one way out of it, right?”

“Unless they climb up the sides of the canyon, then yes,” Pohatu answered.

Tahu nodded. “Gali,” he called, “do you think you can flood the canyon?”

“I can try, but it will just stun them,” she responded.

“That’s good enough for our purposes,” the Toa of Fire said back. “We can attack while they’re recovering from your assault.”

Gali shrugged and raised her arms, aiming for the far side of the canyon. She began to concentrate. Hard.

It started slowly at first. A trickle of water materialized at the end of the canyon, and slowly dripped down the walls. Many Bohrok did not notice the event, and those that did disregarded it without the least bit of concern.

But soon, the trickle began to turn into a stream, and that stream, into a geyser. Within moments, Tiro Canyon’s old river was running again.

Gali concentrated even harder. The river exploded, sending forth a flood that filled the gorge to its rims. All the Bohrok were swept up against the watery onslaught.

Gali released her control. While the spout she created had stopped, the flood was still draining out of the canyon. The Bohrok writhed as they tried to stabilize themselves in the tempestuous waters. The Toa watched as the flood slowly carried the creatures to the canyon entrance.

After the waters subsided, the Toa slid down the now slippery edges of the canyon walls and landed inside the gorge. Puddles were scattered all over, and some of the sand had been carried off as well, leaving behind jagged, rocky outcroppings that had been buried for years.

“Good work, Gali,” Tahu said.

Gali let out an exhausted sigh. “No problem,” she replied.

Pohatu scanned the canyon entrance. Already, the Bohrok were beginning to re-mobilize and march back into the canyon.

Soon came a sound that ground through their ears and into the Toa’s minds.

The Bohrok were speaking.

Chikiira, shiiiraan aruum tas vahiin! ” The phrase was repeated over and over. It was about to drive the Toa insane.

After about a minute, the mechanical insectoids were marching towards the Toa, weapons drawn. The Toa raised their weapons as well.

“Ready?” Tahu asked.

“Oh yeah,” Pohatu laughed.

Gali nodded.

“Go!” the Toa of Fire shouted.

The three Toa charged the oncoming Bohrok. Tahu collided with an angry Nuhvok, which hissed as he slammed his sword into the metal beast’s shield/weapon. The Nuhvok threw Tahu’s sword off its shield and head-butted the Toa, sending Tahu reeling into the soggy sand. Two more Bohrok marched towards him.

Nearby, Pohatu had engaged two Tahnok. He used his mask’s power of strength to slam one of the insect-like mechanoids in into the wet ground. The creature writhed as it tried to escape the sand, but Pohatu had buried the being too deep. The hatch on its head popped open, and the Krana scurried out.

The other Tahnok landed a harsh sideswipe on the Toa of Stone’s midsection, tossing him off his feet. The Bohrok stomped towards the Toa. When it was near enough, Pohatu kicked it with his mighty legs. The head components cracked and shattered. Pohatu threw himself back on his feet, and turned to find two more Tahnok readying their elemental powers.

Gali leapt over a Nuhvok and landed on the creature’s back. She pulled her hook weapons off their mounts on her back, and latched them under the head compartment’s hatch. She then heaved with all her might, and pulled the metallic flap apart. The Toa of Water reached into the compartment and grasped onto the Krana within. The creature was warm to the touch, and writhed in her grasp.

She tore it from its position within the head. As soon as it left the Bohrok, the machine collapsed. Gali held the Krana up. It’s long, spindly legs grasped at the air near Gali’s face, as if it wanted to attach to her mask.

Gali recalled Vakama’s warnings, and threw the writhing creature on the ground. She then promptly stomped on the Krana’s center mass.

Tahu fired twin streams of fire at two charging Nuhvok. The two creatures’ headpieces melted as the flames engulfed them. The Krana within screeched as they were melted inside their metallic encasements.

The Toa of Fire pivoted around and shot three fireballs at a trio of Tahnok that had begun to advance upon him. Unlike the Nuhvok, the fire-Bohrok rushed through the blazing orbs and tackled Tahu.

He kicked the insectoid machinations off of him and tried to melt them like he did the Nuhvok. The Tahnok shrugged off his inferno. Their bodies must have been made of a stronger material.

Tahu flipped onto the nearest Tahnok. It tried to shake him off, but he grabbed on. The Toa of Fire then focused his elemental power into his sword, which began to glow white-hot. Tahu then slammed the weapon into the Bohrok’s headplate and into the Krana within.

The Bohrok fell limp, and the smell of burning flesh arose from the pseudo-corpse.

Pohatu landed several harsh blows on the nearest Nuhvok and then focused his mask’s strength power into his fists. He then punched the mechanical warrior into the air, and lost it in the sun.

He turned around, but was quickly blindsided by a Nuhvok’s shield-weapon. He hit the ground, unconscious.

Tahu retrieved Pohatu’s unmoving body and threw the Toa of Stone over his shoulder. He threw several bolts of flame at the Nuhvok, which hissed as the fire slammed into their armor, softening it slightly.

Gali was slowly pushed closer and closer to the back end of the canyon. Tahu, carrying the unconscious body of the Toa of Stone, soon joined her. They were confronted by a legion of nearly a hundred Bohrok.

Gali unleashed jets of water, which threw the Bohrok off their feet. Sadly, the creatures always got back up, and continued to push towards the Toa.

Tahu laid Pohatu on the ground and summoned more firebolts to ward off the Bohrok. But they kept coming, each one more tenacious than the one before.

Gali yelled as she punched the Tahnok that had made its way to her. The creature stumbled back, but quickly regained its position. The beast drew its sharp, pointed shield back, and slammed it into the Toa of Water.

NO! ” Tahu yelled as he watched the blade enter Gali’s stomach.

She fell limp as the blade went a solid inch through her armor, piercing the skin of her abdomen. The Tahnok then threw Gali’s body off its blade and turned to Tahu. Through the creature’s semi-transparent headpiece, Tahu swore that he could see the Krana smiling.

Filled with rage and hate for the creatures that had just injured the one closest to him, Tahu summoned all the elemental power he could muster. In one final, awe-inspiring blow, Tahu sent forth a blazing inferno that filled Tiro Canyon with white fire.

Tahu called off the firestorm. He collapsed to his knees, and gazed at the sight in front of him. The gorge was dotted with the charred, melted corpses that were once Bohrok. Tahu blacked out, and fell into the heat-dried sand.

_________________________________________

Pohatu awoke to find Tahu lying unconscious next to him. Gali was awake, but she was groaning in pain. The Toa of Stone rolled over to find her clutching a wound on her abdomen.

“Gali,” he called, “are you okay?”

Gali shook her head. “No,” she moaned, removing her blood-soaked hand from her chest. She placed it back on the wound and winced. “Not at all.”

Pohatu pulled off his small backpack and went through it. The only medical supplies he could find were a roll of gauze, some adhesive materials to hold the bandages on, and aloe to ease pain.

“Gali, lie down,” he commanded.

She did as he said, but her face showed the pain the action caused.

Pohatu tore some of the bandaging material from the roll and used it to clean away some of the wound’s blood. He examined the now semi-clean gash.

The Tahnok’s blade had melted away part of Gali’s armor, and punctured deep into her skin. Luckily, the beast had missed her internal organs, and had simply opened a hole in her skin—albeit a big one.

Blood began to ooze from the wound once again.

Pohatu smeared some aloe on his finger. “Here,” he said, “this’ll help ease the pain.” He rubbed the thick, white lotion on her skin.

Gali winced once more. “Are you sure that’s what it does?” she asked, forcing her eyes shut.

Pohatu finished applying the painkiller and began to adhere the gauze to her wound, forming a makeshift bandage.

Pohatu watched as the gauze quickly turned from a silvery white color to a dark black-red. Gali would bleed out soon if they didn’t get her medical attention.

Tahu had awoken during the process. He waited for Pohatu to finish cleaning the wound before actually rising (he didn’t like the sight of blood). Tahu knelt down by Gali.

“I’m… I’m sorry,” he muttered, shaking his head. “This is my fault. I shouldn’t have let you fend off those Bohrok by yourself.

Gali painfully smiled. “I’m not that helpless, Tahu,” she muttered.

Pohatu turned to the Toa of Fire. “Tahu, we need to get her to a doctor, fast,” he ordered. “The nearest healer would be in Ga-Koro, but—“

“Then let’s get moving!” Tahu yelled, readying his mask’s speed power.

“But,” Pohatu considered, “using our mask’s power would jar her around, which could worsen the gash. We’ll have to walk.”

Tahu looked at Gali, who was now sitting upright with her hands and arms supporting her torso. She shook her head. Tahu knelt down and put his forehead to hers.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do…” Tahu whispered to her.

She sighed.

Tahu gingerly took Gali up in his arms. Pohatu frowned and watched as they began the long trek to Ga-Koro.

Chapter XXIV

Kapura, former patrol officer and now lead messenger of the Ta-Koro Legion, slowly moved across the rocky terrain on his way to Ko-Koro. He focused on nothing but his two feet and his destination.

The concept was an ancient art, really. Turaga Vakama had taught him the practice many years ago. The idea was simple yet ironic: if one moved slowly enough, they would reach their destination much more quickly than a runner.

Strangely enough, the practice worked. Kapura had used it to his advantage many times, and became the leader of the Legion’s messengers within a year. Not a high ranking position, but Kapura was content with it.

The Ta-Matoran found himself at the icy gates of Ko-Koro in little time at all. The cold then caught up with him, and he felt freezing.

“Hello!” he called up the icy edifice, behind which the village stood.

No one responded.

“Hello?” he called again.

A head sporting a grey Kanohi mask peeked over the ledge. “Ta-Matoran? You must be lost! Leave us to our peace.”

“I bring tidings from the General of the Legion, Jaller,” Kapura responded. “He bids your village prepare for war at once. A team of Legionaires are on their way to support your defense as we speak!”

The Ko-Matoran guard shook his head. “War? Against what?”

“Bohrok,” Kapura shouted back.

“Bohrok? What are these Bohrok?” the guard inquired, a tone of arrogance in his voice.

A shrill whistle followed by a sharp chirp stopped the guard before he could continue his sentence. The village’s Turaga and Matoran translator appeared next to the sentinel.

“Turaga Nuju bids that you let the honorable messenger Kapura into the village,” Matoro translated.

Nuju gave an affirming nod

The guard, obviously prejudice against other Matoran, sighed angrily and moved to the gate controls. A minute later, two icy doors, camouflaged perfectly with the mountain, split apart. The entrance into Ko-Koro was now open.

“Thank you.” Kapura bowed and entered.

The Turaga and his translator had already descended the guard posts to meet Kapura there.

Nuju made a set of slashing motions and gave off a few short clicks. He then whistled harshly and waved an arm.

Matoro nodded. “Nuju welcomes you to Ko-Koro. He has already heard of the Bohrok threat from the Toa, but he’ll take any help he can from the Legion.”

Kapura nodded. “Then I best be heading off,” he said.

“Turaga!”

The shout came from atop one of the guard towers. A grey-blue Ko-Matoran was waving down at them.

Nuju gave an acknowledging whistle.

“Turaga! There’s creatures heading for the village main gate!” the guard shouted. “I’ve never seen any Rahi like them.”

Nuju turned to Matoro and nodded.

“Sound the alarm!” the translator yelled at the guard.

The guard nodded and went into his tower. He found a trumpet carved from the horn of a Kanae-Ra bull. He brought the instrument to his lips and blew.

The blaring of the horn echoed throughout the mountains of Ko-Wahi, especially within the valley that Ko-Koro was built in.

Once the last echo of the trumpet faded, guards came pouring out of their barracks with spears, swords, and bows. Many rushed to the main walls of the city, while smaller groups made their way outside to fight the assault head-on.

After the last group made it out of Ko-Koro’s massive doors, the entrance was shut and sealed. Guards began piling snow, ice, and rock in front to barricade the gate.

Kapura watched as Matoran within the city began sealing up their own homes in case the Bohrok breached the gates. His gaze slowly returned to the guards, who were staring directly ahead, waiting for the advancing army to enter the range of their weapons.

“Guards!” Kapura yelled, “can you tell what color their armor is?”

One guard, a commander, judging by his armor, delivered the response. “Green, sir! But there are some white support groups as well!”

“What do those do?” Matoro asked. Nuju’s glare followed his translator’s.

Kapura sighed. “The green ones are Lehvak, which can deliver acidic streams from their weapons. The white ones, the Kohrok, are able to manipulate ice.”

“They’re using our own element against us…” Matoro whispered.

Nuju clicked shrilly and made a cutting gesture across his throat.

Matoro nodded. “The Turaga says that many will die unless your legionaries arrive. When will they be here?”

Kapura shrugged. “Within a few more hours, if we’re lucky. Messengers are always sent ahead.”

Nuju nodded and frowned. He turned away from the messenger and slowly made his way to a nearby hut. The Turaga disappeared through the entrance, and remained in the hovel for a long five minutes.

Kapura looked at Matoro, who shrugged.

Nuju emerged from the small house. He was carrying multiple items in his hands. As he neared, Kapura could see that it was a suit of Ko-Matoran guard armor and a sword.

The Turaga clicked and whistled. Matoro nodded.

“’Until then,’ the Turaga says,” Matoro translated, ”’we will need all who can fight to fight.’”

Nuju set the armor and weapon in Kapura’s hands. Kapura looked at the Turaga, who gazed sternly at him. He sighed, and began to don the armor.

_____________________________________

Lieutenant Pakastaa, leader of Ko-Koro’s archer regiment, slowly walked behind the troops lining the pathways along the village’s walls. Far off, the advancing green horde slowly moved closer to the village.

Pakastaa inspected each troop from behind, and made sure that they each carried a decent amount of arrows and were well armored enough for close up combat.

The enemy slowly came into range.

“Don’t fire until you can see their eyes!” Pakastaa yelled. It was an old Le-Koro tactic actually. He wasn’t entirely sure if it was true, but the Le-Matoran believed that the bow could strike a target much more accurately once one could see their eyes.

The Bohrok slowly marched forward. Eventually, their footfalls began to drown out the wailing Ko-Wahi winds. Pakastaa drew in a long breath and held it.

The Lehvak swarm approached the village. Flanked on either side by two sheer-cliff faces, the creatures would be trapped as soon as the archers opened fire.

Pakastaa saw the red glint of the lead Lehvak’s eye.

“Archers!” he yelled. “Ready!”

The Ko-Koro bowman retrieved arrows from their quivers and positioned them onto their bows.

“Aim!”

The archers raised their bows. After release, the projectiles would rain down upon the horde, killing nearly anything they came down on.

“Fire!”

Every archer released their arrows. The sharp projectiles flew into the air and arced over the heads of the Bohrok. The weapons then fell onto the oncoming army. Arrows impacted the hard, glass casing of the Bohrok’s heads and killed the Krana within, causing many units to drop.

Down below, leading regiments guarding the gate, was Mazeka, the captain of Ko-Koro’s guard.

“Ready your arms!” he yelled to the twenty men that stood with him.

Each soldier unsheathed his or her sword and raised their shields.

Arrows rained upon the advancing Lehvak, but many survived, and began to charge Mazeka’s regiment.

ATTACK!!! ” the captain yelled.

His troops, each some of the best swordsmen in the village, ran at the oncoming swarm. Bohrok screeched and raised their shields, only to be cut down by Ko-Koro claymores and rapiers.

Mazeka hopped on top of a Bohrok and brought his sword down on the creature’s head. It screeched as the weapon pierced the Krana within. He retrieved his weapon, which was now stained in crimson blood. He turned and cut the metallic arm off the nearest Bohrok, and let out a war cry.

Pakastaa released another arrow, which sailed into the headplate of yet another Lehvak. The creatures had yet to relent. It was as if they had an endless supply of troops, which could not be said for his division’s arrows. Soon, they would have to run out.

Pakastaa thought he saw something crawling along the side of the mountain. He wasn’t sure whether it was a trick of light or some new kind of threat.

The mass moved along the cliff face again, a telltale flash of white-on white.

Suddenly, a white-clad Bohrok burst out of a camouflaged invisibility and leapt onto the nearest Matoran. He screamed as the creature slammed its buzzsaw-like shield blade into the Matoran’s face, tearing it into a bloody mess.

“Archers, three o’clock!” a soldier yelled. The Kohrok moved quickly from soldier to soldier, disemboweling each one it could. Two more of its companions burst from the snowy cliffside and joined the fight.

One archer was able to work his sword inbetween the teeth-like protrusions on the Kohrok’s head and into its Krana, which shrieked violently as it died.

Blood ran across the wall. Pakastaa drew his sword and charged a Kohrok. It tackled him, but he was able to flip the beast over and work his blade into its skullcase. The transparent headplate opened, and the Krana launched out, landing three feet from Pakastaa on its long, spiderlike legs.

Pakastaa chased after the beast with his sword, but it dodged nearly all of his blows. Luckily, an archer, running from another Kohrok, stepped on the large, rubbery insect by accident.

Pakastaa silently thanked Mata Nui and turned around to find that many of his archers were running from a new threat. A strange version of the Kohrok had appeared, its white armor traced with streaks of glowing silver. Its headplate was covered in gleaming silver-and-white metallic scales. The weapons it carried were shields, but seemed more like five pointed stars. At the end of each point was a small buzzsaw.

The creature regarded Pakastaa with cold, remorseless eyes. It raised its shield, and let out a blast of sonic energy that knocked the general flat on his back and sent archers all around him flying.

The silver Kohrok marched over Pakastaa’s prone body and kept heading across the wall, unleashing deafening sonic blasts at the archers. But it left the general alive.

Below, Mazeka, who had lost half of his unit to the Bohrok, heard the sonic blasts and turned upward to see stunned archers being thrown off the edifice.

He wanted to fall back, but he couldn’t. There was nowhere to run.

Ko-Koro was doomed.

“Fire!”

The command echoed from the other end of the valley. A second later, dozens of flaming arrows rained down upon the Lehvak swarm. The creatures fled up the mountainsides, as the Lehvak particularly feared fire.

Mazeka wondered what had fired the arrows, but then he saw the banner of the Ta-Koro legion appear at the other end of the valley.

“Fire!”

Another volley of arrows rained upon the swarm.

_________________________________

Kohrok-Kal, leader of the Kohrok swarm, was confused. A moment ago, his troops, joint groups of both his and Lehvak-Kal’s swarms, had begun to decimate this pathetic Matoran village. And now his brother’s troops were deserting him from a few flaming arrows.

The silver-armored Bohrok saw an archer prepare to fire an arrow at him. He raised his shield and blasted the pitiful soldier off the wall and to his doom.

Kohrok-Kal let out a shivering, reptilian growl. His troops took the order to retreat and disappeared into the edifaces of the snowy mountain. He wouldn’t fight without Lehvak-Kal’s cannon fodder to draw attention from his stealth warriors.

The beast slowly made his way across the wall walk, but felt his ankle get seized by a pair of Matoran hands.

He fell to the ground, but quickly regained stance and pivoted to see his attacker.

An armored grey and white Matoran stood in front of the Kal, his defiant, sky-blue eyes meeting the beasts.

“Pitiful Matoran,” Kohrok uttered in the little creature’s pathetic language. “You think you can best me? Kohrok-Kal? Leader of the Swarm of Ice!”

The Matoran, while looking slightly surprised at the fact that a Bohrok had spoken, still remained defiant as ever. “Yes,” the morsel said.

Kohrok-Kal hissed at the creature’s remark. He pointed his shield at the Matoran. “Then die,” he finished, in his cold, metallic tone.

He was about to unleash a sonic blast when three flaming arrows penetrated the metal armor on his arm. The Kal reeled around to find that a group of Ta-Matoran were taking aim with their arrows.

“Sorry we’re late!” a red and black armored Matoran called from below.

Kohrok-Kal hissed and triggered his power of invisibility, vanishing into thin air. He’d live to fight another day.

________________________________________

Kapura gasped at the voice that had called on the other side of the gate. He immediately rushed to the guards and told them to open the great doors.

They obliged, as the sounds of battle had ceased minutes ago. The great entrance opened, and a company of Ta-Matoran were waiting on the other side.

“Captain Dezalk!” Kapura called, rushing to meet the commander of the soldiers. “Perfect timing!”

Dezalk smiled. “Thank you, Kapura. Also, thank you for getting the message to the village, or else they may not have been prepared.”

“We were plenty prepared,” Matoro said, approaching the Ta-Matoran with Turaga Nuju following slightly behind him. “Turaga Nuju thanks you greatly for your intervention.”

“Thank you, Turaga.” Dezalk bowed.

Nuju clicked and whistled numerous times. Matoro nodded.

“But he wishes to discuss the village’s safety with you in private. Follow us.”

Dezalk nodded. “I shall,” he said. He then turned to Kapura. “Head back to Ta-Koro and tell Vakama about the battle. He’ll want to know.” The captain headed off with the Turaga.

Kapura nodded. He had a long journey ahead of him.

Chapter XXV

“I hate the cold,” Lewa muttered to himself for the fifteenth time. The temple that he, Kopaka, and Onua had found was at the bottom of Mount Ihu, and never seemed to ascend at all. The Toa of Air’s light, jungle-combat oriented armor was not meant for the cold, frigid stillness of underground ice temples. Glowing stones set in sconces along the walls at identical intervals lit the hall.

“We get it,” Kopaka said. “Now stop complaining.”

“Alright,” Lewa chided, “I ever-love these dark-cold corridors, don’t you?”

“Shut up, Lewa,” Kopaka and Onua said simultaneously.

“Fine,” the Toa of Air grumbled. “So when do you think we’ll find the main temple chamber?”

“Soon, I hope,” Onua said. He examined the hieroglyphs on the wall as they walked by. A curious, ancient language.

“Vakama would love to see this stuff, I bet,” he whispered to himself.

“Probably,” Kopaka responded. “Any idea’s what it says?”

“Most likely a warning,” Onua observed. “I can’t translate… anything.”

“I’m surprised there aren’t any traps down here,” Lewa said, looking around. “Aren’t old ruins always supposed to have traps?”

“You’ve read too many adventure stories,” Kopaka muttered. “I highly doubt any of those authors have been in a temple built into a mountain, created to contain an object that could open the doors to the lair of the rulers of a massive army.”

“Well,” Lewa said, “they could have.”

“Look, up ahead!” Onua called out.

Ahead stood a great, stone door, its face carved with many hieroglyphs and symbols. Three, concentric rings were situated near the center of the monolith.

The Toa reached the door and began to examine it.

“What is this?” Kopaka asked, running his finger along the outer ring.

“I’ve seen stuff like this in Onu-Koro,” Onua said. “It’s a combination mechanism. If you align the three rings correctly, the door will open.

“Great, and how do we act-do that?” Lewa groaned.

Onua stepped forward. “Like this, he stated matter-of-factly.

The Toa of Earth grabbed the outside ring and slowly spun it right. A loud click indicated that he had moved it into place.

He did the same with the second ring, which soon rewarded him with a click as well. He moved the third and final ring, which clicked into place.

Onua stepped back and waited for the door to open.

Nothing happened.

“I’ll have to try again,” Onua said, shaking his head.

“Or we can do this,” Kopaka said. He blasted the stone door with a burst of cold that froze the object solid. The Toa of ice then walked up to the gate, and hit it with his sword.

The gate shattered apart. Kopaka walked in, with Lewa following him.

“Oh,” the Toa of Earth mumbled. “I didn’t think of that.” He joined them inside.

The chamber they entered had no visible way out. It was lit by the same glowing stones, but the room was adorned in hieroglyphs and symbols. Ancient urns were positioned in the corners of the room nearest the door. At the other end were two ancient suits of armor.

But the most striking feature was the pedestal in the center of the hall. It was made of a carved, black stone, and on it rested a portion of a tablet: the first half of the Makoki Stone.

“Well, that was quick-easy,” Lewa said cheerfully. “Let’s get the stone.”

Kopaka held his blade in front of the hasty Toa of Air. “Wait…” he said. “Something doesn’t feel right.”

A cold wisp of air passed through the room, chilling even Kopaka to the bone.

Onua watched the floor as the breeze swept through, and noticed a peculiar phenomenon. Wisps of a strange, dark-green gas streamed across the floor, heading for the suits of armor.

“Anyone else seeing this?” Onua called.

Kopaka looked down, and he too saw the gaseous substance moving along the ground. The patterns of movement reminded him of ink in a phial of water.

“What is it?” the Toa of Ice asked.

The wisps slowly retreated completely into the armor. A moment later, the armor’s faded grey coloration turned to bright colors. The one on the left had taken on a yellow and black hue, while the suit on the right had changed to a mix of blue and silver.

“Okay,” Lewa said, “this is rather weird-strange.”

Kopaka watched the armor. Something didn’t feel right to him. The Toa of Ice drew his sword, and retrieved his shield from its resting position on his back.

“Kopaka?” Onua asked.

Kopaka didn’t answer. He just kept his vision focused on the armor.

Lewa shrugged. “Well, let’s get the stone piece-fragment and quick-leave this dungeon!”

The Toa of Air walked towards the stone’s pedestal. He raised his hands over the stone, and prepared to pick it up.

Two deep, crimson eyes opened under the yellow armor’s eyeholes. Before Lewa could even lay a finger on the fragment of the Makoki Stone, the armor had leapt on him.

“What the?” Lewa yelled, grappling with the armor.

The blue suit became animate as well, and jumped onto Onua. Instead of claws like the other armor, it had large, wing-like blades.

Kopaka slashed his blade across the blue armor’s midsection, throwing the ‘creature’ across the room.

Onua stood up. “I take it that these are the guardian spirits?” he rhetorically asked.

“I would think so!” Lewa yelled from across the room, summoning a cyclone around his yellow-armored attacker.

The spirit hissed and escaped the Toa of Air’s attack. It lunged and tackled him.

Onua ran to Lewa and rapped his claws around the phantom armor’s throat. The ghost, however, was unfazed by this attack, and only became more angered. It seized his hands, and threw the Toa of Earth across the room. He hit the wall, and landed with a loud grunt.

Kopaka, meanwhile, was fending off the quick attacks from the blue phantom’s wing-blades. Luckily, his shield could take most of the blows, freeing up Kopaka’s mind for strategy.

Alright, he thought, this thing relies on speed. Now how could I slow it down?

Kopaka smiled. He slowly lowered the temperature on the bat-like blue spirit’s armor. Slowly, a fine layer of frost condensed on it. The creature attacked, but Kopaka dodged it. The strike was about a half second slower than the earlier ones.

He continued to decrease the armor’s temperature. Eventually, a layer of ice encased each segment of armor. A cold fog now dropped from the spirit’s body. Through the grey-white condensation, Kopaka easily made out the greenish gas that held the armor together.

Kopaka flipped over the spirit and threw his sword into its back. The creature let out a high-pitched scream, and threw the Toa of Ice off. Kopaka landed on his feet and charged again.

Meanwhile, Lewa faced off against the yellow-armored ghost, which was slowly walking towards him. The Toa of Air had a plan, but it required his total concentration. As the monster marched forward, Lewa had begun to create an area of intense air pressure around it. Hopefully, the pressure would shatter the phantom armor.

Lewa watched as the creature took notice of what was happening around it. It howled as dents and crevices appeared in its shell. Soon, the armor was barely recognizable from its original state.

The Toa of Air released his vacuum, and the phantom collapsed to the ground. It slowly rose back to its feet, but its movement was impaired by the extensive damage to its carapace.

Onua tackled the creature, throwing it back on the ground. He wrestled with it until he won a firm grasp on the spirit’s arm. He then tore the specter’s gauntlet free and threw the piece of armor across the room.

The yellow being screeched as the green gas quickly left through the hole where the missing extremity had once been. The phantom’s strength soon left it, and all that was left was a dilapidated husk.

Onua and Lewa both smiled and bumped their fists.

On the other side of the room, Kopaka was easily avoiding his near-frozen enemy’s slow strikes.

He shook his head. All too easy, the Toa of Ice thought.

Kopaka flash-froze the phantom, sealing it in a thick casing of solid ice. He then raised his sword, and smashed the spirit’s armor into thousands of cold shards.

The green, gaseous substance quickly left from the area where the armor had once stood.

“Well,” Kopaka heaved, “that was fun.”

Lewa smiled. “Now we can easy-take the fragment-stone,” he said.

Onua nodded. He walked up to the Makoki fragment, and placed both his hands on the object. He lifted it off the pedestal.

“We might want to reach Tahu, Gali, and Pohatu,” the Toa of Earth said.

Kopaka nodded. “Right,” he agreed. “With any luck, they may have retrieved another fragment.”

The group turned towards the chamber’s entrance, and began the journey back to the surface.

_____________________________________________

Across the island in one of the large, sandy portions of the Po-Wahi desert, Pohatu and Tahu slowly walked across the great dunes. Tahu still carried an unconscious Gali in his arms.

“How is she?” Pohatu asked.

Tahu frowned. “Not good,” he responded. He placed two fingers on her forehead. “She’s burning with a fever. If we don’t get her to a healer soon, she’s not going to make it.”

Pohatu shook his head. “The sun’s going to be setting soon. We’ll have to find a place to camp.”

“No,” the Toa of Fire stated angrily. “We’ll keep going. She needs treatment fast, and I shall not deny her it!”

Pohatu sighed. “Tahu,” he said, “you realize that there are some things you just can’t change no matter what you do?”

“But if we reach civilization soon, I can get her treatment!”

“And what if we don’t?” Pohatu asked. “What do we do then?”

Tahu shot him a rage-filled glare. “We will find someone. I guarantee it.” He looked back to Gali’s unconscious form. “At least, I hope…”

The pair hiked across the dunes of Po-Wahi for miles, with no sign of civilization in sight. The sun slowly dipped below the horizon, and the stars came out. The air also began to cool as well.

Then, as they reached the crest of another dune, Pohatu spotted something.

“Tahu, look!” he called.

Tahu scanned the sandy plain below. In the basin, he could make out five tents, with light shining throughout them. A fire in the middle of the camp illuminated it with a ghostly red-yellow glow.

“A trading caravan!” Tahu exclaimed.

The two moved as quickly as they could down the slope, and entered the encampment.

“Someone!” Tahu called. “Anyone, help!”

An orange-armored Po-Matoran wearing an oddly-shaped Kakama poked his head out the door. His eyes widened when he saw the Toa.

“Toa!” he shouted. “What is it that you need?”

Tahu nodded to Gali. “Our friend needs medical treatment for a wound at once!”

“I’ll clear a tent out for you at once,” the Matoran said. He then trotted over to a nearby tent. Shouts could be heard, and three Matoran hurriedly left the tent.

“Alright,” the orange Matoran said, emerging from the tent. You can set her down in here. The others are fetching our healer.”

“Thank you,” Pohatu said.

Tahu carried Gali into the tent and laid her on a fur bead that was spread out on the floor.

“Hang on, Gali,” he whispered. He clasped her hand. “They’re getting you help.”

The orange Matoran entered the tent, carrying a skin of water with him. He pressed its opening to Gali’s lips, and poured a small amount of the liquid in.

“How long has she been like this?” he asked.

“A little over a day,” Pohatu said, entering the tent. “She was injured during a battle.”

Another Matoran entered the tent. She was a Ga-Matoran, carrying a sack of medical supplies with her.

“Could you please leave,” she asked the others. “I need room to work.” She slowly began to remove the blackened gauze from Gali’s midsection.

The orange Matoran nodded, and lead the Toa to the central fire.

“I can fetch you some food, if you’d like,” he said.

“I’ll have some, thank you,” Pohatu responded.

“And you?” the Matoran asked, turning to Tahu.

The Toa of Fire nodded.

The orange Matoran entered another tent. A few moments later, he emerged with some eggs and a frying pan. He cracked the eggs into the pan, and began to fry them over the fire.

“I’m sorry about your friend,” he said.

Tahu sat down on a bench and rested his hands on his palms. His elbows were supported on his knees. He didn’t bother to look up at the Matoran’s lament.

The Matoran raised an eyebrow. “What’s his problem?”

Pohatu sighed. “Well, he and Gali… they’re close, if you know what I mean.”

“Ah,” the Matoran said, turning the eggs with a spatula.

“Sorry, but I didn’t ask your name,” Pohatu said. “I don’t think we’ve met before.”

“No we haven’t,” the Matoran responded. “Anyway, my name’s Ganon. I carve miniatures for this caravan to sell.”

“I think I might’ve seen some of your work, then,” Pohatu said.

“Possibly,” Ganon shrugged. He looked at the eggs once more. “Eggs are ready,” he said. He retrieved two plates from a backpack and placed the fried eggs on them. He handed the plates to the Toa, along with some forks.

Pohatu quickly ate his eggs. It’d been nearly a day and a half since he’d last eaten, a sensation he rarely experienced.

Tahu, however, only picked at the eggs with his fork, now and then taking a bite.

Pohatu turned to his friend. “Tahu, she’ll be fine,” he comforted.

The Toa of Fire simply shook his head. “If she dies, I’ll never forgive myself,” he muttered.

Pohatu turned back to Ganon. “Any news on the war?” he asked.

Ganon gave the Toa a curious look. “War?” he inquired. “What war?”

“You haven’t heard?” Pohatu exclaimed. “A swarm of automatons is raging across the island. They’ve- they’ve taken Po-Koro.”

“What?” Ganon asked worriedly. “That’s where we were headed, damn it.” He shook his head. “No matter. We’ll just have to head for Ga-Koro instead.”

Tahu finished his meal and stood up. He walked to the edge of the camp and looked up at the stars. The same constellation’s that Gali had shown him still burned as bright as ever in the night sky.

He flashed back to the day when Gali had first shown him the Constellation of the Toa, and cracked a slight smile.

She’ll be fine, he thought. She’ll be fine.

Chapter XXVI

Tahnok-Kal stood atop the inactive volcano Mangai. Starlight reflected off his armor, giving the general of the Tahnok Swarm an ethereal appearance.

From his vantage point, he gazed across nearly all of Mata Nui. To the north, smoke billowed from the ruins of Po-Koro, which had recently been taken by a joint attack from his and Pahrak-Kal and Nuhvok-Kal’s swarms.

To the south, a green, acidic cloud slowly rose from Le-Koro, which had recently been taken by Lehvak-Kal’s swarm.

Which reminded Tahnok-Kal as to why he was here. He turned around to meet his gaze with that of Kohrok and Lehvak-Kal’s.

”I suppose you’re proud of yourselves?” Tahnok hissed in metallic Bohrok speech. ”Your failure at Ko-Koro has not pleased the queens.”

Kohrok-Kal blew air out from his headplate. ”Had our brother’s troops not abandoned me, we would have the city in our grasp, and its Matoran would be our servants.”

Lehvak-Kal hissed. ”Perhaps if they didn’t receive reinforcements you would have it. Remember, I was busy occupying two cities at the time!”

Kohrak hissed out a curse, to which Lehvak raised his fist and began to make obscene threats. The two were about to go for each other’s’ throats when Tahnok-Kal put himself between them.

”No matter,” the leader of the fire swarm said. ”Gahlok moves her legions on Onu-Koro today. Nuhvok is already assisting in the destruction of Le-Koro. Soon, only three free cities will remain.” ”And then we crush them!” Lehvak-Kal shouted.

Tahnok nodded. ”Yes. But for now,” he began, ”We’ll wait for Gahlok’s invasion to finish. Then, Nuhvok will retake Ko-Koro”

The other two Kal nodded. For them, victory would soon be at hand.

_______________________________________

Onepu helped funnel the hundreds of civilians into the evacuation tunnels from Onu-Koro. Not moments ago, they had learned that the Bohrok were on the march to their city. Now, the Gahlok, the water Swarm, were heading to destroy the marvelous, underground metropolis.

The purple and black clad Matoran waved several more civilians into the tunnel. Being a head officer in the Ussalry gave him authority over the evacuation.

“Go! Go!” he ordered two Matoran, carrying their child and bag of possessions with them. Onepu didn’t want to be harsh, but the entire population was at stake.

He gazed out. A silver and black armored Matoran, Mersery, scrambled out of his hut, carrying a backpack crammed full of designs and story plans. He was a famous designer and writer.

“Mersery! Get out of here!” Onepu yelled.

The architect stopped at Onepu. “Have you seen Nuparu?” Mersery asked in his slightly-accented voice. “I finished the designs he wanted, and I need to get them to him!”

“He’ll be coming soon!” the Ussalry captain shouted. “Meet him in the tunnels!”

Mersery seemed a little too casual in the evacuation and upcoming assault. “I’ll just wait for him,” the inventor quietly said, leaning against a wall near Onepu.

Onepu knew that Mersery was excentric (in fact, he was a good friend of Midak), but this was ridiculous. “Mata Nui, get out of here!” Onepu commanded.

“Not until my coworker gets here,” Mersery calmly responded.

Onepu shrugged, grimaced, and turned to continue directing Matoran into the evacuation tunnel.

Eventually, the orange Pakari of Nuparu emerged from his hut. The Onu-Matoran inventor carried a load of tools in his backpack, and was sprinting quickly towards the entrance.

“You’re late!” Mesery shouted, walking to meet Nuparu.

“Sorry, I needed to get my tools,” Nuparu said, chuckling quietly. “Without those, I’d be out of a job. I made most of them myself.”

“I have the designs you wanted,” Mersery said, handing a scroll to Nuparu.

“Thanks,” the inventor said, tucking the scroll into his backpack. “Hopefully we can put this to use soon.”

“Sorry to interrupt,” Onepu began angrily, “but we have to leave! You’re the last two left!”

Just as Onepu finished his sentence, there came a terrifying sound. A terrible noise that shook the Matoran to their cores.

It was the noise of water rushing through the cave.

“Move!” Onepu yelled.

The three turned to the evacuation cave and ran in. But the flood caught up with them.

Onepu was caught up in the flow, and hit his head on a rock. Everything went black.

___________________________________________

One hour later…

Onepu woke up. Well, he thought he woke up. He was sure that he was awake, but everything around him was pitch black. He sat up, and found that he was seven inches deep in ice cold water.

“Hello?” he called. “I anyone there?”

“Augh… my head…” someone muttered.

“Who’s there?” Onepu inquired. “Is that you Nuparu?”

“Yes,” the voice said back. “Where are you?”

“Over here,” Onepu said. “Follow my voice.”

He heard the inventor get up and make his way through the water to Onepu’s location.

“Were’s Mersery?” the inventor inquired.

“I don’t know,” Onepu whispered, looking around the blackness.

“Hello?” another voice called. Judging by the accent, it was Mersery.

“Mersery! You okay?” Nuparu asked.

“I’m fine,” the designer said. “You have any light?”

“Oh, right,” Nuparu exclaimed. “I have a lightstone with me somewhere.”

The sound of Nuparu shuffling through his bag echoed throughout the tunnel. Eventually, he produced a glowing stone that illuminated the area.

The tunnel had caved in on the way out, meaning that their only way out was to go through Onu-Koro.

Nuparu and the other two turned around, and found a Gahlok staring right at them.

Mersery and Onepu jumped back, startled. Nuparu simply poked the creature with his spear.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “its dead, see? The Krana was pierced by a falling stone.” He gestured towards the congealed blood around the damaged headplate.

“Well, at least we don’t have to worry about that,” Mersery mumbled. “Now what?”

Nuparu eyed the corpse. It was completely mechanical. Slowly, he began to form an idea within his head.

“Mersery, what do you say we put those designs to use,” the inventor said, rolling over a large, flat stone. He produced Mersery’s blueprints, and laid them out on the rock’s dry face.

Onepu leaned over him. “What is it?” he asked, looking at the design in wonder.

“Armor” the inventor said, a smile forming across his face. “But not just any set. Mersery and I have been working on this for quite some time. It amplifies Matoran abilities. See here? The arms can extend, and their force is amplified.” Nuparu turned his gaze to the Bohrok. “I think, with enough improvising, I can use parts from this thing to build this.”

Nuparu turned around and fumbled through his bag, producing a crowbar, some wrenches, and a screwdriver.

“Start dismantling this thing,” he said. “I’ll begin adapting.”

Hours passed. The Matoran slowly pulled apart the Gahlok, and Nuparu began welding new parts together. Using some of the clockwork mechanisms in the Bohrok, he was able to assemble the cogs that would allow his armor’s mighty limbs to move. Slowly, the creation came together.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity of work, Nuparu smiled at his finished work.

With the help of Mersery and Onepu, he was able to push himself into the armor’s cockpit. They strapped his arms and legs into the machine’s, which would give him full range of movement.

It was time to take back the city.

______________________________________

Gahok-Kal, leader of the Gahlok swarms, used her power of magnetism to lift the corpse of a drowned Onu-Matoran to the surface of the water.

The entire city was flooded in a foot of water. The entrances had caved in, and all who had survived had been executed by her troops.

She regarded the corpse with disgust, and threw it across the city.

Then, a pounding noise came from the collapsed entrance nearest her. She turned, and watched as the rock was slowly blasted away from the entrance. Finally, the last boulder was thrown from the doorway.

Many Gahlok had joined their leader to see exactly what was coming for them.

In the doorway stood three Matoran, one of which was clad in a great suit of armor. The armor’s long arms ended in massive hooks, that looked as if they had been retrieved from the ‘teeth’ of a fallen Bohrok.

“I am an engineer, not a poet,” the heavily armored Matoran said. “Besides, a practical name will be easiest for you monsters to remember. I’ll call it,” he paused for a moment, “BOXOR!”

The Matoran slammed the armor’s hooked fist into the nearest Bohrok, throwing it across the cavern.

The silver armored Matoran held the shield of a fallen Gahlok, and he let out a high-pressure burst of water from it, throwing several Bohrok off their feet.

The other, purple armored Matoran, held a spear, which he used to dispatch several Gahlok with ease.

Gahlok-Kal, ashamed at seeing her legion bested by three pathetic creatures marched towards the armored one. She threw a strong magnetic field around the Matoran, threatening to crush him and his armor.

The orange-masked Matoran smiled. “Should’ve picked a better alloy for your troops,” he said. “This stuff’s non-magnetic.”

With that, he slammed a hook into Gahlok’s face, and threw her across the city. The Bohrok leader crashed into the far wall, burying her deep into the stone.

_________________________________________

Tahu couldn’t sleep. The Matoran healer had done her best on Gali, but it would be weeks before she could fight again.

Weeks that we just don’t have, the Toa of Fire thought.

He sat up in his bed. The Po-Wahi desert was surprisingly cold at night, which Tahu hated. Cold was nearly as bad as its scorching heat. But at least the heat he could get used to.

A cold breeze blew in through the tent’s doorway, throwing the bed’s blanket a little further back.

Tahu stood up and walked outside, hoping to clear his mind and perhaps fall asleep within the hour.

The air outside was slightly crisper than that of the tent’s. The fire in the center of the camp had died, and only a few embers still burned. The Matoran were all asleep in their own tent.

He turned out towards the great dunes which he and Pohatu had hiked over not so long ago. A heavy wind passed over the hills, throwing sand into the air, and settling it not far off.

Tahu swore he saw someone walking towards the camp. The being was a shadow moving across shadows, though, and he couldn’t make out the figure.

The Toa of Fire ran to the edge of the camp. “Who goes there?” he shouted towards the dunes.

He heard armored feet stepping across the sand, muffling their sound slightly. A being was approaching.

Soon, Tahu could make out the silhouette of the being. He was clad in heavy armor, and wore a helmet with two large horns that curved up and back. In his right hand, he carried a great staff.

“Who are you?” Tahu demanded.

The being regarded Tahu coldly, and lifted up his staff. Tahu braced himself for an attack.

But instead of attacking Tahu, the being slammed the long rod into the ground. A crystal on its end flooded with a bright, yellow light that illuminated the area around him. On his back, two long, blue wings of light came into existence. The being then rested them on the ground like a cape.

“A friend,” the being said in a voice that sounded as old as the mountains, yet as young as the snow on Mount Ihu.

Tahu didn’t back down. “I need to know who you are exactly. Do not play games with me!”

The being’s golden armor reflected his staff’s light. “I am Artakha, Archangel of Creation, and ruler of the realm that bears my name.”

Tahu’s eyes widened. “Artakha!” he exclaimed. The Toa bowed low to the ground.

“I am no god,” Artakha said, waiving for Tahu to stand up. “Where is Gali?”

“In that tent, over there,” Tahu said, pointing towards the tent where Gali was sleeping.

“Thank you,” Artakha said. He walked to the tent, and disappeared through it.

Tahu followed the great being through the tent. Inside, Artakha was kneeling down over Gali.

Gali’s wound had been bandaged more professionally, but the wound’s bleeding had still blackened the fabric gauze. She was asleep, but anyone could tell that she was still in pain.

Artakha shook his head. “Mata Nui,” he whispered quietly, “your daughter calls for your aid. Let me answer in your absence…”

With that, Artakha slowly undid the bandage around the wound. Tahu watched as he revealed the hole in the Water Toa’s armor.

Artakha held his hand over the wound. The hand filled with a faint, glowing light that illuminated the cavity. As the light touched the gash, the armor and skin around it began to glow with a pale, lime-green light.

Before Tahu’s eyes, the wound slowly began to heal up. Armor, flesh, and muscle slowly regrew over the cut. The blood that had framed the wound evaporated without a trace. Gali’s expression even eased into a more relaxed state.

Artakha let out a breath, stood up. “There,” he said, “she’ll be fine.”

Artakha walked out of the tent, his staff illuminating his path. Tahu chased after him.

“Wait!” the Toa of Fire called. “You’re just going to leave?”

“Yes,” Artakha said, not even looking back.

“But what if worse happens? We’re alone here!”

“Tahu…” Artakha muttered. The being slowly turned around. “You’ve overestimated Makuta’s power, I think.”

“What do you mean?” the Toa of Fire asked.

Artakha looked to the stars, and then to the thin, crescent moon. “You think that he has dominion over this world, which is what he wants to believe.”

“But isn’t that true?” Tahu demanded. “Ever since we awoke here, all we’ve seen is Makuta’s power. Mata Nui has been absent!”

Artakha nearly winced at this statement. “Tahu, you were always one of the most interesting of Mata Nui’s creations. But you must understand that there are other forces at work in this world, and not just those of evil.”

“How can I believe that?”

Artakha turned once again to the stars. “Look around you,” he said. “The Matoran who’ve helped you, myself,” he said. “And then there’s you. You’re Mata Nui’s finest creations, his most powerful. You exist to defeat Makuta, and you shall.”

Tahu shook his head. “Forgive me,” he said.

Artakha waived off Tahu’s anger. It was part of who he was. “You need none, for I can sense all the turmoil within you.” The archangel paused a moment. “There’s something else you wish to ask, isn’t there?”

Tahu nodded. “I… I was wondering about, well…”

“You and Gali?” Artakha finished.

“Yes,” the Toa of Fire said. “Vakama has said that it is not our destiny to be together. I was wondering if that was true.”

Artakha shook his head. “None of us chose our destiny, and none of us can defy it,” he said, “all we can do, is decide what to do with the time we are given.”

With that, the archangel turned around, and headed off towards the desert.

“Wait!” Tahu called, but it was too late. Artakha had already faded away.

_____________________________________

Tahu stayed up for most of the night, contemplating what Artakha had said.

Slowly, the stars in the east began to fade, giving way to a pink and blue haze that spanned most of the horizon. Far off clouds reflected the orange light of the slowly rising sun.

Tahu walked into the supply tent and confiscated some cold sausage, a flask of water, and some cheese. He returned to the bench that rested next to the ashes of the fire, and began to eat.

The orange sun slowly emerged from the horizon, basking the Po-Wahi desert in warmth and light. A cool breeze whisked along the edge of the dune.

Pohatu emerged from a tent, rubbing his eyes and scratching his back. He, too, retrieved some food from the supply tent, and then sat down next to Tahu.

“So?” he asked, yawning. “Anything interesting happen?”

Tahu contemplated the question for a moment. “No,” he lied.

Pohatu nodded and took another bite of the cold bacon he was eating.

“You’re supposed to fry that, you know,” Tahu said.

Pohatu shrugged and continued eating. Tahu sighed and shook his head.

Ganon emerged from the Matoran’s tent. He sat down next to the Toa.

“I hope you slept well,” the Matoran said. “I could’ve sworn I heard someone walking around in the camp.”

Tahu nodded. “It was probably me,” he informed. “I couldn’t sleep, so I went for a stroll.”

“Ah…” Ganon responded, still half asleep. He stretched his arms. “I’m going to fetch some breakfast for the others.”

Pohatu nodded in his direction, still chewing some bacon. Ganon got up and left for the supply tent.

The Toa of Stone turned to Tahu. “How’s Gali?” he asked.

Tahu was about to say something, but was cut off before the first word could leave his mouth.

“Better,” someone said.

Both Toa turned to see Gali walking towards them. Her wounds were fully healed. Her blue armor reflected the shining rays of the sun.

“You look no worse for wear,” Pohatu said, smiling.

Gali smiled. “Whatever that healer did, she did well,” the Toa of Water said.

Tahu smiled and returned to his meal.

“Are you okay,” she asked, taking a seat to Tahu’s left.

“I’m fine,” he stated, looking off towards the west.

Gali shook her head. She turned to Pohatu, and engaged in a conversation with him.

Eventually, the other Matoran began to run about the camp, retrieving items and packing large bags. Two even began dismantling the camp.

Ganon approached the group. “Sorry to say this, but we’re heading out. We’re hoping to reach Ga-Koro by nightfall, so—“ He looked at Gali. “You recovered quickly,” he observed, an inquisitive look overwhelming his features.

“I can thank your healer for that,” Gali responded. “I hope your caravan can reach Ga-Koro safely.”

“As do I,” Ganon said. “I’m going to get my carvings together now. I’ll be back in a few moments.” The Po-Matoran turned and headed for another tent that was still standing.

Gali turned to Tahu. “I’m going to see if I can’t get any supplies. The Matoran should probably be more than generous.” She hugged Tahu. “I’ll be back soon.” The Toa of Water got up, and headed off towards the supply tent.

A cacophony of noise rose up nearby. A group of penned Mahi—no doubt used to transport the caravan’s wagons—had begun bleating for no apparent reason.

Tahu turned to Pohatu.

“Bohrok?” the Toa of Fire asked, worriedly.

The two jumped up and ran towards the source of the sound. Luckily, the Mahi were fine, and there were no signs of Bohrok. But, there was something else…

“Friends!” Pohatu announced, rushing to greet Kopaka, Lewa, and Onua. The Toa of Stone bumped his fist against Onua’s, and greeted the others.

Tahu smiled. “How’d the mission go?” he asked.

“Fine,” Kopaka said. He reached into a grey, leather pouch that rested on his side, and pulled out a fragment of a stone tablet.

“One of the Makoki fragments, I take it?” Pohatu asked, eyeing the stone.

Kopaka nodded. “It actually wasn’t that hard to get,” he said.

“Except for the nasty armor-spirits!” Lewa announced. “But they were no match for us Toa-heroes!”

Tahu raised an eyebrow. “Armor-spirits?” he inquired. “Are those the guardians?”

Onua nodded. “Yes,” he explained. “There were two suits of armor in the fragment’s chamber. When we approached the stone’s pedestal, the suits came alive and attacked us. Luckily we were able to beat them.”

Kopaka nodded. “And now there are only two more fragments left to retrieve.”

Tahu nodded. “Excellent.”

“So how’d Po-Koro go?” Onua asked.

Pohatu sighed. “By the time the others showed up, we were already evacuating the city.” He sighed. “But, we were able to keep them from destroying the village entirely.”

“We also wiped out a large portion of a swarm in Tiro Canyon,” Tahu added. “But Gali was injured, so we came here.”

Kopaka nodded.

Gali left the camp and came to the group. “Welcome back,” she said, smiling.

Kopaka nodded. “Thank you,” he said.

“Well,” Onua began, “I suggest we separate into groups once more and retrieve the final fragments of the stone. We need to deal with the Bohrok threat once and for all.

Tahu nodded in acknowledgement. “Yes, so—“

“I do wish-hope that I can return to my village,” Lewa interjected. “I have caught word of sorry-bad news that my village has fallen prey to the swarm-Bohrok. I want to look-see what happened myself.”

“I also want to investigate the extent of the damage in Onu-Koro,” Onua said. “The Bohrok flooded it, and I’d like to aid in the repairs.”

“Alright, that leaves Gali, Pohatu, Kopaka, and myself,” Tahu said. “Gali and I will retrieve the fragment in Ga-Wahi.” He pointed to Kopaka. “You and Pohatu shall get the fragment in this hold.”

Kopaka nodded. “Sound’s well thought out enough.”

Pohatu also agreed.

“Then it’s settled,” Gali said. “We best be off soon, or else we give the swarm the advantage it so desperately longs for.”

“Right,” Tahu said.

The Toa exchanged several brief good-byes, and then headed off on their own ways. Soon, they would be able to confront the swarm’s queens head-to-head…

Chapter XXVII

“They took their city back?” Tahnok-Kal shouted at his battered, azure-colored sister.

Gahlok-Kal winced at his voice. “Yes,” she hissed. “The Matoran built some kind of machine… large and black.”

The lightning-powered general grunted. “If it was a machine,” he began, “why did you not crush it with your power of magnetism?”

She shook her head. “The machine was made from the skeletons of my fallen soldiers. The metals could not be magnetized…”

Tahnok-Kal turned to the others. “So this is how it is…” he muttered. “We could so easily take any city we wish, and you fail.”

Lehvak-Kal, leader of the stealthy acid swarm, spoke up. “You do realize we have already captured the entire population of the air village. They now loyally serve the Queens.”

“Yes, Lehvak,” Tahnok-Kal said. “At least one of you has managed to complete their mission.”

Kohrok-Kal let out a guttural hiss. “If you remember, Lehvak, it was your troops who abandoned me at Ko-Koro.”

Lehvak-Kal snapped at the ice general.

“Stop, both of you!” a voice yelled. Pahrak-Kal, plasma-wielding leader of the rock swarm strode towards the group.

“Pahrak,” Tahnok-Kal greeted him. “I hope you bring good news. I could use it.”

Pahrak-Kal nodded. “We’ve secured the village of Po-Koro. But the Matoran have evacuated.” He paused for a moment. “Luckily, I already know where they’ve headed for: the village of Ga-Koro. I’m going to divert troops there soon.”

“Excellent,” Tahnok-Kal said.

Lehvak-Kal, upset that their leader was appreciating the stone general more than him, began to form a plan.

“Tahnok,” the emerald-clad Bohrok-Kal hissed.

“What?” the fire general inquired.

“How would you feel if we had a Toa among our numbers?”

________________________________________

Lewa slowly hiked through the jungles of his homeland. Light filtered through the rain forest’s canopy, creating an eerie atmosphere.

He took a deep breath, and then noticed that something was wrong. He smelled smoke. And a fire in the jungle was never a good thing.

But there was something else mixed with the smoke. An acrid, disgusting odor that lingered far longer in his nostrils.

He smelled acid.

The Toa of Air broke into a sprint, heading straight for Le-Koro. If the Bohrok had reached his village… he didn’t want to think about it. He just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

He broke into the clearing that was under Le-Koro. He looked up, and gasped.

Smoke billowed into the air from the village above. Corrosive liquid had melted black scars into nearby trees. The stench of acid and burning flesh filled the area.

Lewa’s eyes darted around, hoping to find someone. Anyone who could have possibly known what had happened here.

“Toa Lewa?” a raspy, voice called.

The Toa whirled around to find Turaga Matau and a group of Matoran slowly walking towards him. But something was definitely off.

Instead of their Kanohi masks, their faces were covered with sickly red Krana. The creatures’ legs were wrapped tightly around their heads, holding them to the Matoran’s faces. The Matoran’s eyes glowed a sickly green, and the Krana concealed their expressions.

Turaga Matau then emerged from the group. Along his face was a rigid Krana that had strange protrusions along its surface. When Matau spoke, three lateral ridges along the lower portion of the Krana opened, revealing hundreds of tiny, sharp teeth between them.

“Welcome, Toa Lewa,” said the raspy voice, coming from Matau. There was a hint of the Turaga’s usual, lighthearted tone, but it was dominated by the hoarse tone of the Krana. “We have been waiting for you.”

“Matau?” Lewa asked, astonished to see the Turaga in this state. “What happened to you?”

The three ridges along Matau’s Krana formed arcs that vaguely resembled a Matoran smile. “We have… been enlightened?”

“Enlightened?” Lewa inquired astonishingly. “What kind of ‘enlightenment’ have you been exposed to? It seems more like madness.”

The Krana’s ‘smile’ didn’t fade at all. “We shall show you,” it hissed. “GRAB HIM!

Four Matoran jumped onto Lewa, grappling onto his arms and legs. Lewa tried to shake them loose, but they would not budge. The Toa of Air contemplated creating a micro-cyclone to tear them off his body, but that could risk injuring them and others.

The Matoran that held his legs tore the two limbs out from under Lewa, forcing him to fall. He hit the ground with a loud thud. The Krana-controlled Matoran ran up to him and tackled his limbs, holding them to the marshy jungle floor.

Lewa struggled, but could not break free without harming any of the Matoran. He wished he could stop this madness…

The Krana-controlled Matau slowly walked up to the Toa of Air, the Krana’s wicked smile twisting his features into those of a horrifying monster rather than a regal village elder.

“Now, Lewa,” he hissed, “we shall allow you to experience our enlightenment…”

The Turaga-turned-swarm-servant raised his left hand. In it writhed a triangular Krana.

______________________________________________

Kongu, commander of the Le-Koro Air Force, watched, horrified, as the scene unfolded far below him. He and his Kahi bird had perched on a lone tree branch far above the Bohrok or their Matoran slaves’ reach.

Kongu had narrowly escaped the Bohrok’s assault on Le-Koro, and had to watch his village burn from afar. The metal automatons had wasted no time in destroying the city of air and converting its population into mindless slaves of the swarm.

Kongu returned to the scene, and observed as the Krana Matau dangled in front of Lewa’s face began to extend tendrils, which headed for the Toa’s mouth.

Kongu closed his eyes as the Toa of Air screamed.

This can’t be happening, he thought, Not now.

When he opened his eyes, he watched as Toa Lewa—face now concealed by a hideous, triangular Krana—rise to his feet. The Toa stood robotically in front of the Turaga.

A group of Lehvak, the emerald-clad Bohrok of acid, emerged from the forest undergrowth and surrounded the Matoran, Turaga, and Toa. They clicked and shrieked loudly in their language at their slaves. The Toa nodded, and raised his axe into the air…

And pointed it right at Kongu.

A blast of raw elemental energy slammed into a branch not a foot above the Commander’s head. Kongu gasped, and mounted his bird. The creature, startled but not yet panicking at the Bohrok/Toa’s attack, shrieked as Kongu dug his heels into its side, signaling for takeoff.

Bird and rider flew into the sky. Bursts of elemental energy exploded around them, but they evaded the Toa’s methodical attacks with ease. Eventually, they had left range of the Toa’s attacks.

Kongu sighed, and shook his head. I need to find aid help, he thought.

He pulled the reins on his bird, signaling it to turn north. Perhaps Onua could provide proper aid?

_______________________________________________

Kopaka cursed as he narrowly dodged the green-black claw that had been stabbed at him. Deep inside of the Makoki stone vault in Po-Wahi, he and Pohatu had been attacked by two more of the sentient armor constructions.

Pohatu landed two mask of strength-enhanced-blows into the chest of the black and silver armor creature in front of him, leaving two large dents in the metal plates.

The creature’s fanged Kanohi simply glared back at the Toa with hollow eyes and slashed a claw across Pohatu’s chest.

The Toa of Stone staggered and put his hand over the wound. He lifted his hand to his face. The limb had blood smearing along his fingers, but the attack had mostly just torn open two small gashes in his armor.

Kopaka froze the insect-like yet feminine suit of armor that was attacking him. The creature still persevered in its attacks, but its motions had been slowed by the ice building up on its four limbs and massive body.

Kopaka sighed and began sparring with Pohatu’s opponent. The bat-like armor being screeched and slashed at the Toa of Ice with its two long, razor-sharp blades. Kopaka dodged the attacks, and then blocked the creature’s blows with his sword.

The two stopped combat for a moment, locked as they tried to work their weapons out of the deadlock. Kopaka then smiled.

For a moment, the armor creature seemed confused. But then, it noticed that its hands had begun to grow cold. Soon, the limbs had been frozen solid. While unable to feel pain, it knew what was about to happen.

Kopaka wrenched his sword towards the armor’s frozen hands. The sword’s force snapped both the creature’s blades and hands off of its body. The greenish-black gas that held the armor together slowly began to poor from its body…

Pohatu landed a flurry of blows on the green-black creature’s body. It screeched in rage and swung its arms towards the Toa of Stone, who simply ducked out of their way. He smiled and kicked the armor as hard as he could in its shinguards.

The creature staggered just long enough for Pohatu to slam his armored fists across its head, denting the armor slightly.

The creature, however, swung its foot into Pohatu’s leg, dropping the Toa and giving it enough time to recover. The last of the ice melted off of its wings, and it lifted itself into the air. While the room was only ten feet tall, it gave the insect-armor enough space to get airborne and use its feet as weapons.

Pohatu dodged its powerful kicks, and turned to Kopaka. The Toa of Ice had dismembered the legs of his opponent, and the armor had gone limp. Kopaka looked up at Pohatu and nodded, firing a bolt of ice from his sword.

The icicle pierced the armor-creature’s wing, causing it to fall to the ground. It crashed hard, buying Pohatu enough time to land several hard blows to its torso.

The creature kicked the Toa of Stone away and rose to its feet. Kopaka met the being’s crimson gaze. The creature charged, and Kopaka raised his shield.

The armor’s clawed swings could not penetrate the shield’s metal surface. Kopaka pushed the shield into the creature, causing it to fall back for a moment. He then stabbed the being in the gut with his sword, and then removed the weapon. Green-black gas leaked from the wound.

Pohatu recovered from the creature’s powerful kick, and leaped onto its back. He grabbed the armor being’s wings and pulled hard. The limbs ripped off of the creature’s body, and more gaseous material poured from the wounds.

The creature reeled to face Pohatu, but was quickly cut off by Kopaka’s sword piercing through its midsection yet again. The weapon then slid upward, tearing through the hollow armor like butter.

Kopaka pulled his blade out and watched as the gas flowed from the wound.

The being dropped to its knees, weakened by the loss of its life-force. It let out a long, final screech, and collapsed. The final amount of gas left its hollow form.

Kopaka froze the creature under a sheet of solid ice to make sure that it would no longer return to the fight.

Pohatu let out a sigh of relief at the creature’s final defeat. “Well, that was fun,” he muttered, stretching his arms.

Kopaka rolled his eyes at the Toa of Stone’s sarcasm. “We’re done here,” he said in his cold voice. “Let’s get the fragment and leave.”

Pohatu nodded and walked to the pedestal on which the Makoki Stone fragment rested. He lifted the stone tablet into the air and admired the craftsmanship. Its surface was smooth, and riddled with ancient, Matoran ruins.

“Alright,” Pohatu said, slipping the stone into his satchel. “I’ve got it. Let’s move.”

______________________________________________

Tahnok-Kal, still standing at his makeshift camp along with his fellow Kal atop Mangai, closed his mechanical, sapphire eyes. Slowly, he felt the world around him fade, replaced by another, alien world. However, it was part of this plane of existence, as the chamber Tahnok-Kal had been teleported to rested nearly three miles directly below him.

The Kal knew the place well, although he hated to think of it.

The Bohrok leader stood at the far end of the chamber. Around him, great pillars made of a translucent, sickly green material with obsidian running through their structure dotted the area. The columns glowed with a pale light, which faintly illuminated the area.

In the center of the room was a pool of a bright, silvery liquid that frothed and moved as if it had its own life force. Surrounding the pool were six smaller pools containing the pure extracts of the six primary elements: fire, water, earth, ice, air, and stone.

At the other end of the underground stronghold stood a massive being, one that gave Tahnok-Kal shudders. The being, cloaked heavily by shadow, wore ancient, pitted armor that was rusted in an infectious, pale green material. Two massive, batlike wings sprouted from his back, and were neatly positioned along his back.

Tahnok-Kal felt uneasy. After all, he was in the presence of a god.

He was standing in front of the physical manifestation of Makuta himself.

“I was hoping to hear a report,” Makuta said, his dark, callous voice slowly rumbling across the chamber.

Tahnok-Kal shifted slightly. “Only one city has fallen,” the general stated. “However, others have been severely damaged, and we plan to move on the final cities shortly.”

Makuta’s dark, blood-crimson eyes showed no emotion. They simply narrowed slightly in the darkness that covered his Kanohi. “You’ve only taken one city? I thought you better than this…”

Tahnok-Kal stuttered. “Well…. We—we haven’t heard from the Queens in so long. Without their counsel, we have no—“

“Fool!” Makuta shouted. “The Queens are a falsehood! They may have limited control over your swarm, but you answer directly to me. They answer directly to me. They only distract the Toa from the real threat.

“But I have to say, even the falsehood of Queens controlling the Swarm may have been unnecessary, seeing as how you can’t even take one pitiful village.”

Tahnok-Kal didn’t correct him. The Bohrok-Kal stood directly ahead, trying to show as little emotion as possible. However, the revelation that the queens were not in absolute control of the swarm stunned him.

Makuta continued. “I truly hope you don’t force me to send those who I never wished to see the light of day to the surface,” he hissed.

From the shadow behind Makuta, six more beings appeared. Tahnok-Kal could barely make them out in the shadow. But their mere presence gave Tahnok-Kal a sense of dread, as if any trace of hope had died within him.

“No,” the Bohrok-Kal finally spat out.

“Good,” Makuta mumbled. The beings faded back into the shadow. “Now, I shall return you to your fellow leaders. Tell them that the ‘Queens’ want to see Ga-Koro felled within three days.”

Tahnok-Kal nodded. With a sudden jolt, he was back on top of Mangai. He turned around, where his fellow generals were waiting for him.

Gahlok-Kal was the first to speak up. “What have the queens asked of us now,” she inquired in her metallic tone.

The leader of the Fire Swarm sighed. “Pahrak-Kal,” he called out.

The brown-armored general looked up to acknowledge Tahnok-Kal.

“Gather your troops,” Tahnok-Kal ordered. “The village of Ga-Koro must fall.

Chapter XXVIII

Jaller, leading a troop of Ta-Koro legionaries, slowly marched across the early-dawn lit Ga-Wahi beach. Semi-wet sand sloshed underneath his heavy, armored boots.

Vakama had ordered him to take a detachment of soldiers to the village, as it was the only one other than Ta-Koro left unscathed by the conflict.

The sun slowly began to rise into the sky as they neared Ga-Koro. Jaller had chosen to lead the brigade, as Ta-Koro had not witnessed any Bohrok activity since the beginning of the war, and it was not likely that the Fire City would see any soon.

The wooden gate to the bridge of Ga-Koro slowly came into view. It was a simple, wooden structure. The wooden bridge it secured was closed off with iron bars. The Ta-Koro troop he had sent earlier that year was still camped outside the gates, indicating that no Bohrok had moved on the city.

He heard a loud horn blowing from the gate. The sound echoed across the open bay that Ga-Koro rested in.

By the time the Matoran general had ordered his soldiers to halt, Turaga Nokama, and one of her aids, Hahli, were standing at the gate.

For a moment, Jaller found his eyes wander to the Ga-Matoran standing behind the gate. She couldn’t be more than a year younger than him, and she had a rather graceful attribute to her…

Jaller returned to his professional mindset as the gates to the village opened. Nokama bowed respectfully, and Jaller bowed back.

“Jaller,” the Turaga said in her old, wise voice. “what brings you to our city? You’ve already sent enough troops here.”

Jaller nodded. “Yes, wise one,” he responded. “But, we have reason to believe that you will be attacked soon, as your village is the only one that has yet to experience Bohrok attack.”

“Very well,” Nokama spoke. “Leave your troops out here. You may follow me to our council chamber.”

Jaller ordered his soldiers to make camp with the other troops already settling on the beach. He then turned and followed the Turaga down the wooden causeway into the bay and to Ga-Koro.

When they reached the village, he was surprised to find Tahu and Gali having a conversation with the Matoran boatwoman Macku. After a few nods and inquisitive looks exchanged between the Toa and Matoran, the Toa thanked Macku. Then, they switched to their masks of water breathing, and dove into the bay.

Jaller followed Nokama further down the city’s wooden main road towards a large building towards the very end. It appeared to be a great fortress afloat in the bay. However, as they neared it, the building seemed to get smaller, until it was nothing more than a glorified fortification.

Nokama nodded to Jaller. “Come inside,” she bidded. “We need to discuss strategy.”

Jaller nodded, and entered the hut.

__________________________________________

Tahu slowly ‘breathed’ in and out as he and Gali descended deeper and deeper into the bay. The two had learned the location of the underwater Makoki temple from Macku, who said that it was located directly beneath Ga-Koro’s shrine to the Toa.

The two heroes swam downward in a spiraling pattern. Tahu had let Gali lead, as this was her homeland, and she could direct them much better than he could have here.

Tahu looked at the Toa of Water. She was easily twice as graceful in her own element. Her long, lissome form seemed much more relaxed in the underwater, and her soft blue armor reflected rays of light from the dawn sun from far above.

He smiled, not for the first time thanking Mata Nui for his relationship with her.

Meanwhile Gali, had different thoughts on her interactions with Tahu. She told Tahu that she loved him out of the fact that they may not have been alive shortly after she did. She did love him, just… not as sincerely as the Toa of Fire would have liked. But she loved him nonetheless.

Gali’s thoughts were interrupted by the flicker of light from far below. She pointed down.

Tahu followed the Toa of Water’s gesture to a ruin about fifty feet below them. He turned to her and nodded. She nodded back, and dove towards the structure. Tahu could barely keep up.

Lightstone’s lit the entrance to the great structure, illuminating the nearby seafloor with an eerie, pale blue light.

Inside, the ruin became a long, straight tunnel lined by heavily decorated columns on either side. Tahu followed Gali through it, and eventually, the two reached the end of it.

There, sitting on a pedestal in front of the center of the wall, rested the Makoki stone. The final fragment. Soon, they would be able to challenge the root of the Bohrok threat.

But, next to the stone, were two sets of armor. One was crimson and black with jagged protrusions and wings sprouting from its shoulders. The other was white, rigged, and insectoid, with long, spindly legs.

A green gas flowed through the water and into the sets of armor. Red eyes gleamed to life within the helmets.

Tahu unsheathed his sword and prepared to charge forward, but Gali placed a hand on his shoulder. He looked at her.

She gave him an expression that communicated ‘let’s wait and see’ to him. Tahu sighed, and waited to see what these new armor creatures would do.

Do not be afraid…

The voice flashed through Tahu’s mind. It seemed like a whisper, but carried a malevolent undertone with it.

We do not wish to fight. The red being’s helmet moved in turn with the telepathic voice, so Tahu assumed that it was the one “speaking”.

Who are you? the Toa of Fire “asked”.

We are guardians… the red being said. I, am Antroz. My counterpart here is Krika. We are the final remaining Makoki guardians, as your compatriots have destroyed the others.

Tahu smiled. Kopaka and Pohatu had retrieved their fragments as well. This left only this final fragment to be retrieved.

So why will you not fight us? Gali thought. Tahu found it strange that he could hear this too.

Because we wish to see Makuta defeated as well, Antroz responded. And to aid you in achieving your destiny…

Our destiny? Tahu asked, beginning to get annoyed with these ghosts. What could you possibly know of our destinies?

More than we can share with you… a voice “said” in a tone that sounded like metal grating across stone. Krika had spoken.

But there is little the future can share with the past, Antroz informed, so I will be brief.

The Bahrag cannot be defeated easily. They will fight hard, but they are not the true threat. While they have limited control over the swarms, it is the Makuta who truly leads them. He will assume direct control of the Bohrok after their Queens lay dead.

Tahu found this hard to take in.

So how do we defeat them then? Gali interjected.

With this, Krika said. He placed a small crystal made of fine quartz in Gali’s palm.

What is it? the Toa of Water asked.

It is the true final piece of the Makoki, Antroz explained. After the Bahrag are killed, this small crystal will send out a signal to all Bohrok, ordering them to return to their nests for eternity.

How does Makuta not know of this? Tahu asked furiously.

Antroz’s helmet would have smiled if it could. Let’s just say that Makuta is not as omnipotent as he would like to be.

Thank you, Gali said. She swam forward, and retrieved the final Makoki fragment.

One final word, Antroz said. For you, Tahu.

What is it? the Toa of Fire asked.

You were right.

With those final words, Antroz and Krika collapsed to the sea floor, green gas leaking from their armor.

Tahu contemplated Antroz’s statement, and was about to swim away, when he heard a loud rumble come from the ruin’s back wall.

Are they collapsing the cave? he thought.

Then, suddenly, the wall collapsed, revealing an extensive mosaic made from rubies, sapphires, and many other gems.

It was the effigy of two Toa, facing Tahu and Gali. One of Fire, the other of Water.

And their hands were locked together.

__________________________________________

Onua shielded his eyes from the sunlight with his claw. Not long ago, Kongu had visited Onu-Koro and informed him that Lewa had gotten himself into another mind-controlling mess—along with the rest of Le-Koro.

Not long ago, he, Nuparu and several other Matoran in recently-manufactured Boxor armorsuits, Kongu, and another free Le-Matoran, Tamaru, were formulating a plan on how to free the village’s populous from the Bohrok’s control.

Within an hour, Nuparu had devised a clever trap, which involved the efforts of all the Matoran and their single Toa.

It was risky, but it was worth it. An entire village was at stake.

Now, Onua was serving as bait in this elaborate trap. He looked into the trees, and new that somewhere up there, Tamaru and Kongu sat, waiting for Lewa to show up. The Boxors were hidden elsewhere in the thick jungle undergrowth, camouflaged with leaves glued to their metal frames.

Onua cuffed his claws and made a loud yodeling noise that echoed through the jungle. He shook his head.

“It’s not working!” he shouted to the invisible Matoran.

Then, he heard a rustling come from a nearby tree. The Toa of Earth readied himself for anything.

A being leaped from a tree and landed directly in front of Onua. He was clad in emerald armor that glowed in the bright sunlight. This was Lewa.

But as the being rose, something was… wrong. Instead of his Kanohi, his face was covered by a disgusting, triangular Krana.

“Lewa?” Onua asked.

The Krana-controlled Lewa grimaced and landed a firm punch into Onua’s face, throwing the Toa of Earth off balance and onto the marshy jungle floor.

“Do not call me that,” Lewa demanded. “I am Bohrok Za!”

“What lunacy is this?” Onua asked worriedly.

The “Bohrok Za” simply created a gust of air that threw the Toa of Earth high and dropped him several feet away in the mud.

“I am a proud servant of the swarms,” the ‘Bohrok Za’ stated. “My Queens give me strength!”

Onua returned to his feet and wiped some mud from his Kanohi mask. He couldn’t hurt this being, as it was Lewa, and he didn’t want to injure his friend—

“Go ahead, hurt me!” the Lewa/Bohrok-Za commanded.

“How did you—“

The creature pointed to his Krana. “I wear a Krana-Za! It gives me the power of telepathy. I can read your every thought.”

Onua smiled. This creature obviously wasn’t the Lewa he knew. So some injuries could be tolerated.

“Go on, hit me!” the Bohrok Za demanded once more, not noticing the massive, earthen fist forming behind him. “Just try and hurt me!”

“Lewa, you always needed to learn to shut your mouth,” Onua said.

An inquisitive expression came across the Krana’s ‘face’ just as the shadow of the fist loomed over it. The Lewa/Bohrok had no time to dodge as the massive, muddy hand smashed down upon him.

Mud splattered across the environment after hitting the “Bohrok Za”, throwing material on the nearby foliage.

The pile of mud slowly slid off the Krana-controlled Lewa, who was now unconscious. Breathing, but passed out and unable to move.

Onua approached the lying form, and bent down. He placed both hands on the side of the Krana latched onto Lewa’s face, and pulled. He pried off each of the Krana’s long, rubbery legs that were wrapped around the Toa of Air’s skull. Eventually, the Krana relieved its grasp, and Onua removed the creature from his fellow Toa’s face.

This should tick off the swarm, Onua thought, smiling as he smashed the rubbery Krana under his foot with a satisfying squash. He didn’t like killing the creature’s, but there was no alternative at the moment, as releasing it meant that it would head back to the swarm and be fitted into another Bohrok.

Within a minute, a patrol of Lehvak, along with Matau, who was carrying Lewa’s Kanohi mask, entered the clearing.

Onua took notice of the lead Bohrok first. Unlike the others, this one had veins of silver running through its emerald armor. Its headplate concealed the Krana entirely from view. Its shield-weapons were also pincerlike, rather than smooth and circular.

“What in Karzahni are you?” Onua whispered to himself.

“What am I?” the Bohrok responded.

It talked, Onua noted.

“I am Lehvak-Kal! Leader of the acid swarm!” the silvery Bohrok remarked.

As soon as the last word left its… its head, Onua began struggling to breathe.

A vacuum! the Toa of Earth thought frantically. This creature controls vacuums!

Onua soon began clawing at his throat as his oxygen levels hit increasingly lower levels. He began praying to Mata Nui that the Matoran would spring their ambush now.

The edge of his vision began to blacken…

“Fire!”

Soon, a barrage of rocks hailed down from the trees, slamming into the Bohrok.

Lehvak-Kal lost his concentration, and the vacuum around Onua faded. The Toa of Earth collapsed to the ground, gasping for breath.

A moment later, five Boxor armorsuits rushed out of the foliage. Two converged on the Kal, pummeling it with harsh, powerful blows that left massive dents in its armor. The other three decimated the other Bohrok, tearing through their numbers like a Kane-Ra bull through a poorly-built fenceline.

One of the Boxor’s confronting the Kal landed a hit square on the face plate of the silver-armored Bohrok. The loud sound of flesh being smashed under metal mingled with the landing of the blow. Then, the Kal’s body went limp.

The Bohrok, seeing their leader had fallen, turned and ran for the bushes. The Krana-controlled Matau tried to follow, but was cut off by one of the Boxor suits.

Kongu and Tamaru climbed down from the trees and charged for the Turaga. They grappled him down, and tore Lewa’s mask from his hands. The two then ran for the Toa of Air’s unconscious body.

Onua had recovered from the vacuum and was already standing by the time the Matoran had reached him. He rolled over Lewa’s unconscious form. Kongu placed the mask on the Toa’s face.

Immediately, Lewa awoke with a start.

“What, whazza!” he yelled, quickly leaping to his feet and readying his axe. “No I won’t have that weird Krana-bug latch-humped to my head-face!”

“Calm down, Lewa,” Onua said. “You’re fine now.”

“Oh,” the Toa of Air muttered, lowering his axe. “What happened?”

Onua lead them to an old, acid-burned tree stump and let Kongu relay the events of what had happened to the Toa of Air, from the beginning. The Le-Matoran related in great detail Lewa’s capture, possession, and ‘fight’ with Onua.

At the end of the description, Lewa simply nodded.

“So,” he responded, “I was mind-taken again?”

Onua nodded.

The Toa of Air shook his head. “Why does this always happen to me?” he questioned loudly.

“I don’t know,” Onua answered. “Especially since there’s so little mind to control.”

Both he and Kongu began laughing at the little joke.

Lewa, however, was not impressed. “Hey, I don’t find that very funny!”

“I know,” Onua said. “Sorry friend, but as you always say, ‘I had to do it’.”

Lewa cracked a smile, even though he was still trying to overcome the fact that he had not long ago been a loyal servant of the Bohrok swarm.

Then, he flashed back to the moment where the Krana was controlling him. He could see Onua, plain as day, facing off against him. Words that were not his own were leaving Lewa’s mouth. In his head, he could hear voices.

Steady, continuous whispers with strong, authoritative feminine tones.

Clean it all, the voices commanded. It must be cleaned…

“You okay?” Onua asked Lewa, snapping the Toa of Air out of his flashback and into real life.

“Yeah,” Lewa said, shaking his head. “Yeah… I’m… I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yup!” Lewa affirmed, trying to maintain his usual, upbeat tone of voice. “Better than ever!”

“If you say so,” the Toa of Earth said, shrugging his massive shoulders. Onua headed off towards his Onu-Matoran, who had left their armor suits and were admiring the metallic remnants of what was once Lehvak-Kal.

Then, a rustling came from the bushes. Lewa, Onua, and the Matoran all turned to meet the sound, readying what weapons they had.

The rustling came closer… and closer…

Kapura burst from the bushes, and a frightened look came across his face.

“Oh my!” he yelped, startled. “I didn’t mean to do anything! Sorry!”

Onua shook his head, lowering his weapon with the rest of the group. “No, we’re sorry,” he said. “We’re just a little on edge. We had quite a fight with the Bohrok not long ago.”

Kapura nodded, still a little nervous from having nearly a dozen weapons pointed at him.

“Well, Tahu wanted me to deliver a message to you,” the Ta-Matoran quietly mumbled.

“A message?” Lewa asked. “What, has something happened?”

“No,” Kapura responded. “In fact, far from it.”

“Then what is it?” Onua inquired.

“They’ve found the last fragment of the Makoki stone,” Kapura explained. “And they’re waiting for you at the sealed entrance to the Bahrag’s lair. They need your fragment to open it.”

Onua patted the pouch on his right hip, making sure that the Makoki fragment was still inside. The stone must have been carved from a very durable stone to have survived thousands upon thousands of years in a ruin along with many battles with the Toa that were now carrying its fragments.

Well, maybe not all that durable, Onua thought. After all, it was able to be fragmented.

“Where’s the Queen-cave, then?” Lewa asked.

“Near the base of the Mangai Volcano,” Kapura explained. “Not far north from hear. You’ll probably want to head off soon, as dusk will be settling very shortly.”

Onua nodded, and turned to Kongu. “I trust that you and the others will be able to free Le-Koro without us?” he asked.

Kongu nodded. “We’ll be fine,” the Le-Matoran said. “It seems that without that silvery Kal thing, they Bohrok are as harmless as swamp gnats.”

Lewa chuckled slightly.

“Well, then,” Onua announced, turning to the Toa of Air, “I guess we’re off then. Come on, we need to get there before dusk.”

Lewa nodded. Both Toa switched to their Kakamas, and sped off to the north, heading for the entrance to the Bahrag’s lair.

___________________________________________

Jaller sat next to Nokama in the Ga-Koro council hut, staring at a map of the surrounding area. He had already formulated a battle plan. It was risky, but it would easily defend the village if pulled off.

He was going to have his soldiers retreat up the causeway at the first sight of any Bohrok, with only a patrol of men left to take on the swarm at the gates. The Legion would then move up and strike with quick, deliberate skirmishes and volleys of arrows.

If the Bohrok proved to be too much of a hassle, he’d have the whole army retreat into the village and have the access causeway destroyed.

He heard the entrance of the hut open and close. Nokama looked up from the battle strategies.

“Ah, Chronicler Takua,” she greeted, rising from her seat and meeting the Matoran.

“Takua?” Jaller asked, turning around on his stool to meet the Chronicler. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in Ta-Koro, where it’s safer?”

Takua laughed. “Now what’s the adventure in that?” the Chronicler sarcastically asked. “Besides, Vakama wanted me to take down the story of the leader of the Legion and his valiant stand at Ga-Koro.”

“Those his words?” Jaller asked.

“Yeah,” Takua said sheepishly, scratching the back of his neck. “I’ve also brought a team from Onu-Koro, who are using machines called ‘Boxors’. These armor suits can stand up against the strongest of Bohrok.”

“Excellent,” Jaller said, “we’ll need the armored support.”

Suddenly, a light-blue clad Matoran burst through the entrance, waiving her arms frantically. “Turaga Nokama!” she called.

“What is it, Kotu?” Nokama calmly inquired. “Why have you disturbed us?”

“Come quickly!” Kotu demanded. “You’ll want to see this!”

Jaller looked at Takua and shrugged. They and Nokama left the hut and followed Kotu to Ga-Koro’s northern port.

From the mists, Jaller could make out faint silhouettes of objects moving at great speed.

“Bohrok?” Takua asked, watching the dark objects move closer and closer.

“I don’t know,” Jaller whispered.

Soon, the objects came into view. They were definitely not Bohrok or any hostile Rahi. Instead, they were boats. Boats on which the populous of Po-Koro was riding. At least ten, large, jam-packed boats were bearing down on Ga-Koro.

“Refugees from Po-Koro!” a Ga-Matoran yelled from the village.

Soon, the boats approached the docks. Po-Matoran jumped out and began mooring their watercraft to the docks. Others began unloading supplies and possessions.

Turaga Onewa slowly stepped off of his boat, followed by his aids, Hewkii and Hafu. He approached Turaga Nokama, and bowed at of respect. She bowed back.

“Forgive our uninvited arrival,” Onewa said in solemn tone, not at all like his usual, wise voice. “We have come at the destruction of our village. The Bohrok have taken it, and we are without home at the moment.”

“Then we are glad to open our homes to you,” Nokama said. “Hahlii!” she called.

Hahlii approached her. She bowed. “What do you need Turaga?”

“Order the village to open up space for our guests. They’ll need it.”

Hahlii bowed again. As she turned, Jaller noticed that she quickly glanced at him and smiled. He wondered what that meant…

Onewa shook his head. “Sadly, it appears we have jumped from the puddle and into the pond,” the Turaga said, looking around, “judging by the presence of the Legion here.”

“It is true,” Nokama responded. “We know that the Bohrok are upon us, and will be at the gates in no time.”

“My people are exhausted from their long journey oversea,” Onewa informed. “As you know, we are not overly fond of water.” The Turaga of stone paused a moment to give Hewkii a slap on his head. The Matoran had been exchanging gestures with his lover, Macku, ever since they had arrived.

He then returned to his conversation with Nokama. “But we can still fight.”

Hahlii immediately interjected, fear in her eyes. “Toa Nokama! The Pahrak are at the gates. The Legion is repelling them for now, but we won’t make it for long!”

Jaller exchanged a glance with Takua. “You know how to swing a sword?” he asked the Chronicler.

“Yeah,” Takua responded. “Why?”

“You might want to find one,” the Legion general responded. “Things are about to get a little hairy.”

_________________________________________

Tahu stood at the massive, stone seal to the Bahrag’s cave. It was a great monolith, carved from great, black stone and was ancient in both appearance and texture. At its lower center was a slot that the Makoki Stone could fit in perfectly.

Now if only we had all the fragments! the Toa of Fire thought impatiently. When will Onua get here! He fingered the hilt of his blade, which was nestled in its leather sheath.

Kopaka was off to the left, sitting on a small boulder in the shade. He had produced a portable sharpening stone from his satchel and was slowly sharpening his pearl-colored sword. Every scrape against the weapon produced a shower of sparks.

Pohatu waited anxiously in the sun, restlessly shifting his weight from foot to foot. The Toa of Stone’s thoughts drifted back to the fight with Makuta, and he realized how similar the situation was. The Toa were heading back underground to fight off a threat they had no previous encounter with.

I wonder if these creatures will be easier than Makuta? he thought, remembering how Makuta had seen into his emotions. They have to be. No other creature could possibly match Makuta.

Gali was resting on a stone near the seal, not far from Kopaka. She checked her torso’s armor, making sure that it was still undamaged from her encounter with the Bohrok in the desert. She knew that armor and Matoran had the ability to heal itself over time, but hers healed in a night.

She began to wonder exactly how she had survived the encounter. No Matoran medicine could heal a wound like that that quickly.

She silently thanked Mata Nui for whatever force had helped her.

The sun soon lingered above the horizon, not yet quite ready to set. The sky’s hue slowly turned to a deeper bluish hue. The first star peeked from the clouds.

_____________________________________________

The Ta-Koro Legion assembled at the gates of Ga-Koro, raising their large, red-and-gold metal shields towards the advancing Pahrak swarm. Ga-Matoran archers fingered their bows, readying the first volley on the Pahrak. The Onu-Matoran stood defiantly in their Boxor armor, gleaming in the evening light.

The Pahrak, bronze-brown armor shining as the sun’s rays reflected off their metallic surfaces, stood across the beach from the gates, ready for battle. Shields raised, they were ready for battle.

Takua stood amongst the Ta-Koro soldiers, gripping the hilt of his sword as hard as he could and holding the blade in front of his face. Spearmen surrounded him, making up the bulk of the force.

Then came the sound. The awful sound, one that wrenched into the mind of all the Matoran present. It was like millions of cicada chiming metallic tones across the still, dusk air.

The Bohrok were laughing.

The regiment commander of this portion, Agni, patrolled between the rows of spearmen, holding his golden blade up high, and clattering it across the soldier’s weapons as a sign of encouragement.

Takua simply waited. He didn’t know what to think. He was a writer, not a warrior. He recorded history, never making it.

Slowly, he began to whisper verses from an old Ta-Koran war song.

”From the top of the mountain, a deafening call,

Roars down over the plain.

On the host of battle, war, and blood reddened fog,

Pushing out from the thunder and rain.”

”These men of the Fire, they have suffered to long,

The anger, it flows in their veins…”

Agni barked a command. “Ready your spears! Tonight we fight Karzahni itself!”

“Of the spirit to rule of lost warriors songs,

Distant echoes are all that remain.”

Another Matoran, a black-and-red armored warrior wearing heavy golden armor as well, joined into the song with him.

The sound of the Legion’s swords leaving their sheaths echoed across the beach. The Ga-Matoran drew their bows.

Two more warriors joined in.

”And my voice is my violence,

Rended sky thunders tears,

And no more we’ll be silenced,”

With this Artakha song in our ears.”

“Here they come!” Agni called.

The sound of the Pahrak’s feet marching towards the army now moved across the beach, threatening the armies with the sheer sound of their armored boots.

Now, the whole platoon had joined into the song.

”And we’ll stand tall, sons of the stone,

We will not. Fall. Under these blows.

For our hearts they are hardy,

Our spirits are strong.

And our voices are lifted into,

This Artakha song.”

“Archers!” Agni called. “Send these troops back to Karzahni!”

Bows twanged as their arrows left the weapons and flew over the army, heading straight into the Bohrok swarm.

Multiple Pahrak dropped, arrows imbedded in their blood-leaking headplates. Others were only hit in their metallic joints, causing the automatons to collapse. But more yet were still standing, heading for the Matoran’s coalition army.

“Shield men!” Agni called. “Don’t let them break your line! Swords at the ready!”

The shield-carriers created slight gasps between them, and swordsmen filled the gaps. They carried claymores, infused with the element of fire.

The charging Pahrak Swarm closed in on the Matoran shield line. As they met the soldiers, swordsman cut through the Bohrok’s armor like butter, setting their inactive bodies on fire as their weapons clashed.

But more Bohrok charged, and the men couldn’t hold off the onslaught forever.

Eventually, one Pahrak made it past a swordsman and killed a shield-carrier in the middle of the line. The single Bohrok charged in, fighting off multiple spear and swordsmen within the army, holding them all off as more Bohrok entered the line. The creatures slaughtered the shield men, breaking the protective barrier and leaving the Matoran vulnerable.

“Boxors!” Agni shouted. “Move up!”

The Onu-Matoran in their tanklike armor suits marched through the army’s lines, meeting the Pahrak head-on. The Bohrok’s sharpened shield-weapons cut the Boxor’s armor, but they kept charging, beating back the swarm’s onslaught.

But then, one of the Boxors dropped, its pilot decapitated by a Pahrak blade.

Boxors, stay up! Beat them back.” Agni ordered. “All others, return to the city! Po-Matoran engineers! Up front!”

As the army, minus the Boxor armorsuit division, retreated back on the causeway, Po Matoran engineers, tools in hand, marched down the bridge.

“Break the causeway!” Agni ordered the Po-Matoran.

The engineers took out cutting tools and slowly pried apart the causeway.

“Agni!” a soldier called. “Those Onu-Matoran are still out there! What can we do to save them?”

Agni turned his gaze to the beach. The Boxors were slowly being overtaken by the now-enraged swarm.

“We can do nothing,” the commander said in a solemn tone.

Takua was astonished at the comment. How could one send so many soldiers to their deaths? What good would it do?

“I know what you’re thinking,” a voice said.

Takua turned to find Jaller, clad fully in his golden armor and sword on his side. He looked like the regal warrior he had always been made up to be.

“I made the order to leave them myself,” he continued.

“Why did you leave them to die?” Takua asked, anger in his voice.

Jaller sighed remorsefully. “Takua, had we not left them the Pahrak could have swarmed the village, and Ga-Koro would be no more. The sacrifice of the few saves the lives of the many.”

Takua still couldn’t justify the act. It seemed cruel and terrible to him.

“My old commander once told me something about situations like this,” he said. “There’s a difference of the way lives are used in war. Some are spent, dying with the hope of victory still in their hearts, and the thought that their death will bring new life.

“Others are wasted, dying in fear and no hope left in their hearts.”

Takua considered the comment for a moment. So were these Matoran lives spent, or lives wasted?

He mulled over the thought for a long while, all the time watching the Boxors become overwhelmed by the Bohrok, one by one falling to the swarm’s might…

Lives spent, or lives wasted?

___________________________________________

The sun was beginning to vanish from view, its last bright orange rays gleaming across the desert as Tahu looked over Lewa for the fifth time.

“You’re sure you’re not still under their control?” the Toa of Fire asked his friend.

Onua and Lewa had arrived not long ago, and Onua had related to their fellow Toa the story of Lewa’s possession. Tahu now seemed to have lost all trust in the Toa of Air, thinking that he could still be a pawn of the Bohrok.

Lewa sighed. “For the umpteenth time, firespitter, I’m no Bohrok-brain anymore!”

“He’s fine, Tahu,” Onua confirmed.

The Toa of Fire, still unconvinced, shook his head and stepped away from Lewa.

Gali walked to his side. “Tahu, you need to stop being so worried,” she said in her calm tone, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“Why shouldn’t I?” Tahu shot back, turning to face her. “He could still be subservient to our enemy without even knowing it!”

“Tahu…” she trailed off. “Lewa’s fine. He might be a little on edge, but that’s because he just saw his village burned to the ground. You should be kinder.”

Tahu thought for a moment. He, too, wouldn’t want to see his village sacked, burned, and destroyed by those insectoid abominations.

“I guess,” he muttered, “I guess you’re right.”

The Toa of Water smiled. Tahu cracked a smile back. The two hugged for a moment before returning to the group.

“Lewa, I’m sorry,” the Toa of Fire apologized. “I—I shouldn’t have acted the way I did.” He paused for a moment. “You must understand that we’re all on edge with this war going on.

“Thank you, Tahu,” Lewa said in a nearly patronizing tone.

Kopaka sighed angrily. “So, are we done with these mindless accusations or can we finally open this seal?”

Tahu nodded. “Right,” he acknowledged. “Pohatu, Onua, put your fragments in the slot.

The Toa of Stone and Earth nodded, and placed their fragments into the carved slots. They fit perfectly, but left a final gap between them.

“One more,” Onua stated. “Gali? You have yours.”

“Mm-hm,” she nodded. She walked towards the slot, and removed her fragment from her satchel. She placed the fragment in between the other two. It fit perfectly.

Gali then removed the small crystal that Antroz had given her from the pouch and placed it into a small facet in the center of the now-reformed Makoki Stone.

As soon as the crystal gem slid into the facet, the whole seal began to rumble.

Slowly, the massive, stone door began to move. Its great, carved face began to creep into a well-hidden slot in the ground.

The upper edge of the monolithic gate slid beneath the ground, becoming parallel with the ground it had now merged with.

Within the doorway a great darkness yawned before the Toa, far darker than the dusk light that now illuminated the desert that they stood in. Further in, small lights could be seen, faintly illuminating areas of the passage too far off to notice.

Onua shook his head. “Tunnels,” he muttered. “Why’s it always have to be tunnels?”

“Tell you what,” Lewa chimed in. “Instead, we can go crawling through my homeland’s mud-swamp regions instead. What do you say?”

“I say there’s nothing like a good tunnel,” Onua responded.

Chapter IXXX

Night slowly fell on Ga-Koro. The sky began to fade into a deep blue black, and the first stars began to slowly peek out from behind the veil of daylight. The moon rose, and its deep, silvery glow began to reflect off the open waters of Naho bay.

Hewkii sat, watching the last ray of sunlight fall below the horizon. He had lead the team to dismantle the causeway into Ga-Koro, and he currently felt as if he had betrayed the Onu-Matoran soldiers that had given their lives on the beach.

Of course, they knew the risk of the mission. They had been warned that if worse came to worse, they would die.

And die they did.

Hewkii sighed. He loved Ga-Koro. The birds, the architecture, the environment, and even the water. It was a shame that he had to come here for such a terrible reason: the evacuation of his own village.

In fact, his only plans on coming to Ga-Koro were to—

“Hey.”

Hewkii turned around, and found Macku standing behind him. He forced out a smile.

“Hey,” he said back. “Want to sit down?”

“Sure,” she nodded. The Ga-Matoran gracefully sat down. She let her feet wade into the water, up to her knees. Hewkii did the same, though he didn’t particularly enjoy it.

The two sat in silence for a few moments. Macku finally decided to break it.

“You know,” she began, “the last time you were here was for that ‘swimming lesson’.” A mischievous smile crept across her face.

“Swimming lesson?” Hewkii inquired sarcastically. “You dumped my Kanohi in the bay and made me get it myself! That’s no swimming lesson.”

“You still learned how to swim, though,” Macku responded, still smiling.

Hewkii shook his head. “Yeah, I guess so…” his voice trailed off a moment. “So, what do you think those Pahrak will do next? They’re very tenacious and—“

Macku placed her hand over Hewkii’s. “Perhaps they just gave up and went home,” she comforted.

Their gazes locked. Macku closed her eyes and slowly leaned towards Hewkii. He, too, began to move closer to her.

“Pahrak don’t give up,” another voice entered.

Hewkii and Macku, startled, immediately pulled their hands behind their back and turned away from each other, blushing. Hewkii nearly fell into the bay, but recovered. When he turned around, he found Jaller, still clad in his armor, staring off at the shoreline.

“They’ll be back by morning,” the General stated almost mournfully. “And they’ll have a plan.”

__________________________________________

The Toa made their way down the massive tunnel. The ceiling of the long passageway dangled almost thirty feet above their heads. The floor was made of smooth, slick rock that was coated in a slimy substance, and the cavern itself was filled with a heavy, moist, vaporous air.

But, it was decently lit. On the arched ceiling and along the upper walls of the cave were faint, yellow lights which glowed steadily, illuminating the Toa’s path. It almost seemed as if the lights beckoned them to go further in.

Like moths to a flame, Kopaka thought. We could be heading blindly into a trap, and not even know it.

All the Toa seemed on edge. They had been traversing the long warren for nearly two hours, with little rest, and no end seemed to be in sight.

Lewa looked around, worriedly. He swore that he heard whispers coming from somewhere.

Lewa… both voices hissed simultaneously.

The Toa of Air’s gaze shot around frantically, searching for the source of the speech. Then, he realized the disturbing truth: they were in his mind.

He could still hear the Queens.

Clean it all, the Bahrag hissed in their reptilian voices. It must be cleaned…

Lewa was beginning to panic now. His vision slowly began to blacken as the Bahrag’s voices became louder and louder.

Come, Toa, their sleek, feminine voices called. Come. Join your voice with ours and sing of victory everlasting.

Lewa’s breathing became frantic. He couldn’t take it anymore. He coulnd’t… keep…

“Lewa, you okay?” Pohatu asked, tearing the Toa of Air from the Bahrag’s trance and back into reality.

The Toa of Air shook his head to clear out the remnants of the Bahrag’s voices. “I—I’m fine,” he stuttered. “I just… need a moment. None of us have slept in so long…”

“Hey, guys!” Pohatu called ahead to the rest of the Toa.

“What do you need?” Tahu called back.

“Lewa’s getting fatigued,” Pohatu responded. “He needs some rest. We all need some rest.”

Tahu nodded. “Agreed. We’ll camp here, but only for a few hours. The longer we wait, the more land the Bohrok could gain.”

Lewa sighed, and collapsed to the ground. He laid down on his back, and put his hands behind his head as a comforter. As soon as he closed his eyes, he was out.

_________________________________________

Tahu… Gali called silently as Tahu ran for her. She’d been captured by a tall being, clad in slender, reptilian armor. Its face was concealed by a wicked helmet, and it carried a long spear in its hand.

Gali! I’m coming! Tahu called to her, trying to run faster. But the creature was far stronger. Far faster. For every stride it took, Tahu took three.

Then, suddenly, it stopped, Gali still writhing in its arms.

Tahu unsheathed his sword, charging the creature. Now he could make out its armor color: poisonous green, like something one would see in a vile of a deadly extract. Behind its helmet blazed deep, blood-crimson eyes which glowed like an agate in front of a flame.

Tahu slashed at it, but, despite its size, the creature dodged the blow easily. Then, it took its spear, which now shown with a sickly green glow, and swung it at Tahu.

The weapon slashed across his left cheek, and—

Tahu awoke with a start.

Another nightmare. Always another nightmare.

He looked around, trying to get a grasp of the time. He did his best to push all thoughts of the nightmare out of his mind, but the image of Gali, screaming for his aid, her yellow eyes pleading for help, were still burned into his retinas.

“Guys!” the Toa of Fire called out. “Guys! Wake up!”

The other Toa moaned and slowly rose. All of them had had little sleep in the last three days, and none were ready to sacrifice what rest that could still be achieved.

“Come on,” the Toa of Fire demanded. “We must hurry! The more we wait, the more the Bohrok advance!”

Eventually, they all begrudgingly awakened and regrouped, heading down the tunnel and into the unknown.

Tahu was still shaken from his dream, and he found himself walking quite close to Gali, keeping an eye out for anything above her or in her path.

Great, the Toa of Fire thought, now these dreams are making me paranoid…

Gali, too, was afraid. Not from any nightmare, Makuta-induced or otherwise, but of what they might find ahead. The Turaga had provided little description of what the Bahrag actually were, or what powers they wielded, or what traps that had been laid in the tunnels leading to them. She was so preoccupied with this that she never noticed her hand subconsciously enter Tahu’s grasp…

The Toa walked further still, nearly bored of the same, grey-black walls, the same yellow-white lighting, and the same humid stank that rose throughout the passage.

“Anyone have some food?” Pohatu finally called out, his stomach winning over his brain in the trek.

“I might have some in my pack,” Kopaka called. He pulled his backpack off his shoulders and rifled through it, eventually producing two slices of bread and a canteen of water. “We should all drink up,” he the said. “Don’t know how long we’ll be down here.”

Pohatu took the bread, broke some of it and handed it to Onua and Lewa, and then drank from the canteen. The rest of the Toa took their turns drinking from the cistern as well.

Tahu, after drinking his fill of water, leaned against a wall, contemplating everything that lay ahead.

The Bahrag were a certainty, that much was clear. But what of everything else? Were there Bohrok further down, waiting to stop them? Were there tricks and traps meant to deceive or deviate them from their goal? Could there possibly be a swarm of Krana waiting to capture the Toa and make them slaves to the Bohrok?

Too many terrifying uncertainties… Tahu thought.

And what of the spear-wielding beings that had recurred multiple times in his nightmares? Could they be down here as well?

Tahu shook his head. The Toa looked to him for leadership, but now he was becoming an emotional wreck on the inside. Perhaps he just wasn’t meant to lead.

“Tahu,” Gali called, removing Tahu from his thoughts. She was walking towards him. Tahu took a moment to consider her beauty, and cracked a smile.

“What is it, Gali?” he asked.

She rubbed the back of her neck. “Well… I was thinking… about the last time before we ventured into the unknown for a battle.”

Tahu remembered the night before they headed off to fight Makuta. It was the night that they had…

“Could we be wrong?” Gali asked.

“Wrong?” Tahu inquired. “Wrong about what?”

“Wrong about us,” the Toa of Water said, lowering her gaze and rubbing her right arm.

“What do you mean, Gali?” Tahu asked.

“Tahu, the night we shared together. We said we loved each other knowing full well that we could be dead by the morning. What if we had simply said that to give ourselves a false sense of hope, trying to take our mind off of our own mortality.”

Tahu’s eyes widened with surprise. And surprise was quickly replaced by anger.

“Gali, not a day goes by when I don’t think about you!” he stated, raising his voice. “And now you’re saying—“

“Tahu, I’m not saying what you think I’m saying! I do l—“

“Or do you!” the Toa of Fire yelled, slowly circling Gali. “We spend a year together just to—“

He couldn’t finish his sentence. Tahu walked over a weak spot on the floor, which collapsed under his weight. He fell in, grabbing only the edge with his right hand.

“Tahu!” Gali called, grabbing his wrist. She tried to pull him up, but could not. He slowly began to slip from her grasp.

The other Toa, seeing the spectacle, ran over to help Gali, but they were too late.

Tahu looked up one final time, and his eyes met Gali’s. She could see fear and anger burning within the Toa of Fire’s orange-glowing orbs. Then, another, improper emotion crept into Tahu’s features.

Contentment.

“I love you,” he whispered. His grip then failed, and he fell. Kopaka leaped at the hole in the ground, trying to catch Tahu before he fell out of range. The Toa of Ice’s attempt ended in failure, and Tahu vanished into a green fog far below.

Kopaka stood up and saw that Gali was still reaching into the abyss, still desperately trying in vain to catch Tahu.

Kopaka gently grabbed her shoulders and lifted her up.

“Gali,” he said softly, “he’s gone.”

Gali multiple tears from her eyes. “I know,” she sobbed, “I know.”

Kopaka sighed. He then remembered what Tahu had told him over a year ago: ”If I die, I want you to take my place as leader of this team.”

The Toa of Ice had never expected to take Tahu’s position, or even lead the Toa.

But now he had to. It was his duty to his friend to take up the yoke of leader, lest the Matoran perish without him.

____________________________________________

Dawn was breaking along the Naho bay. A faint pink sky glowed in the eastern distance, faintly illuminating the beach.

Jaller had risen early to plan strategy and observe the Pahrak’s movements. With any luck, the stone Bohrok were still deciding how to reach Ga-Koro without the causeway.

He strolled through the still-darkened streets of the Water City. Few stirred, except for the soldiers on patrol. He approached one of them, who was drowsily standing on the edge of the platform. Jaller assumed that the legionnaire was soon going to find a lamppost to lean on and sleep against.

“Soldier,” the gold-armored Matoran general called.

The legionnaire jumped, startled. He fumbled for a second before coming to a salute. “Sir!” he acknowledged, raising his right hand to a diagonal slant along his forehead.

“At ease,” the general ordred. “Any movement during the night?”

“No, Sir,” the soldier reported. “It’s been oddly silent out there. Some of the others think that they may have retreated.”

“Pahrak don’t retreat. Once they decide to tackle a problem, they don’t stop until they’ve conquered it,” Jaller explained.

“Sir. We’ve kept watch nonetheless.”

“Good work, soldier. Keep me posted, umm…”

Auron, sir.”

“Keep me posted, Auron.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jaller dismissed the legionnaire and walked further down Ga-Koro’s floating platforms. For a moment, he wondered how the Ga-Matoran kept from getting sick, as the village was at constant mercy to the bay’s waves.

He dismissed that thought, and walked to the edge of the city. There, he found Takua and Hahli, who were watching… something on the shore.

He approached them. “What’s going on here?”

Takua turned to him. “The Pahrak have returned,” he informed.

Jaller turned his gaze towards the beach. Sure enough, he could make out the brown and bronze forms of the hulking automatons. The scuttled around the beach, forming lines similar to those one would use in combat along flat land, and not when charging a village oversea.

“What are they doing?” Hahli asked, turning to Jaller.

“I don’t know…” he observed.

The Pahrak regarded the village with their empty, emerald-green eyes. Then, the front line raised their shield-blades in front of them.

Slowly, the water in front of the Pahrak’s attack line began to bubble, frothing and churning in a long path leading toward the village.

The Matoran exchanged a few confused glances, and continued watching the Pahrak’s display.

The water now looked as if it were boiling now, bubbles and foam spewing in front of the Pahrak.

Jaller gasped as rock broke the surface of the water.

“They’re raising a bridge!” Takua shouted, watching the horror unfold.

Jaller looked around frantically. “Hahli!” he shouted. “Raise the alarm!”

The Ga-Matoran silently nodded. She searched around quickly, and found that she had no equipment to notify the others. And if she used her voice, the Pahrak would already be upon the village.

Then, her eyes fixed on the war horn that Jaller carried on his side. It was attached to a thin leather strap which stretched around Jaller’s arm. She grabbed the ivory horn and tugged, snapping the leather band.

She then put the war horn to her lips and blew.

The horn’s sound echoed throughout the village, announcing to all that the battle was beginning. Soldiers poured out of their huts and camps in the streets, half-asleep and weary. They hastily put on their gear and retrieved their weapons, all heading for the spot where Hahli had sounded the alarm.

Within a minute, the Legion and Ga-Koro’s protectorate had arrived, ready for battle. Which was good, since the bridge summoned by the Pahrak’s elemental powers had broken surface entirely. But the Bohrok simply stood there, waiting for the Matoran to make the first move.

Jaller turned toward the crowd. He sighed, knowing full well that his would be a very bloody battle.

“Men,” he yelled. “Today, we face off against a swarm of Makuta’s perverse creations. Today, we face the wrath of an angry god.”

The crowd murmured a moment, not entirely motivated by Jaller’s speech.

“But remember, every spear through one of those things’ heads is an insult to the Dark Lord himself!” the General yelled. “Every blow is you land is a blow against what Makuta holds dearest: his pride!”

The crowd went silent.

“Today, we show Maktua what the Matoran are capable of!” Jaller continued. “We show him that we can and will hold off against his onslaught.

A large group in the crowd yelled out battle cries.

“But remember this above all else: Mata Nui is watching! Make sure he is not ashamed!”

The Matoran cheered. Jaller unsheathed his golden blade, and raised it towards the crowd.

“TO WAR!”

The soldiers yelled everything from battle cries to curses at the Bohrok. They charged towards the Bohrok, weapons readied, and fire burning in their eyes.

The Pahrak, startled at this sudden attack, recovered their poise and let out a terrifying, reptilian screech, which echoed across the bay. They two, charged.

The two armies met midway across the bridge. Weapons clashed, and blood fell, staining the water dark red.

______________________________________________

Kopaka silently lead the Toa down the large, dank underground corridor. He wore a dark expression across his face, and his blue eyes gazed defiantly into the darkness.

Behind him, the rest of the Toa followed in silence. Gali was still shaken by Tahu’s death, and Lewa walked alongside her, trying to comfort her.

After multiple, unfruitful attempts, Lewa simply tried to keep her company.

Kopaka then stopped suddenly. In front of him, stood a massive, obsidian wall. It was carved, smooth, and black. The rock looked impenetrable.

“Pohatu?” Kopaka called back, still gazing at the wall. “Can you break this?”

“I’ll try,” the Toa of Stone said. The brown-armored Toa approached the wall, cracking his knuckles. He then channeled his elemental energies into his right hand, and made a fist.

He delivered a powerful punch to the wall. Elemental energy exploded from his hand on impact, and a bright, bronze-gold light filled the room, blinding the Toa for a moment.

Pohatu was flung backward. After the light dimmed, he sat up, and shook his head clear.

The wall still stood defiantly, its monolithic black surface almost taunting the Toa of Stone.

“Well that went happy-well,” Lewa said sarcastically, rolling his eyes.

“Perhaps we missed a tunnel?” Kopaka voiced. “Perhaps we—“

When he turned around, he was shocked to discover that another wall had appeared behind them. It was made of the same, black, obsidian-like material.

“What the heck is this?” Lewa shouted.

Onua observed the wall around the new obsidian gate. He eyed the areas where the two walls intersected, then sighed.

“There’s no sign of any movement,” he finally stated. “It’s as if it just appeared here.”

Kopaka shook his head, and began thinking. “Are the Bahrag this powerful? Can they actually create obstacles to impede our progress?”

Lewa thought for a moment. During his time under the Krana’s influence, he learned a great deal about the queens. And, while most of it was obscure, he knew that they couldn’t pull off a feat like this.

But he did know something else, and perhaps he could test his theory once—

“Look!” Gali shouted. She was pointing towards the ceiling above the new monolith.

A stream of molten rock was streaming down from the roof of the corridor, casting a red-yellow glow across the room.

“To the other side!” Kopaka ordered. They all ran to the other end of the room, watching as the lava pooled on the floor and slowly began to trickle towards them.

“We’re trapped!” Pohatu shouted.

“Way to speak-state the obvious,” Lewa said, rolling his eyes. The Toa of Air had been thinking about the wall. He decided to finally test his theory.

He pressed his body against the obsidian’s cold surface. He took a deep breath, and relaxed his muscles.

The other Toa watched in horror as Lewa melted through the rock.

“Lewa!” Kopaka shouted. He clawed at the surface where Lewa had once sat.

Then, out of the wall, next to Kopaka, Lewa’s head immerged. “Hello!” he said cheerfully, smiling.

“What the?” Kopaka shouted surprised. He then looked at the lava, which was advancing on the Toa, casting waves of heavy heat upon them. He turned back to the Toa of Air. “How did you do that?”

“The black-wall, it’s an illusion,” Lewa said, matter-of-factly. “You know, an eye-trick. Once you stop believing in it, it ceases to exist!”

“What?” the Toa of Ice demanded.

Pohatu, though, was not that skeptical. He took a deep breath, and charged the wall, flying through it with ease.

Onua followed, then Gali. All of them passed through the wall with little sign of resistance.

Kopaka shook his head, still unable to believe what he had just seen. He turned back to the lava, which was now just feet away from him.

He cursed under his breath, and charged the wall. He passed through it with ease.

On the other side, all the Toa were gathered, waiting for him. He panted, still unable to grasp the idea that he had just ran through at least a foot of solid rock.

“Well, some wall,” Pohatu said sarcastically. “Look!”

Kopaka turned around. The walls had vanished, along with the magma, and now all they could see was the tunnel they had come down.

“Well,” Lewa asked, “shall we continue?”

The Toa of Ice nodded. “Yes, we should continue the journey. Otherwise Tahu would have died in vain.”

“I died?” a hideous, gravelly, double-voice inquired further down the tunnel.

Every Toa looked at the source of the voice, and found something horrifying.

It was Tahu. Across his face was a pulsing, blue Krana. The three ridges that made up the front of its rectangular “face” were twisted into a disgusting smile.

Chapter XXX

“Tahu!” Gali called. She was amazed to see him again.

“You!” the Krana-controlled Tahu hissed, his piercing, red eyes staring at Gali. “You let this happen to me!”

“What?” Gali gasped, taken back by Tahu’s comment.

Onua placed a hand on the Toa of Water’s shoulder. “It’s not him,” he explained. “It’s the Bohrok. They’re using him against you. It’s not Tahu.”

Gali nodded. She placed her hands on her two sickles held on her hips, quickly unsheathing them.

“I’ll handle him,” she said, resolution filling her voice.

Onua and Kopaka both nodded.

“Okay,” Kopaka acknowledged, “but the moment you need help, we’re joining in.”

Gali nodded back. She then walked slowly to the Krana-faced Tahu. The crimson-armored Toa unsheathed his sword, which lit up with a weak red flame.

“Tahu,” Gali began in an angry voice, “would you really kill me?”

The Bohrok-Tahu simply stood defiantly, but the Krana’s expression was now blank.

Within his mind, Tahu was still struggling against the Krana’s influence. He could hear the voices of the Queens, calling out to him.

She is but an obstacle! they called. Remove her like you will all others! Let your flame cleanse the world her and her brothers!

NO! Tahu screamed mentally. Outwardly, he was as cold and blank as a rock in a snowstorm.

Gali strode back and forth in front of him, still talking. “Tahu, we’re your friends! Your brothers! Could you kill us?”

“Yes,” the Krana hissed. Then, against his will, Tahu charged. His weapon met Gali’s. She blocked the sword with the edge of her sickle.

“Tahu! I know you’re still in there somewhere!” the Toa of Water called.

I am! Tahu yelled in his mind, but the Krana still held possession of his body. But now, the internal struggle was beginning to take its toll on the Krana’s control of his form.

Gali noticed this too, as Tahu’s movements had become robotic and sporadic. She met every one of his blows easily.

Their weapons locked a second time. The Krana grimaced, a saliva-like liquid material dripping from the troughs between its facial ridges.

“Tahu,” Gali began, “if there’s any bit of you in there fighting this creature—and I know there is…” Her yellow eyes met the piercing red orbs behind the Krana’s mask. “I love you.”

Gali watched as sanity crept into Tahu’s gaze. He tore his sword away from her, and reeled back. His sword clattered to the floor as he clawed at the creature in his face.

Now, the Krana began to speak independently.

“No!” it screeched in a long, drawn-out hiss. “Side by side we march as one! Two corpses in one grave!”

Tahu grabbed the legs of the creature that was wrapped around his head. He yanked at them, tearing them from the back of his skull.

Tahu’s scream mingled with the Krana’s angry hiss. He slowly tore the creature from his face. The other Toa could see the long tendrils that the organic being had extended into their friends throat.

He ripped the creature free from his face, tearing the tendrils painfully from his throat. With his last bit of energy, he threw the Krana to the cave floor. And before it could scuttle away, he crushed it into the ground with the heel of his boot.

After that, his vision faded to black.

_______________________________________

Jaller stabbed his golden blade through a Bohrok’s headplate, killing the Krana within. The automaton collapsed, and Jaller was able to remove his sword just in time to deflect the blow that another Bohrok had attempted to make. He threw the Pahrak’s shield-blade off his sword and brought the weapon across its neck, severing multiple tendrils that allowed the Krana to control the mechanical body. It too collapsed.

Jaller looked across the stone bridge that the Pahrak had created. All along it, Matoran and Bohrok clashed for dominance, trying to protect the village of Ga-Koro.

So far, they were succeeding, but it wouldn’t be long before their lines would fall, and the Pahrak could storm the village unhindered.

A volley of arrows fired by Ga-Matoran archers fell into a platoon of Bohrok, dropping each of them. Twelve more of the bronze-armored machines filled into the gap created by the

If a miracle doesn’t happen soon, the Matoran general though, Ga-Koro’s finished.

_______________________________________

Tahu slowly awakened. The first thing he noticed was that he was upside down. The second, judging by the bobbing motion in his vision, he figured that he was being carried.

The Toa of Fire let out a slow groan. He had a massive headache.

“Well, it appears he’s awake,” a voice said. Onua, if Tahu’s newly awakened memory was serving him right.

He felt his body being gently lowered to the ground. Tahu could see the lightstone-encrusted cave ceiling far above him. Then, a familiar face entered his view.

Gali.

“Welcome back,” the Toa of Water said, a teary half-smile on her face.

Tahu couldn’t help but smile. “Glad to be back,” he said in a hoarse voice. He then grunted as he hauled his body into a sitting position. He put his hand on his face, and found that his mask was on, even though the Krana had removed it earlier.

“Where’d you find my mask?” the Toa of Fire asked.

“Further down the tunnel,” Kopaka informed. “It was just lying there, as if someone wanted us to have it.”

Lewa grimaced as a familiar voice passed through his mind.

Of course, the artifact was meant to be found. But even without it, in darkness you are all still bound…

Noticing Lewa’s expression, Kopaka asked, “Are you okay?”

The Toa of Air shook his head to clear the haze of the Bahrag’s voice from his thoughts. “Yeah,” he said, “I’m fine.”

Tahu rose to his feet, still foggy from his experience with the Krana. He turned to the Toa of Water. “Gali, I’m sorry… for what I said earlier.”

“Don’t worry,” Gali responded. “I’m just glad to have you back.”

Tahu cracked a smile. “How far have we gone?” he asked Kopaka.

“Pretty far,” the Toa of Ice informed. “We should be nearing the Bahrag’s chamber soon.”

“Good,” Tahu said. “Then let’s continue onward.”

Taking his place at point, Tahu lead the Toa further down the humid corridor. The humid air became thick and harder to breathe, and the lighting started to dim.

Soon, the Toa reached a doorway. It was open, but encrusted in an ancient residue of unknown origin. Surrounding the doorway were warnings in an ancient form of the Matoran language.

Gali ran her fingers along the carved symbols. “I wish I had Nokama’s mask of translation right now,” she whispered. “Imagine what they say…”

Onua was instead observing the residue along the doorway. He scraped a bit of it from the surface of the stone, and rubbed it between his thumb and index finger.

It was semi-crystalized, but still slime-like and easy to move. It was definitely organic in nature, but Onua could not determine the source of the material.

Welcome…

The alien, double-voice hissed through all the Toa’s minds, piercing like a knife through flesh.

“Who’s there?” Tahu demanded of the darkness that lay ahead of them.

The sound of massive footfalls answered him. They came in pairs, making Tahu expect a massive, four legged beast. Perhaps another of Makuta’s conjurations?

But no. What greeted the Toa was far beyond what Tahu or any of them could comprehend.

Two hulking dragons, easily four times the size of the Toa, appeared from the darkness. One red, the other blue. They were clad in long, thick scales, which covered their whole bodies.

Long, curved horns protruded from the blue one’s head, while the red had a smaller, shorter pair.

Their eyes were both a piercing, deep emerald green, glowing like fire through glass.

The blue one let out a bellowing roar, and the strange double voice hissed through all the Toa’s minds once again.

We, the Bahrag, Queens of the empty swarm, welcome you, the voices hissed in a terrifying, lustful tone. Unlike beasts, they sounded like beautiful sirens’ calling.

“You!” Tahu shouted. “You must be the Bahrag!”

The red wyvern, known as Gahdok, smiled wickedly. Yes… How observant, pitiful Toa.

Lewa was taken back by their beautiful voices. He didn’t expect such terrifying creatures to sound so… attractive.

Kopaka unsheathed his sword and removed his shield from its latch on his back. “Then let’s finish this!” he shouted at the two dragons.

Both Bahrag, the crimson Gahdok and her sister, Cahdok, were smiling now. Of course, but you forget, two of your number were once our own. Now watch as their own minds are overthrown!

They clenched their fists, and both Tahu and Lewa dropped, screaming in pain and clutching their ears tightly.

Gali rushed to Tahu quickly. She tried to comfort him, but he couldn’t hear her. She could only assume what the Bahrag were doing to him in his mind.

“Attack!” Onua yelled. “Their power over Tahu and Lewa is dictated by their concentration! Break that, and you’ll free them!”

Gali smiled. Within moments, she summoned the power of a flood within her arms. She then reeled towards the twin dragons, and nailed Cahdok with an ice-cold blast of water.

Cahdok lost her concentration, and Lewa slowly uncurled his form. When the Toa of Air saw what was going on, he smiled and removed his axe from his back. He began to summon a cyclone.

A flurry of rock and razor-sharp ice hammered Gahdok with enough force to knock the dragon backwards. Now Tahu was back on his feet, rage and hate burning in his eyes.

He charged Cahdok, the nearest Bahrag. He vaulted and used his mask’s levitation powers to amplify the jump, landing on top of the sapphire dragon’s head.

He raised his burning sword above his head, and plunged the blade into the neck armor of Cahdok.

The weapon slid off the scales like it was made of water. The flames did little than make the Bahrag angrier. She roared with rage, and shook her head from side to side.

Tahu was thrown free, and impacted on the far wall. Luckily, the force of the blow wasn’t too powerful, and he quickly recovered, cursing under his breath, he charged the twins once more.

Meanwhile, across the cave, Pohatu and Onua were engaged in troubles of their own. Not moments after the Bahrag had been engaged, two Toa-sized creatures made of a thick, black substance had emerged from the darkness. Onua and Pohatu were now the only one’s holding off the creatures, which seemed to match them in both speed and fighting style.

Onua grabbed one of the creature’s fists with his right claw, and delivered a blow through its hardened midsection. The being was unfazed, however, and shook its fist free. It then proceeded to land multiple blows on Onua.

Pohatu delivered a kick that could shatter bone into the creature’s nether regions. But the creature showed no sign of pain and continued to attack.

Something’s wrong, the Toa of Stone thought. That kick should have sent him flying.

They continued to battle.

Kopaka dodged just in time before a blast of water slammed into the spot he had been not even a second before.

He quickly flash-froze the water, which was still leaving the maw of Gahdok. The icy mass trapped the red Bahrag for a moment, but she quickly melted the ice with a blast of fire from her maw.

Further over, Cahdok was now drooling acid from her mouth, pooling around her and slowly corroding anything that touched the floor around her.

Then, the all-too-obvious concept hit Kopaka.

“They have all the Bohrok’s powers!” he shouted.

“Duly noted!” Gali called back, narrowly avoiding a large drop of acidic saliva that Cahdok had spat at her.

Tahu unleashed a blast of flame at the creature, igniting the corrosive material and setting fire to the area around the Bahrag.

Cahdok screeched in fury, but quickly doused the area in a heavy rain.

That was when Lewa, standing far from the area, chose to attack.

FOR LE-KORO! ” he yelled at the top of his lungs. Then, a massive hurricane tore through the chamber. A particularly well-targeted one, as it only swept the Bahrag into the air in the massive chamber. They were slammed to and fro across the cavern until finally falling unconscious to the floor.

The Toa, minus Onua and Pohatu, regrouped for a moment.

Kopaka noticed how the Toa of Stone and Earth were seemingly fighting the air, barely taking notice of the Bahrag’s evident defeat.

“Onua, Pohatu!” Tahu shouted. “Get over here!”

“We’re a little busy at the moment!” Pohatu yelled back.

“Stop this madness!” Gali called. “You’re fighting shadows!”

Onua looked at the Toa of Water and back to the creature before him. He shrugged, and stopped believing that the being he was fighting actually existed.

The shadow-being readied a powerful blow, and its fist passed straight through Onua. The creature then vaporized into a puff of smoke.

Onua smiled, and rejoined the Toa.

Pohatu, while skeptical, tried the same strategy. His shadowy opponent vaporized as well, without a trace of ever existing at all.

He too, rejoined the Toa.

“Well,” Lewa said, “it appears that we’ve won!”

Onua shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he stated questioningly. “These things were practically made in Makuta’s image.”

Cahdok’s glassy, emerald eye opened. NO! the Bahrag shouted simultaneously. That right was reserved for Makuta’s sons! We offer you salvation by sword and instead you choose the gun!

At that moment, Kopaka took his chance. As the blue-scaled Bahrag slowly began to rise, he jammed his sword through her eye. The dragon hissed in pain as blood began to flow from the wound.

Both dragons soon rose, one leaking blood from her disgusting wound.

“Alright Toa,” Tahu called to his friends. “Strike them with all you’ve got!”

At that moment, the Toa unleashed a simultaneous blast of raw, unhindered elemental energy. The power impacted on both dragons, surrounding them in an envelope of raw power.

“NO!” they screeched.

They spoke vocally now, Onua noted.

“No! We are to cleanse the surface of the blight, and lead the Matoran to the light!” they screamed.

“Keep this going!” Tahu shouted. “We’ve got them right where we want them!”

The Bahrag then went silent for a moment. A crystalline material began to slowly began to materialize at their feet.

Then, they began to speak in a terrifyingly calm tone.

“The moment of peace

After the Time of War

Shall only leave open,

The wounds of before.

For the sons of darkness,

Are coming soon,

Under the gaze

Of a crimson moon.

All will tremble as they pass,

And blood shall fall like shattered glass.

About them shall ride pale strife,

To seize all that is left: your life.

When they come,

Your time is done,

For the hour of hope his now far past.

The shadow of death is the one they cast.”

The crystal slowly crept over the Bahrag, eventually sealing them away under a shield of solid elemental energy. Their eyes ceased to glow under the thick, semi-transparent casing.

The Toa collapsed, exhausted at the sheer amount of power they had let loose on the dragons.

“Is that it?” Gali asked? “Are they gone.”

“I—I think so,” Kopaka gasped.

The Toa recovered. Tahu met Gali, and they hugged. He held her for a long time.

Onua shook his head. He wasn’t into the whole romance thing that Tahu and Gali seemed to be locked in.

Then, he felt something. A strange tingling at the base of his feet. He looked down, and found that a strange, viscous, silver liquid was beginning to pool all around the chamber. It boiled and frothed as it touched his feet.

“Umm, guys?” Onua inquired. The Toa all turned their gazes to him. He simply pointed down.

They followed his gesture, and they all noticed the fluid that now covered the base of the chamber.

Pohatu opened his mouth. “What is this—“

He was unable to finish his sentence. The ground beneath the chamber caved in.

Tahu grabbed Gali’s hand as he fell into a mass of the liquid. His body burned around him, and he could hear the muffled screams of his fellow Toa through the liquid.

He felt his body get reeled around in a current, and his grasp was wrenched from Gali’s. He watched in horror as she was swept away from him.

Chapter XXXI

Jaller watched in astonishment as all the Bohrok on the bridge simply stopped moving. The stood silently, as if awaiting some new order. Their metallic shells glistened in the afternoon sun.

Then, their glassy, pale-green eyes turned an alien shade of white blue. The creatures then turned, and left the battlefield, as if they had never intended to fight in the first place.

All the other soldiers on the field watched in amazement as well. Within in moments, all the Pahrak had left the area, except for the husks of their fallen comrades.

“They’ve been defeated!” a voice called from the village. Jaller guessed that it was Turaga Nokama’s. “The Toa have vanquished the Bahrag!”

For a moment, only silence fell over the now desolate warzone. Then, a Matoran began to cheer. Another joined in, and then another. Soon the whole army was shouting in joy.

Jaller smiled.

The Swarm War was finally over.

The Bohrok were defeated.

____________________________________________

Tahnok-Kal felt the tremor within himself. It was deep shock that pierced his metallic heart. He felt as if something within him had died.

And it might as well have. The queens were defeated.

He watched from atop Mangai as the Bohrok legions retreated towards the nests. It was over. Without the Queens, they had no purpose.

Tahnok-Kal turned to join his lesser brethren when an ethereal portal opened in front of him. Behind it, a pair of crimson eyes burned with anger.

“Why do they not obey me, Kal?” Makuta demanded through the portal. “My swarm is not answering my call!”

Tahnok-Kal’s Krana cracked a smile behind its silvery headplate.

“Perhaps you should’ve made us differently, as they obey the Queens, and only them,” the general hissed.

Makuta let out a sound that resembled something between a growl and a guttural scream. A tendril of shadow emerged from the portal, grasping Tahnok-Kal within it. The limb began to crush the silver-armored Bohrok.

Tahnok-Kal accepted his death. He had defied an evil god. And it felt good.

________________________________________

Ancient Matoran legend tells of a substance called “protodermis”, which is said to flow in the deepest recesses of the world.

The silvery substance was left on the planet eons ago, an aftereffect of the battle between the Great Spirit and the Dark Lord.

Protodermis was the still-liquid blood of Mata Nui himself.

Onua remembered this from what Turaga Whenua had told him nearly a year ago. Onu-Matoran miners would come across the substance when working in extremely deep shafts. Any tunnel that came across the substance was immediately sealed off due to the side effects of contact with protodermis.

Evidently, the silvery fluid was a corrosive agent as well, and destroyed all that passed into it.

Which begs the question, the Toa of Earth thought, why am I not dead yet?

He felt himself get swept into another current of the substance. It leaked through his armor and into his skin. It filled his mask and swirled around his body.

Onua decided that, for the learning experience, it was probably best to just let the material do what wished with him. He relaxed, and focused on the sensations it caused.

Caught in another current was Tahu, who struggled to swim in the direction in which Gali had disappeared. His vision was beginning to fade from lack of oxygen, but he kept trying to move.

Then, pain exploded through his limbs. It felt as if his body was being torn apart in a thousand places.

Then, he felt cold, as if he was standing on the icy slopes of Mount Ihu. He began to think that he was going to freeze, but the temperature of his body then shot up, hitting levels of heat that made Tahu quiver.

Then, the heat disappeared, and Tahu felt like he was caught in a strong, gale-force wind that tore him into the air and tossed him along its current.

After that spell faded, he felt as if he had been swept up in a mighty flood, which carried him along before hitting what felt like a rocky plateau.

The pain returned once again, threatening to rip the Toa of Fire apart. Even with his endurance, the sheer agony caused by the protodermis eventually overtook him. Tahu’s world faded to black.

______________________________________

The sun was setting on the Ga-Koro beach that Takua was standing on. He watched as the sun began to lower towards the horizon.

The last of the dead Bohrok had been buried at sea, dumped into the waters of Naho bay.

Surprisingly few Matoran had lost their lives today. Many had sustained injuries, but only five had been killed in the battle.

Ga-Matoran were now celebrating in their village. On the beach, bonfires burned, lighting the whole area in a warm glow.

The Chronicler was writing in his journal, taking notes of the battle and deciding what to add to Ta-Koro’s great Wall of History, where the history of the island since the fire city’s founding was carved so that it could never be lost.

He looked up from his writing to find Hewkii and Jaller discussing the rebuilding of both Po and Ga-Koro. They were walking in his direction.

“Well, I’m going back to Po-Koro, then,” Hewkii said to the Ta-Matoran general. “By land this time for sure!” He turned to the Chronicler and nodded.

Takua nodded back.

Jaller chuckled. “I guess that’d be best,” he responded, “I’ve had quite enough of the water as well.”

Hewkii smiled slightly.

Macku ran up to his side. She was wearing a necklace of Ga-Wahi water flowers, which were colored bright orange and yellow.

“Come on, Hewkii,” she laughed, “time for your swimming lesson.”

The Po-Matoran put a finger in his satchel. “Actually, Macku, I wanted to ask you something.”

The two walked further down the beach, Hewkii babbling on about his and her life. Finally, he produced a small object from his satchel. Takua couldn’t tell what it was.

But, whatever Hewkii had given Macku, it had made her extremely happy. They embraced on the beach.

Takua shook his head and turned to Jaller, who was also shaking head and smiling.

The Legion’s general turned towards the Chronicler. “You know, Takua, in the guard we have a saying,” Jaller began. “Danger is the anvil on which trust is forged.” He put his hand on the Chronicler’s shoulder. “And I’m glad to call you friend, Takua.”

Takua nodded. “I suppose you’ll be leaving soon?” he asked.

Jaller shrugged. “I probably should. Vakama is most likely awaiting word on Ga-Koro, and I have to deliver the report. I should…”

Hahli, the Ga-Matoran had met earlier. She approached him, and removed a flower from her necklace, placing it on Jaller’s mask. She smiled, and then ran back to join the festivities.

Jaller smiled awkwardly. “Then again, maybe I can stay a while…” He sprinted after the Ga-Matoran. “Hahli, wait up!”

Takua smiled and turned towards the sunset. He smiled, opened his journal, and continued writing.

____________________________________________

Tahu looked up at the stars far above him. They glowed brightly in the late-dusk sky. Their tiny pinpoints seemed to shine slightly brighter tonight for some reason.

Wait, the Toa of Fire thought. Weren’t we just underground?

He sat up and found that he was on a beach somewhere on Mata Nui. Small puddles of energized protodermis were littered about the sand.

He turned around to find an ancient carving of a Kanohi Hau. The mouthpiece was open, and the maw lead into a deep, black tunnel.

Tahu shook his head and placed a hand on his face. Something felt… wrong though. He pulled his hand away and eyed the limb. What he saw astonished him.

Along his hand and arm were long lines, which were arranged in a flame-like pattern. Within them burned the red-orange glow of pure fire energy.

Tahu jumped to his feet, astonished. He looked at his body, and found that his armor had changed as well. Now, on his shoulders, chest, and portions of his legs were portions of sturdy, form-fitting, silver armor.

“Tahu?” a voice called.

The Toa of Fire turned, and saw Gali, clad in similar armor, walking towards him. She too had lines of elemental energy coursing along her bare arms.

“Gali!” Tahu shouted. He ran towards her, taking her into his arms. She embraced him as well.

“Get a room you two!” another voice called.

They left their embrace and turned to find Pohatu, who was also wearing silver armor. Bronze energy glowed from the lines on his arms.

“Check this out!” he said. From the sheathes on his side, he produced two claw-like weapons. “Climbing gear! Perfect for Po-Wahi, huh?”

“Yeah,” Tahu said. “They suit you.”

“You think those are cool?” another voice called, “look at these sword-weapons!”

They all turned to see Lewa, who was brandishing two long, thin katana. The Toa of Air struck a pose in his silver armor. Lime-green light from his elemental lines reflected off its metallic surface.

“You look good, Lewa!” Gali taunted.

“Thank you!” he called back. “A Toa-hero of Air always looks awesome, though!”

Another Toa approached: Kopaka, who was carrying a razor sharp blade and a much larger shield. Pale blue lines of energy ran along his arms and armor.

“Well,” Lewa chided, “doesn’t the Toa-hero of Ice look cool!”

All of them, including Kopaka, laughed.

Finally, Onua approached the group. He now carried a long, thick blade with thorny spikes along its sides.

“What do you think of this thing?” he asked.

“Pretty cool, brother!” Pohatu responded. “Mind if I have one?”

“You guys get any new weapons?” Kopaka asked Tahu and Gali.

Gali nodded, and retrieved two lightweight war axes from her sides.

Tahu had never bothered to check his own arsenal. He placed his hands to his sides, and discovered that he now had two sheathes for swords.

He placed his hands on the weapons’ respective hilts, his left on the right weapon, and his right on the left weapon.

He unsheathed the swords. Two silver blades now gleamed in the starlight, and fire energy ran through the weapons.

“Nice,” he whispered, slowly leveling one of the swords in front of him.

Gali placed one of her axes on top of his sword. Tahu looked at her, and she smiled.

Lewa placed his katana on top of Gali’s axe.

Onua put his weapon on top of Lewa’s.

Pohatu also added his weapon to the mix.

Kopaka finally placed his on the top.

The Toa each nodded to each other, smiling. They the raised their weapons, and fired beams of elemental energy into the sky.

A new era for the Toa was being ushered in.

________________________________________________

Makuta sat in Magaia, tapping his fingers against his throne.

The Bohrok were now gone, and no longer would serve him as pawns. That was fine, though. He had much darker machinations in store for the Toa.

He closed his eyes and let a portion of his consciousness search the island for his loyal servant.

Passing over a Po-Wahi desert, he found the small, hooded being traveling across the dunes. The being held a lantern in front of him that was bleeding orange light.

Makuta smiled. He projected a physical manifestation in front of the being.

The cloaked being staggered back as an avatar of Makuta materialized before him.

“Well, well, well…” Makuta hissed. “What do we have here?”

The hooded being simply stared at the avatar with hollow eyes, but Makuta could see the grimace on his face.

“You’ve become a con-man, a criminal, and most recently a jailbreaker. All in my name,” Makuta said. “I like that.”

“What do you want?” the Matoran asked in an angered voice.

“What do I want?” Makuta demanded mockingly. “I want someone who hates the Toa. Who wants to see them dead and gone. Someone who can… keep them busy.”

“Then you’re talking to the wrong man,” the hooded being spat out. “I’m no warrior.”

“My sons are coming soon, little one,” the Dark Lord explained in a tone that was almost seductive in nature. “I want you to fight alongside them.”

“Again,” the cloak-wearing being said angrily, “I am not a fighter! I work from the shadows!”

Makuta’s smile disappeared. He wrenched the being’s arm from his side and grasped it. Blue-glowing protrusions grew in veins along his body as soon as Makuta’s hand touched him.

The being also grew in size, nearly becoming too small for his cloak.

Makuta released his grasp and flared his nostrils. “There,” he hissed. “You now bear my gift. Use it well.”

The being looked at both of his arms, astounded at the strange new power that now coursed within him. He removed his hood from his body. Two piercing-blue eyes burned from behind a brown and silver mask.

“Oh, I shall,” the being said. “I shall.”

Book Three: Shadow’s Rising

Chapter XXXII

Darkness surrounded Tahu. The shadows everywhere appeared like living beings, moving in smooth, fluid motions, as if they were smoke.

The world was silent. Too silent, almost. Tahu looked around, his unarmored form felt dangerously exposed here.

”Tahu…” a being uttered. The voice was unmistakably familiar.

It was Makuta.

”Tahu!” the Dark Lord called again, his voice even more piercing than before.

“What?” Tahu shouted into the darkness. He hated that he couldn’t defend himself here. Even more, he hated Makuta’s cowardice in not revealing himself to Tahu.

”I am coming,” Makuta responded. The words sent a bone-cold chill through Tahu.

“What do you mean, ‘you’re coming’?” Tahu inquired the void.

A fit of menacing laughter emerged from the empty shadows ahead.

“What do I mean, petty Toa?” the Master of Shadows spoke again.

Six forms appeared around Tahu, each of them much taller than he was. They were terrifying, and nearly reptilian in nature. Massive spines grew from their back. Their helmets masked grotesque faces, ones that only Makuta could love.

“I mean what I said, Toa. I AM coming. Shadow incarnate is at hand!”

The beings surrounding Tahu hissed. The violent noise nearly threatened to tear apart his very sanity.

Tahu grabbed his ears, trying to shut out the noise to no avail. The Toa of Fire’s vision went pitch-black.

”And now, the world weeps for Mata Nui’s children.”

_______________________________________________

Tahu slowly opened his eyes. For some reason, this nightmare had not lived up to many of the others. He sat up, and noticed that something was wrong.

He could smell rain.

Rain rarely occurred in Ta-Koro, as the mountain ranges to the north, south, and east prevented any major storms or rainclouds from reaching them.

The Toa of Fire sat up. Outside the window at the far end of his room, he could see the rain fall. Mist filled the City of Fire, as the rain was also hitting the lava lake, where it vaporized on impact.

Of course, Tahu wasn’t focused on the mist. He looked at Gali, who was standing next to the window. Instead of her normal, ocean-blue armor, she was wearing an azure-fabric tunic. She was also, however, wearing armor from the legs down. Her shoulder-length hair was hanging down her back. The lines of elemental energy along her body glowed faintly in the dawn light.

For a moment, Tahu actually wondered why exactly there was a cultural taboo against wearing one’s armor. There wasn’t anything wrong without it. And he’d barely seen any of his closest friends without their masks, let alone their armor.

Then again, on an island where nearly every animal was out to kill you in the name of a dark god, perhaps always wearing armor was a rather decent idea.

Tahu sat up and walked next to her. She stared out at the mist-covered Ta-Koro, which was an eerie sight.

“Did you do this?” the Toa of Fire asked, nodding towards the rain.

Gali shook her head. “No,” she smiled. “I wish I had, though. Ta-Koro is rather… unnerving when filled with mist. Completely different than home.”

Tahu nodded, and watched the rain.

The world weeps for Mata Nui’s children…

The voice repeated in Tahu’s mind. Was this rain the world “weeping”?

No, it couldn’t be. Makuta was just toying with them. He always was. The rain was probably just a bizarre coincidence. Nothing more, nothing less.

“I had a dream last night,” Gali said, turning towards Tahu. “Makuta said something about the world weeping. I was thinking that perhaps this rain is the world weeping.”

Tahu gave her an odd look.

“What?” she asked.

“I had that dream too…” the Toa of Fire responded in a low voice.

“Then I’m certain that Makuta created it,” Gali stated. “As for the rain, perhaps it’s just a strange coincidence.”

Tahu nodded. “Perhaps…” he said. “Perhaps…”

Chapter XXXIII

Lewa smiled as the Le-Matoran working crane slowly laid the last panel of a village support platform into place.

During the Bohrok War, the village of Le-Koro had been nearly destroyed by the acid-wielding forces of the Lehvak. Now, a solid two months after the War, they were finally nearing the completion of their village.

Lewa looked at the silver armor along his chest and shoulders. It gleamed in the bright jungle sunlight that was filtering through the canopy.

Many of the Matoran were still having trouble accepting that he was still the Toa of Air. The armor and the glowing lines of elemental energy could easily make him some sort of Makuta-manufactured imposter.

But, he was still Lewa, in all practicality.

Or, at least, he hoped he was. After the encounter with the Krana and their battle with the Bahrag, the once upbeat Toa of Air had become slightly more mellowed, and was not as cheery.

With the advent of the new armor, Lewa had noticed that he could also control his power much more accurately. He could even fly with the aid of his mask of levitation.

All these changes had caused the Matoran to begin calling him a “Toa Nuva”, derived from an old Matoran word meaning “new.”

And a New Toa he certainly was.

He observed the rebuilt village of Le-Koro. The huts were now made from a sturdier wood, which had been imported from the southernmost portions of Le-Wahi. This material could take a hit much better, and was known for being highly resistant to fire.

Something distracted the Toa of Air’s attention. He looked into the trees, where he thought he saw that he could’ve seen some sort of creature with blue eyes.

It was gone as soon as his gaze his reached its destination.

That’s odd, he thought.

“Toa Lewa!” a voice called.

Lewa turned to find Kongu waiting for him.

“Turaga Matau wants to speak with you,” the teal and green armored Matoran said.

Lewa nodded. “Alright,” he responded. He took one look back at the spot where he thought he saw the creature, shrugged, and headed off to the Turaga’s new home.

Chapter XXXIV

Kopaka slowly walked through Ko-Koro. It hadn’t been terribly damaged since the Bohrok attacked, and repairations had already been made. In fact, the walls were now being reinforced and built to prevent future assaults from having the ability to pull off a strategy similar to the Bohrok’s.

However, the psychological recovery of the village was taking longer. The battle had shaken everyone in the city, and had provided a grim reminder of mortality.

Kopaka walked into a glacial cave that acted as the Koro’s graveyard. Inside were nearly one hundred newly-filled graves, all related to the battle.

Kopaka gave a heavy sigh and left the gloom of the cemetery cave, returning to the streets.

Something caught his eye. It appeared to be a being moving rather quickly along the wall. It had long, bulky limbs covered in a black substance. Blue, vein-like tendrils dotted the substance’s surface.

The Toa of Ice blinked, and the creature disappeared.

Strange… he thought. Using his mask’s power of levitation, Kopaka slowly lifted himself to the wall to get a better view of the creature.

When he reached the edifice, though, it had disappeared. Not a trace of the being was left with the exception of multiple claw-marks running along the wall and disappearing over the side opposite of the village.

Kopaka peered over the wall, but again, there was no sign of the creature. Just a lone, cloaked Matoran walking north…

Chapter XXXV

Pohatu slowly walked with his team of Matoran guards around what was once the old Po-Koro quarry. The quarry had been decimated by the Bohrok.

He had been sent by Turaga Onewa to escort a group of miners that would help reclaim the quarry help make it operational once more.

Yellow-orange light bled from the Matoran’s lanterns. The silver moon glowed brightly over the desert plain.

“How far to the old mineshaft?” the Toa of Stone asked. They were first tasked to clear out an old marble mineshaft, and he was ready to get out of the night.

The lead Matoran, Jareroden, turned around. His silver and black armor—more reminiscent of an Onu rather than Po-Matoran—shimmered as the light from his lantern reflected onto it.

“Not far,” he said, eying the Toa of Stone with an odd gaze. None of the Matoran had grown used to any of the Toa’s appearance. They were still Toa, just… not the same.

Pohatu looked ahead. Not far away, he could see a rather large pit that yawned before them in the darkness of the night.

“There it is,” Jareroden said, his silver Kanohi Hau gleaming in the yellow-orange light of his lantern. “One of the best marble quarries in Po-Wahi. Hard to believe the Bohrok shut it down.”

He led his two Matoran and one Toa into the quarry’s pathway. Like most Po-Matoran dig sites, this quarry was arranged in a large square, with a single ramp running along its north side, allowing transport for people and goods into and out of the area.

Jareroden paused at the front of an entrance to what looked like a mine. He ran his fingers along the supports holding up its entrance.

“Something’s not right…” the oddly-armored Po-Matoran said, worriedly. “This mine ran dry twelve years ago. We boarded it up after that. No one’s been in it since then.”

Pohatu eyed the tunnel. “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Certain. I oversaw the operation myself.”

Pohatu looked into the Matoran-made tunnel again, and then along the entrance frame. On it, he found battered and bent nails, which showed signs of stress.

“Someone pulled the boards off,” the Toa of Stone whispered.

“Jareroden!” another Matoran called out. “I found something.”

“What?” their overseer shouted back.

“It’s the boards from the mine. They have… claw marks on them.”

“Claws?” Jareroden pondered.

“Five, to be exact, sir.” The Matoran thought for a moment.

“No Rahi has hands like that,” Jareroden said. “Are you sure it’s not just weathering?”

“Well—“

His fellow workman was cut off by a sound coming out of the mine. It was a guttural, deep, animalistic growl behind what sounded to be a rather proper Matoran voice.

“Of course it’s not just natural process,” the voice growled. “Nothing about me is natural!”

Out of the mine jumped a shadow, its black skin encrusted with long, pale blue glowing veins. Its body was unarmored and disgustingly smooth. But the part that repulsed everyone around it was the creature’s face. The organ had two, long, pupilless eyes that glowed the same pale blue as its veins. Where its mouth would be were long, sharp fangs. As the mouth curved around the face, it split into six separate ‘tributaries’, each one also filled with teeth.

“What in karzahni?” Jareroden shouted.

The creature smiled and smashed its left arm into the Matoran quarrymaster, throwing him across the digsite and into a dirt wall.

It turned its glare to the other two Matoran, who were frozen with fear. It launched two glowing tendrils from its wrists and wrapped them around the pair. He then jerked back on the tendrils, pulling the Matoran towards and over him. The throw then deposited them on a ledge overlooking the quarry.

“Now, mighty Toa of Stone,” the beast hissed, “we’re all alone.”

“Who or what are you?” Pohatu demanded.

“What am I?” the creature hissed. “I am a product of Maktua’s gift of shadow and corruption. I am deadly. I am poisonous.”

It charged Pohatu, placing its wrist between the Toa of Stone’s chin and neck. He then slammed the Toa into the wall.

“I. Am. VIRULENT!

Virulent tore Pohatu from the wall and threw him halfway across the quarry. The Toa of Stone landed on his feet. Using his enhanced elemental powers, he reached into the marble beneath the ground. Within moments, five fists of solid, white rock emerged from the ground.

“Alright, Virulent,” Pohatu spat. “Let’s dance.”

Each fist converged on the black-coated monstrosity—and shattered against it.

It laughed hideously. “Is that all you’ve got!” it taunted. “Pathetic!”

It shot two more tentacles from its wrists, which slammed into the Toa, knocking him backward. Pohatu grunted as he hit the wall again.

Pohatu activated his mask power, and ran at lightning speed towards Virulent. The beast shot a tentacle at him, but Pohatu dodged it long before the projectile had reached him. The Toa of Stone then began orbiting the creature, slowly creating a vacuum around it.

Virulent shrugged, and stuck its arm out. Pohatu hit the limb at top speed and slid under it. Momentum carried him into another wall.

Pohatu retrieved his claw-like weapons from his side and threw the pincers at the beast. They caught its wrists and pulled themselves into a wall. Pohatu then encased the tools into the solid rock they were embedded in.

Virulent let out a bloodcurdling scream that forced Pohatu to cover his ears.

The hulking ebony monster ripped its hands free, although the weapons managed to cut its skin.

Pohatu looked up just in time to watch the disgusting black material regenerate over brown and silver armor…

Virulent reached out and grabbed Pohatu by his throat, lifting the Toa high into the air. “Who would’ve that I would one day get to beat the lights out of a Toa?” It smiled.

The being threw Pohatu as hard as it could into a stone wall. Using its tendrils, it retrieved the Toa and smashed him into another. And another. And another.

It then finally pulled him back towards itself and punched the Toa of Stone into the ground. It crouched down and lifted Pohatu’s barely-conscious head up to its own.

“I could kill you right now,” it hissed in disgust. “But it’s not your time yet.” He rolled the Toa of Stone over. “Tell your brothers that I’m coming, and that I’m dangerous.”

The creature jumped over the rim of the quarry and dashed off. Pohatu lay in the ground for a long time, trying to figure out what exactly had broken inside of him.

He then heard a moan come from the wall where Jareroden had been embedded. The Matoran had finally freed himself from the rock, and was assessing his own injuries. He looked up towards the battered hero.

“Toa Pohatu!” he called. Limping as fast as he could, he made his way over to the Toa of Stone. “What was that?” he asked.

Pohatu slowly sat up, his vertebra cracking individually as he rose. “I have no idea,” he mumbled, “but I need to get word to the others.”

Chapter XXXVI

Each of the Toa had gathered at Kini-Nui, the central temple complex of the island, per summons from Pohatu. They were all waiting anxiously for the Toa of Stone to arrive. It was rare for Pohatu to ever be this late.

“I still don’t see what could be so dangerous that Pohatu had to call us all here,” Tahu muttered. “We defeated the Bahrag and one! I doubt Makuta can throw anything worse at us.”

Kopaka gave Tahu an angry look. “You realize,” he said, “that we only defeated one of his avatars and two of his minions. Mata Nui knows what else he could have in store for us.”

The two began to argue, and all the others could do was look on.

Gali shook her head. Tahu’s overconfidence is going to be the end of us, she thought. Doesn’t he remember what happened the last time any of us said that?

Lewa laughed. “You two need to cool-calm down,” he chuckled.

The Toa of Ice and Fire shot a glare at their emerald-armored friend.

“What?” Lewa asked.

“I still say there’s nothing worse in store for us,” Tahu finally stated.

“Then you obviously haven’t been to Po-Koro recently,” a voice said.

The Toa turned to find Pohatu walking up the temple’s stairs. His armor was horribly dented, and even with his mask they could tell that he was bruised.

“Pohatu!” Gali called. She rushed over to him. “Are you all right?”

Pohatu shrugged. “I’m fine, overall.” He grunted as he rolled his shoulder. “But I have one heck of a story.”

Onua lifted his deep green eyes. “What happened, then?” he inquired.

Pohatu sighed. “Turaga Onewa sent me to protect a group of Matoran that were going to help set up equipment at a quarry that was shut down during the Swarm War. When we got there, this… thing attacked us.”

“Thing?” Kopaka asked.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the Toa of Stone said. “It was a little taller than myself, and had long, blue veins along its body. Even worse, it wore no armor, just this jet-black skin like material. It called itself ‘Virulent.’”

“I think you had too much mead-drink,” Lewa chuckled.

“How do you think I got these?” Pohatu responded, pointing at a battered set of bruises along his right arm.

Lewa shrugged. “Bar fight?”

Pohatu shook his head. “I wish.”

Kopaka raised an eyebrow. “Something’s definitely wrong here,” he said. “Makuta usually sends more than one minion after us.”

Onua nodded. “Perhaps this is just the preview before the final showing,” he suggested.

“You think Makuta could be biding his time to send something worse than this creature?” Pohatu inquired.

Onua nodded slowly.

“Well you’re just as cheer-happy as a cold winter’s day,” Lewa jested sarcastically.

Tahu put up a hand to silence Lewa. “Then I think its best that we part ways to protect our own villages,” he announced.

Gali’s eyes widened. “What?” she shouted. “Tahu, you can’t be serious about that!”

“How not?” the Toa of Fire asked in a nearly patronizing tone.

“Because we’re a team,” Gali responded. “We have parted ways, but not when we face a threat. Whenever we all fight together, we are destined to win. It’s the first of the Matoran’s three virtues.”

Tahu cocked his head. “Yes, but Makuta’s sent legions of monsters, an army, and even his own physical manifestation at us. I highly doubt this ‘Virulent’ thing could possibly pose any threat to us.”

“That thing defeated Pohatu and won!” the Toa of Water responded, her usual calm gracefulness broken by a sudden outpour of anger. “Do you really think that any of us can hope to beat it alone? And if Onua’s right—“

“Gali, the creature caught him off guard. Next time, we’ll be ready for it.

Gali folded her arms. “Tahu, I can only think of what could happen if we remain divided,” she mumbled.

Tahu shook his head, angering Gali even more.

“All in favor of splitting up for the safety of our own cities?” the Toa of Fire asked.

Only Gali and Onua did not raise their hands.

“Then it’s settled,” Tahu said. “With the blessing of our enhanced elemental powers, we’ll be sure to take care of any pest Makuta throws at our village.”

They slowly parted ways, turning towards their own homes.

Tahu caught up to Gali.

“Gali,” he said, “I didn’t want to anger you like that, you know that right?”

She kept walking.

“Gali, listen, I only did it in best interest of our villages.”

If only you had, the Toa of Water thought. She then formulated a cunning, devious plan.

“Tahu,” she said, turning to face the Toa of Fire. “I—I don’t think we can stay together any longer if we have to protect our villages.”

“What?” Tahu asked, shocked at where Gali had brought the originally one-sided conversation.

She looked him straight in the eye. “You heard me,” she said coldly. “You broke the unity between us as the Toa, we might as well break the unity between ourselves as well.”

“Gali,” Tahu whispered.

“Until we meet again, brother,” she said, bowing. The Toa of Water then disappeared down the trail, leaving her former lover behind.

Why didn’t he listen to me? Gali thought as she walked home to Ga-Koro. What am I saying, how could I have done that?

What have I done? Tahu questioned the sanctum of his mind.

Both Toa left the temple crushed inside.

Chapter XXXVII

Two weeks later…

Tahu stood, watching the candlelights in Ta-Koro’s many homes slowly wink out as the Matoran readied for a long night of rest.

He turned his attention skyward. The usually cloudy sky was replaced with a rather clear view of the stars. Tahu could make out the many constellations that surrounded the island, and a single, long, milky band that stretched across the sky.

He sighed. He had felt restless ever since the meeting at Kini Nui two weeks ago, and couldn’t sleep. He decided to take yet another one of his nightly walks and patrol the outskirts of the City of Fire.

Tahu sheathed his swords onto his sides, sliding the silvery blades into the fabric cover all the way to their hilts. He then walked out of his room’s door and down the hall, eventually onto the stairs and into the building’s main atrium.

Unlike most nights, Vakama was not waiting to lecture him here. The Turaga must have gone to sleep early. Tahu made his way to the main door and tried to open it, but the doorknob was jammed. He tried harder, but the knob would not budge.

“Strange…” Tahu mumbled.”

“Yes,” a guttural voice answered, “very strange indeed.”

Tahu turned around, hoping to find the source of the voice, but to no avail. The room was empty.

Thud.

Tahu barely had time to register that something had landed behind him before the fist met his head, knocking him onto the floor. Before he could react someone had shot a thick, black material onto his arms and legs, sealing him to the ground.

Tahu struggled, but could not break the ebony bonds.

He looked up and saw a hideous black creature that matched the description of Pohatu’s attacker.

“Virulent, I presume?” Tahu spat out in disgust.

Virulent revealed a fanged smile. “Why yes, good to meet you, too, Tahu.”

“What do you want?”

“Want?” Virulent said, walking around the Toa of Fire’s immobile body with a sarcastically dignified gait. “No, it’s what I need.”

“Fine,” Tahu said, rolling his eyes. “What do you need?”

Virulent brought his face close to Tahu’s, and the Toa of Fire could see the black material on his face slowly shift, as if it were alive and independent from the rest of Virulent.

“Information,” the creature hissed. He brought his clawed hand up, which began to glow a sickly pale blue. He pressed his palm against Tahu’s face.

Immediately, Tahu thought he had blacked out. Then, he saw something. Images of the Matoran of Ta-Koro flashed through his mind. Jaller, Takua, Kapura, and numerous others slowly appeared clear as day in front of him.

Then, scenes of experiences he had with them began appearing. Tahu barely had time to register the events before they disappeared. A fishing trip with Jaller, scouting out what might be an artifact temple with Takua, and many more memories flashed in front of him.

Memories… Tahu thought. That thing is looking at my memories!

An image of Turaga Vakama appeared, followed by multiple memories of him. Each of those was slowly taken in by Virulent as well.

An image of all five of his fellow Toa then appeared in his mind. Now, Tahu fought back as memories of Lewa, Pohatu, Onua, and Kopaka were exchanged from his mind to that of Virulent’s.

Then, an image of Gali appeared. It was a time nearly two years ago, when she and Tahu had been sitting and watching the ocean under cover of the night. The night just before that final confrontation with Makuta. The night when…

Tahu wanted to smile, but then realized what was happening. Virulent was finding out all he cared about, and now found what was most precious to him.

Tahu fought Virulent’s mental tug as memories of Gali were sifted through by the shadowy creature. He could hear the sadistic laughter of Virulent through the intense mental battle.

Finally, Virulent lifted his hand off Tahu’s face and smiled.

“So, the Toa of Water,” he hissed. “I should have known.”

The being stood up and began to walk

“I swear!” Tahu shouted. “If you do anything to hurt her, I will make you pay.”

Virulent whirled around and fired a large amount of the black, organic material onto Tahu, further sealing him to the ground.

“You realize,” it said, “that if I hurt her, I indirectly am causing you pain. That is what I want, is for you to suffer.” Virulent smiled. “So I will not stop until the Toa of Water’s entrails are baking under the Ga-Koran sun!”

Tahu shouted and tried to lash out, but he couldn’t move, as the material still kept him bonded to the ground.

Virulent smashed through the door and began running out of the city. Tahu watched him use a tentacle to latch onto the city wall and pull himself up and over the edifice.

Tahu yelled again, and focused his elemental power inward, slowly raising his body temperature. Eventually, he hit the black material’s melting point, and it slowly retreated off of him.

Immediately Tahu leaped onto his feet and ran after Virulent. Using his mask of Levitation, he cleared the city wall and floated over the lava mote outside. He landed on the basalt plain outside, and switched to his mask of Speed and dashed after the creature as fast as he could.

Tahu caught up with Virulent, which slightly startled it. But then, it simply brought its fist against Tahu’s chest, toppling the Toa of Fire. Tahu rolled and recovered, and returned to the chase.

This thing can match my Kanohi? Tahu thought. I don’t want to know what else it can do.

The environment around them as Tahu and Virulent engaged in a high-speed bout of combat. Tahu jumped onto the creature’s back, but it tore him from it and tossed him to the side. As he fell, Tahu latched onto one of Virulent’s legs, pulling it down with him. They rolled before Virulent broke free of the Toa of Fire’s grasp. He leapt away and kept running, with Tahu quickly following behind.

Tahu threw a fireball at Virulent’s back. While the creature itself didn’t react, its “skin” reeled as the flames impacted, slowly peeling away and revealing a patch of brown armor underneath. After the fires dissipated, the skin recovered the armor.

After nearly a half-hour of dueling, the pair charged through and smashed the gates of Ga-Koro, terrifying two dozing guards.

Virulent tackled Tahu and tossed him into a building. The Toa of Fire smashed through it and impacted on a wall inside. Tahu leapt out to find Virulent crawling into Gali’s window.

“No,” he whispered.

______________________________________________


Virulent smiled as he stood over Gali. He brought his clawed hand up and prepared to slice across her unprotected chest.

“I will not let you hurt her!”

Virulent whirled around in time to see Tahu fly through the window and slam into him. The two smashed through another wall and fell into a Ga-Koro street.

Gali shrieked as the attack happened. She peered out her window to find Tahu and Virulent brawling in the streets, tearing apart a portion of the market district in their battle. The Toa of Water quickly scrambled to find her armor and gear.

___________________________________________

Virulent lashed out with two tentacles from his wrist, which latched onto Tahu. He then whipped the Toa of Fire through several market stalls.

Tahu grunted as he rolled on the ground. He filled his fists with fire and charged Virulent, landing two powerful blows into the creature’s central mass.

Virulent was tossed backwards into a wall. It slumped after impacting.

Tahu began to gather power for another massive attack.

Virulent recovered in time to see Tahu’s intent. He quickly lashed a tentacle around a nearby fruit cart, and swung the wagon into the Toa of Fire, tossing him halfway across the street.

Tahu spat some blood onto the street and turned to see Virulent confidently striding towards him. Tahu tried to rise to his feet, but could not.

Virulent smiled, and readied a final blow…

A sickle buried itself into Virulent’s left shoulder. He screeched and quickly turned around to find Gali standing there, weapons ready.

“Alright, creature,” she said, “let’s dance.”

Virulent roared and charged the Toa of Water. She gracefully front-flipped over her attacker, and the slashed her sickles into its back.

Virulent roared with pain. Gali fired several blasts of water at it, beating the creature back. Virulent charged down an alleyway.

“Come on!” Tahu shouted, running next to Gali. “Let’s get him.”

Gali nodded, and the two ran down the alley.

The two charged into the alley, ready for anything, but found no signs of the hulking brute that had dashed through just moments ago. All they saw was a cloaked Matoran beggar, holding out his hands for alms.

Gali turned to Tahu. “Virulent?” she asked.

Tahu nodded.

“And you wanted to split up to protect our villages from that? Neither you nor Pohatu could defeat that thing alone. Why do you think that splitting up would help any?”

Tahu gritted his teeth. “Because I didn’t expect him to be this powerful. Again, he caught Pohatu off guard.”

Gali shook her head. “Tahu, you must be crazy.”

“Maybe I am,” he said, rubbing a bruise on his right arm, “but at least I tried to protect you. He was going to kill you.”

“If you think chivalry’s going to change my opinion, Tahu, it won’t,” the Toa of Water spat. “Go back to Ta-Koro. I think you’ve done enough damage already.”

Tahu rolled his eyes and grunted. He slowly made his way for the village’s gates.

Chapter XXXVIII

One month later…

Jaller walked through the streets of Ta-Koro, searching for Takua. The city was hosting a kohlii competition and both he and Takua were going to represent the great City of Fire in a Kohlii match between their city and Ga and Po Koros. Sadly, the chronicler had disappeared not long before they needed to be at the field to practice before the game.

“Takua!” Jaller shouted. His voice echoed through the brick edifices of Ta-Koro. “Takua!” He muttered under his breath, “Where could he be?”

Jaller passed the Ta-Koro Wall of History, a large wall made of a single basalt slab that was covered in the history and legends of the island of Mata Nui.

At the edge of the wall, Jaller found Takua’s Kohlii staff.

“What?” a voice responded from above.

Jaller looked up to find Takua straddling the ledge of the slab that made up the Wall.

“Takua, what in Karzahni are you doing up there?” the general asked.

“Well, we ran out of some space on the Wall, but there was plenty up here. I figured I could try and scribble some small stuff at the top.”

“You could just ask Vakama for a ladder. That’d probably be a lot easier.”

“You have a point, I guess I should—“

“Get to the game?” Jaller interrupted. “Yes, you should. It starts in an hour.”

“An hour! Wha—“ Takua wobbled on the ledge, and fell, landing atop Jaller.

“Ouch…” Jaller muttered.

“Sorry,” Takua said, leaping onto his feet. He grabbed his Kohlii staff. “Let’s move.”

Jaller slowly rose to a standing position and dusted himself off. He dashed off behind Takua, heading for the Kohlii stadium.

Already, he could hear the crowd cheering in the distance.

Vakama must be getting ready to give the announcements, Jaller thought.

In the arena, Vakama stood atop a box reserved for the Turaga of the three cities that would be playing today. To his left was Onewa, from Po-Koro. To his right, Nokama from Ga-Koro.

He stepped up to an array of carved out Kanae-Ra horns, each carved to catch his voice and magnify it so that the whole of the stadium could hear him.

“Gathered friends,” he began. “Since the time of peace after the Swarm War, we have had the opportunity to build. And we have not squandered it, but relished it. And now we celebrate the fruits of our new construction in this, our new Kohlii field!”

The Matoran in the stadium cheered.

“And now, to welcome our protectors,” Vakama continued. “Tahu, Toa of Fire!”

Above the Turaga box, on the stadium wall, Tahu front flipped off and landed in the seats reserved for the Toa. He pumped his fist, and the ensuing roar from the Ta-Matoran shook the stadium.

“From the village of Water,” Vakama announced, “Gali, Toa of Water!”

Gali emerged from a door, waving to the audience. The Ga-Matoran crowd let out a defining applause.

“And from the city of Stone, Toa Pohatu!”

Pohatu emerged from the same doorway, his fist raised above his head. The Po-Matoran crowd applauded and raised their voices at his arrival.

“Brother!” Pohatu shouted, turning to Pohatu. He had healed completely from Virulent’s attack. “It’s good to see you again!”

“As well as you!” Tahu laughed and pounded his fist against Pohatu’s. “Wouldn’t be a match without the patron Toa of Kohlii, now would it?”

Pohatu chuckled. “And here I am.”

He turned to Gali. “Pleasure to see you again, Gali.”

She simply turned away from him and sat down on the bench.

Pohatu turned back to Tahu, who did the same.

Pohatu sighed, and plopped down. He rested his arms on his fellow Toa’s shoulders.

“You two…” he said. “Still so ill at ease? Put aside your petty differences! Rejoice!”

Tahu grunted and shifted away from the Toa of Stone.

“I think he’s afraid of having his fire extinguished,” chided Gali.

Tahu let out a mocking laugh. “Really? Gali, against me you’d be but steam. Hot air, as they say.”

Pohatu shook his head. He knew that Tahu and Gali had been at each other’s throats since Virulent’s attack on Ga-Koro. Luckily, the two had barely seen either of themselves, so no city-destroying fights had broken out.

Below, the Turaga watched the Toa’s actions.

Onewa let out an angered sigh. “The Toa squabble like Gukko over a berry,” he muttered.

Nokama spoke, “Their recent victories have been a blessing, but they have forgotten how they need each other.”

Vakama nodded. “Indeed, Nokama.” Silently sending a prayer up to Mata Nui, Vakama turned back to the hollowed voice magnifiers. “We dedicate this Kohlii field, to the Great Spirit!”

The audience cheered.

“And the Three Virtues: Unity, Duty, and Destiny!”

Great banners fell from the ramparts, unveiling the crescent-enclosed symbol of the Three Virtues and symbol of the Mata Nui government.

Vakama smiled. Raising his staff, he shouted, “Let the tournament begin!”

The audience let out a deafening roar.

An announcer using a large shell as a microphone began the introduction.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” he shouted to the crowd’s delight. “Today, Ta-Koro welcomes three teams!

“From the village of Stone, three-time champions and copper mask winners Hewkii and Hafu!”

The tan armored and grey clad Matoran both emerged from their starting dugout behind their goal, raising their hammerstaffs into the air.

The crowd cheered loudly, especially the Po-Matoran.

“From the shining seas of Ga-Koro,” the announcer continued, “welcome Hahli and Macku!”

The two Ga-Matoran sprinted from their goal area, and did a set of graceful flips, throwing the crowd into an uproar.

“And finally, from our home city of Ta-Koro, the General of the Legion and the Chronicler himself: Jaller and Takua!”

The crowd cheered as the two Matoran exchanged positions, Takua trying to get in front of the General.

Jaller frowned for a moment, and then turned to the raving crowd. He smiled.

“Players, take your positions!” the announcer ordered.

Jaller nodded towards Takua. “Try your new move,” he whispered.

“Of course,” the Chronicler responded self-assuredly. “It’s what the audience came for.”

Jaller shook his head and grabbed his goalkeeper’s shield from the goal. Its red and yellow surface bore the emblem of Ta-Koro.

Takua, Hahli, and Hewkii all met in the center of the arena, ready for the game.

Each placed their staff over the port where the ball would soon emerge.

“Play well,” the said in unison, as per Kohlii tradition.

They raised their staffs and took a few steps backwards.

The sound of machinery below the arena clicking signaled that the ball would soon emerge. Within seconds, a silver, metal ball popped from the port. The Matoran left for the sphere, staffs raised.

Hewkii and Hahli’s staff’s scoop ends locked, holding the ball. They fought for control until Takua broke the deadlock with his stave’s hammer and took the ball for himself. He charged down the arena, straight for Po-Koro’s goal.

With a mighty hit, the Ta-Matoran fired the ball at the goal. There was a sound of metal clanging as the ball ricocheted off Hafu’s goalkeeper shield.

Takua silently cursed and turned around to find that Hewkii had the ball, and was dribbling it with his staff down the field.

Hahlii stole the ball with a swing of her hammer and sped towards Ta-Koro’s goal. She swung, throwing the ball straight at the goal. Jaller, however, leapt for the sphere and deflected it.

“Nice save!” the announcer shouted.

“Pretty good for a Ta-Matoran,” Hahli joked.

Jaller lauged. “Nothing gets past the General of the Legion.” He then smiled wryly, and added “Unless he wishes it.”

Hahli smiled. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Hewkii now had the ball, and was doing an excellent job at preventing Takua from stealing it. Finally, after lining up a shot with the Ga-Koro goal, Hewkii fired the ball. It flew past Macku and into the goal’s net.

“Score! Po-Koro has the first score of the night!” the announcer shouted.

The crowd cheered loudly, and Hewkii raised his staff.

A Matoran updated the scoreboard with a series of lightstones. Po-Koro was now in the lead with a single point.

Hours passed, and the game marched on. Eventually, Po-Koro and Ga-Koro were tied in the lead with only one point left to end the game. Ta-Koro was a single point behind the other two teams.

It was night, now, and massive torches and reflective mirrors now lit the arena in a bright, flamelike glow.

The seventh ball of the night fired from the ball port and flew into the air. This time, Hahli was the first on it, throwing it away from the other two teams. She then headed for Ta-Koro’s goal with the two other players close behind her.

Hewkii was able to smash the ball from the Ga-Matoran’s control, but Hahli blocked him from getting any futher.

Takua, however, took the ball and sprinted for Po-Koro’s goal. When he was in range, he decided it was time.

Picking up the ball in the scoop end of his staff, he tossed it into the air. Then, he jumped up with it. He quickly flipped his staff to the hammer end, and connected the hammer with the ball midair.

The crowd gasped at the maneuver.

Carrying Takua’s momentum, the ball flew through the air at high speed…

…and smashed into the overhanging directly above the Turaga box, causing the village elders to duck behind their podiums. The ball then dislodged from the wall, fell, hit Vakama in the head, and then slammed into the ground.

Takua fell flat on his back. Then, he heard the clatter of Hahli and Hewkii, who had retrieved the rebound and were now heading for Jaller’s goal.

Hahlii got ahold of the ball just in time, and connected her hammer against it. The sphere flew through the air and sailed straight into their goal.

“That’s the point!” the announcer shouted. “Ga-Koro wins!”

The crowd—especially its Ga-Matoran members—yelled with joy. All except a lone, cloaked Matoran, who had been watching a game from near one of the torches the whole time.

The players met at the center of the arena for post-game congratulations.

“Nice job Hewkii,” Hahli said. “Good defense, Macku,” she congratulated, turning to her teammate.

Hewkii laughed. “Good game, Hahli. Hope the copper mask suits you two.”

Takua approached the group, head hanging low.

“Nice move out there, Takua,” Hahli commended. “Enough practice, and you’ll have something amazing.”

“Thanks,” the Chronicler said, palming the back of his neck.

The teams then broke off, Hahli and Jaller heading one direction, Hewkii and Macku another. Hafu had left earlier to go amuse some Ga-Matoran who had been cheering him on during the game. Takua watched as they walked off.

The audience soon began to get ready to leave when suddenly, the sound of a lone Matoran clapping echoed across the stadium. Combined with the dim firelight that illuminated the field, this produced an eerie effect.

“Well done,” the cloaked, clapping Matoran said, slowly walking down a ramp towards the field. “Well done indeed.”

The Matoran around him cringed reflexively. Something seemed wrong about this newcomer.

Hewkii looked up at the lone figure now climbing into the stadium’s field. “I know that voice,” he whispered.

The being walked into the center of the arena, the fires’ glow creating a menacing aura around his black cloak.

“Greetings, fellow Matoran,” the Matoran said, his face hidden by his hood. “I know that you know me. Many of you have heard my voice and cringed.

“And you have the right to. I have done some… questionable things in my lifetime. But in case you do not know me…”

The Matoran removed his hood, confirming Hewkii’s suspicions. Behind a brown and silver Kanohi Rau were the pale blue eyes of Ahkmou.

“Friends,” Ahkmou addressed the audience. “If I may call you that. I bring tidings from our current ruler, Makuta.”

The Toa all rose to their feet. Tahu’s hand reflexively began feeling the hilt of his sword.

The audience gasped at the remark. ‘Tidings’ were not exactly something one would want Makuta to send.

“The one we consider dark and evil, has blessed me with a powerful gift,” Ahkmou continued. “And I do not wish to keep this gift for myself, but to share it with those others who are willing.”

None of the Matoran stood up.

“My friends,” the Po-Matoran con artist said again, “Makuta is not evil. He wishes to rule us and receive the same love that we have so zealously kept for Mata Nui alone! Please, accept my gift, and Makuta will relieve us of these hard times!”

A long moment of silence fell over the stadium. Then, a single, old Ta-Matoran stood up.

“Makuta does not give gifts,” the old man stated in a tone. “And nor do you. Unless you consider the plague of Po-Koro a gift.”

“Perhaps,” Ahkmou simply hissed. “So no one will accept the gift I have brought for you?”

A murmur passed through the crowd, but none rose to accept the former criminal’s offer.

“Well then,” he said, throwing his hood over his head. “I guess it’s time to bring down the house.”

As soon as the last word left Ahkmou’s mouth, something strange began to happen. His hood and cloak began to writhe slowly, and then melted onto his form. Muscles grew where there once were none, and the Matoran easily gained two or three feet. Large, exposed veins of blue material grew along his form.

Then, the ebony-skinned being unleashed an all too familiar roar, and glared at the Toa with pale blue, pupilless eyes.

“No,” Gali gasped. “It can’t be.”

Pohatu frowned.

“Virulent,” he spat out like a curse.

Chapter XLIX

Virulent smiled wickedly as he shot two massive tendrils from his hands at either side of the stadium. The appendages stuck to the stone that held up some of the bottom row’s seats. He yanked, pulling the stone out and the seats with them.

Tahu turned to Gali. “Gali, get the Matoran out. We’ll handle this thing,” he ordered.

“No, you’re going to need help,” she responded.

“And they don’t?” Tahu reminded her.

Gali looked from the rampaging Virulent back to Tahu.

She relented, “Fine. But as soon as they’re all out, I’m coming back.” The Toa of Water then jumped into the Turaga box and began leading the elders and their associates out.

Tahu and Pohatu leaped into the arena, taking Virulent’s attention.

“Well well well…” he hissed. “I’ve bested both of you in combat before. What makes you think I can’t kick both of you’re as—“

Before Virulent could finish his sentence, a fist of stone smashed into his body, knocking him off his feet.

“Because,” Pohatu said, “we’re ready for you this time.”

Virulent smiled. “Then what are we waiting for? Let the games begin!”

Ahkmou shot two pale blue tendrils from his wrists, which wrapped around the Toa’s legs. He pulled them off their feet, but they were quick to recover. Tahu pulled out his swords and charged Virulent. The shadow being evaded him, but was subsequently attacked by the stone floor beneath him. Noticing that it was Pohatu’s doing, he lashed out with another tendril, which hit the Toa of Stone, breaking his concentration.

Virulent laughed with satisfaction. But he didn’t notice the Toa of Fire’s impending attack. Tahu leapt high in the air and then sank his swords deep into the being’s back. Ahmou shrieked in pain as blood poured from the wound. He swung around, tearing the Toa of Fire from his back but leaving the sword embedded in.

Virulent, his thoughts now nearly blinded by anger, focused on Tahu, and charged. Tahu was able to evade, and tore his blade free from the creature’s back. More pain flooded Virulent’s mind.

Pohatu took the advantage and created several more fists of stone, each of which he used to pound Virulent into the ground. A fountain of dust slowly obscured the being’s form.

Both Toa waited as the dust settled. When the area finally cleared, Virulent was lying in the middle of a crater, groaning in a puddle of his own blood.

Tahu and Pohatu looked at each other.

“Is he dead?” Pohatu asked.

Virulent provided the answer, latching onto the Toa of Stone’s neck with a tendril. He then through Pohatu across the stadium and into a wall.

The being slowly crawled from the crater.

“That was… unpleasant,” it hissed. Its skin was moving like an angry tide, pieces of it detaching and reforming to the body. Tahu almost vomited at the sight.

Virulent tried to lash out again, but Tahu summoned his powers of fire and created a massive inferno around the beast. Virulent’s skin reacted violently with the element, but he kept charging Tahu.

The Toa of Fire increased the heat of the flames around Virulent to the point where they became white-hot. The ground beneath Virulent was melting as well, and the shadow being was slowly sinking into the ground with every step.

Eventually, Tahu could keep up the onslaught no longer and relented. As the flames disappeared, all that remained was Virulent. He was glowing white-hot, and had melted halfway into the ground. But, he was still moving.

“Virulent!” a voice called, attracting the being’s attention. “I think you need to cool off!”

A jet of water appeared from the Turaga’s box, slamming into Virulent and knocking the shadow being off his feet. The water seemed to hurt Virulent even more, as it was now rapidly cooling his white-hot skin. Eventually, Gali relieved her attack, revealing a statue-like version of the beast. His skin had cooled too rapidly, and now acted as his prison.

Tahu looked up to the Toa of Water, who jumped from the Turaga box and into the arena.

Tahu tried to thank her, but she simply walked past him as if he didn’t exist at all.

She knelt down next to Virulent’s stone-like prison, and put a hand against his skin. Her face contorted in an expression of disgust.

“I can feel it moving underneath the outer portion,” she said.

Pohatu quickly performed the same action. He, too, could feel what seemed like a river of material slowly flowing underneath the hard, outer surface.

“He’s still alive,” the Toa of Stone finally declared.

“We should move him to a prison while he’s still like this,” Tahu suggested. “I’m sure none of us want to fight this thing again.”

The other two Toa nodded, and they picked up Virulent’s unmoving form, and slowly dragged him towards Ta-Koro’s dungeon.

________________________________

Sealed behind a door of stone and steel, Virulent appeared much less dangerous. Now, what was once a battle-hungry, threatening monster was a caged beast. But instead of violently trying to escape, he was simply sitting in the back of the cell, eyes facing the ground.

It was this sudden appearance of stoic behavior that worried Tahu the most.

“He’s been like this for hours,” the Toa of Fire said to Pohatu, who was leaning against the wall across from him.

“Brooding over the loss, probably,” the Toa of Stone chided.

The shadow-covered Ahkmou flared his nostrils. “My loss was… necessary,” he mumbled. “I am but a pawn in a much larger game, and the stronger pieces are slowly moving into place.”

Tahu turned towards the shadow being, but he had returned to his silent, emotionless state. It appeared as if he was… waiting.

“Where’s Gali?” Tahu asked.

Pohatu nodded to the left. “She went to Kini Nui,” he informed, “to ponder the ‘great thoughts’.”

Tahu nodded in acknowledgement. “Well, I think I’ll go fetch a troop of guards. I highly doubt this creature is moving any time soon.”

“Agreed,” Pohatu responded. “I’m going to head North, bringing news of how the game turned out. Minus that nasty Virulent business. Doubt they’d want to hear that. Especially Jareroden. He seems to have really taken a grudge against this thing.”

Tahu let out a short chuckle. “Well, see you around, brother.”

The two bumped fists and parted, going their separate ways.

After Pohatu left the room, Virulent began to mutter something under his breath, catching Tahu’s attention.

He whispered, “The moment of peace

After the Time of War

Shall only leave open,

The wounds of before.

For the sons of darkness,

Are coming soon,

Under the gaze

Of a crimson moon.

All will tremble as they pass,

And blood shall fall like shattered glass.

About them shall ride pale strife,

To seize all that is left: your life.

When they come,

Your time is done,

For the hour of hope his now far past.

The shadow of death is the one they cast.”

Tahu had heard the poem before, nearly a year ago. It had been chanted by the Bahrag not long before their demise at the hands of the Toa.

The Toa of Fire shuttered at the memory, and mulled over the meaning of the short rhyme. He then disregarded it as mere coincidence and headed for Jaller’s home to request that a detachment of guards be placed at the cell.

As he walked through the darkened streets of Ta-Koro, Tahu failed to notice a blood-red moon that now hung high above him.

Chapter XL

Makuta opened his “Prime” manifestation’s eyes. He felt the change in the world. It was time.

He slowly raised his titanic form from his great, obsidian throne. Dim light given off from massive columns made from a strange, green substance illuminated his jet black armor, creating a terrifying feel in the room. Physical and emotional darkness quickly surrounded the Dark Lord.

“Our time has come,” Makuta hissed.

From a chamber behind his, three powerful, hulking beings emerged. They were, however, much smaller than his monolithic form.

“The Toa’s rebellion has far too long tried my patience,” the Master of Shadows said in a fitting, god-like tone. “Now, it is time for them to experience my wrath.

Makuta lifted his hand forward, signaling the beings behind him to march forth.

“Their unity will be poisoned…”

As the word’s left the god’s mouth, the emerald-armored being stepped forward. His armor gave off a foul and repulsive aura.

“…Their duty will. Be. Broken…”

The sapphire-clad being stepped forth, its pale eyes glowing. Around it, reality itself appeared to disassemble.

“…And their destiny, I must shatter…”

The last being, bearing bronze armor, stepped into the light. Energy cuffed around its feet, producing tiny, seismic tremors with every step.

The three beings let out a terrifying screech, and slowly marched for the gateway that lead to the surface.

“Go my sons,” Makuta commanded. “Use the shadow. And keep my brother asleep…”

________________________

Gali sat, cross legged, in front of the altar at the temple complex of Kini Nui, thinking more about the Toa than actual meditation.

She opened her eyes. She felt… something change, similar to the change in the air just before a thunderstorm. She looked to the night sky, which was alight with stars.


And then she gasped at what she saw.

The six stars that made up the constellation of the Toa were winking out. One. By. One.

“Mata Nui,” she whispered.

Then came the sound of stone being crushed. Gali quickly leapt up from her meditative position and readied her axes. She slowly backed towards the altar.

Which promptly exploded behind her.

Gali was tossed five feet across the temple. She landed at the base of one of the spires. When her vision cleared, she watched as a clawed, for fingered hand appeared from the gateway that was once covered by the dais.

Three beings pulled themselves out of the tunnel, each at least twelve feet in height. They had terrifying, jagged armor. Along their backs grew several massive spikes that twitched as they observed the area.

The brown armored one caught sight of Gali. It raised its hand into the air, and a razor-tipped spear materialized in its grip. It then charged Gali.

The Toa of Water leapt over the creature, but she couldn’t gain enough air and was brought down by the creature’s spines.

After hitting the ground, Gali tried to recover, but was nearly fried by a blast of seismic energy fired by the brown-armored creature.

She rolled, avoiding two more blasts from the creature’s spear.

Gali recovered to her feet. Knowing she could not face these three creatures on her own, she turned around and sprinted for the lake. Hopefully, they wouldn’t be able to catch her.

After letting out a series of roars, the three beasts began their pursuit, quickly gaining on Gali.

When they reached the cliff overlooking the lake, however, they discovered that the Toa of Water had disappeared completely.

The green armored one followed a pathway to the lakeshore, and peered into the lake. It crouched down, and lowered its face to the point where its twisted features hovered just inches above the water…

…and above Gali’s water-camouflaged mask.

She held her breath, hoping the creature lacked higher sensory capabilities.

She let out a silent sigh of relief as the creature rose, abandoning its search.

The being turned to its compatriots. “We don’t have time for this,” it hissed in a tone that sounded wholly mad and sadistic. “Head for Ta-Koro. The Toa’s leader will be there. We shall kill him first.”

The other two placed their fists to their chestplates in what appeared to be a form of salutation. “Yes, Lerahk,” the growled.

The three beings turned. They held their spears next to them, parallel to the ground. They then threw up their feet, and were able to hover about a foot over the ground. The creatures quickly sped off in the direction of the City of Fire.

Gali surfaced, and silently thanked Mata Nui for her mask’s power of water breathing. When she realized where the beasts were headed, however, she immediately submerged and swam at top speed downriver and to Ta-Koro, desperately trying to pass the flying beings. Using her mask of Speed, she was able to easily surpass them, and was leaping from the river and running across Ta-Wahi’s’s basalt plains within minutes.

_____________________________

A Ta-Koro Legion sentinel stood at his position on one of the guard towers at the edge of the retractable bridge that allowed passage over the lava lake.

He was about to dose off when he saw the Toa of Water speeding towards the village.

“The Toa of Water approaches!” he announced in a booming voice to the bridge controllers. “The Toa of Water—“

Gali leapt onto the tower and grabbed the Matoran’s shoulders. “Sound the alarm,” she commanded. She then jumped off the tower and sprinted across Ta-Koro’s bridge and into the city.

At first, he was confused. What exactly could be attacking was unclear to him, but he did know not to question the command of a Toa. The Matoran saluted in her direction and then turned towards the plains. He raised his horn, and blew it. Its echo trumpeted across the area, alerting all guards to get ready for whatever might be coming.

Within the city, most of the inhabitants were either asleep or walking through some of city’s the nighttime entertainment venues. Some of the Ga-Matoran from the Kohlii match had stayed to tour the town as well.

When the sentries’ alarm had finally reached the city, most were unready for the attack. The result was a mad scramble to ready the city’s defenses. Even Tahu, who had been patrolling the walls already, was unsure how to react to an alarm.

The stone bridge lowered into the lava as soon as Gali entered the protective walls of the city. The main gate closed behind her.

Turaga Vakama approached her, along with Jaller and Hahli, who were following not far behind him.

“What’s going on?” the elder asked. Judging by the tone of his voice, he was still half-asleep.

“Something is coming,” Gali responded.

Tahu jumped off of a building and landed next to Gali.

“What’s the meaning of this, Gali?” he demanded. “I thought you were at Kini Nui.”

“I was,” she responded. “Then, these creatures emerged from the tunnel beneath the altar.”

Vakama’s eyes widened. He was awake now. The Turaga quickly rushed towards the walls, clambering in front of the soldiers to get a glimpse of whatever was coming. The Toa followed him.

A murmur ran through the crowd of soldiers as they wondered what exactly they had been dragged to their positions for. They were then quickly silenced as a veil of shadow flew across the sky, blotting out the stars.

Now, everyone present was uneasy. Then, they caught sight of the three, repulsive beings as they left their hovering positions at the edge of the lava lake.

“Rahkshi,” Vakama whispered. “The Sons of Makuta…”

Both Toa and several soldiers glanced towards him.

“You said they were a legend,” Tahu mumbled in a humbled tone.

“I thought they were a legend,” Vakama quietly responded.

The creatures regarded the molten rock as nothing but an annoyance. They raised their legs in unison, and stepped onto a path of shadow that suddenly appeared over the scorching liquid.

Tahu felt rage build up within him.

Before Gali could stop him, he had jumped over the wall and landed in front of the main entrance to the city.

“None have ever breached the gates of Ta-Koro,” he shouted to the beasts, unsheathing his swords. “And none shall this day!” He crossed the blades in a defensive pattern.

The brown-armored beast, known as Panrahk, smiled. It raised its spear, and aimed straight for the Toa of Fire.

Tahu was blasted through the iron gates of the city by a seismic force greater than that of fifty earthquakes. Fueled by adrenaline, the Toa emerged from the twisted hunk of iron bars and scowled at the creatures, who were now parading themselves through the portcullis.

Archers began pelting the Rahkshi with arrows, but to no avail. The projectiles pinged off the surface of the twelve-foot-tall beasts’ armor offering no annoyance to the creatures whatsoever.

The three split up, heading in different directions.

“Kill all you want,” Lerahk laughed, placing his fists to his hips. “Have fun.”

Tahu charged the pompous green Rahkshi, but was quickly broadsided by its spear, which seemed to have appeared from thin air.

“Tahu!” Lerahk boomed. “Toa of hot air. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Tahu recovered from the blow turned back towards the Rahkshi. He slammed his swords into the ground and caused two jets of flame to imprison the poisonous being.

Then, against Tahu’s expectations, it laughed. “You’ll have to do better than that,” it chided, stabbing its spear into the floor. Acidic poison oozed from the weapon’s head and over the flames.

Then, the liquid caught fire.

Lerahk cursed. “I should have thought that through,” he muttered.

Gali jumped down beside Tahu. “Good job,” she congratulated.

Tahu nodded. “Come on. The other two are still on the loose!”

The two dashed in Panrahk’s direction.

________________________

In his prison within the Ta-Koro dungeon, Virulent raised his head. The corrupt Matoran smiled as screams echoed into the dungeon.

He rose to his feet and took a deep breath. He formed two tendrils and wrapped them around the bars of his cell. With little effort, he yanked the door free, and walked out of the asylum. Taking a deep, satisfied breath, he entered the fray.

_______________________

Panrahk blasted apart a Matoran home’s wall with ease, and walked into the rubble strewn home. A Matoran and his wife were cowering in the corner, staring up at the demon with terrified eyes.

It smiled and slowly mustered enough seismic energy to shatter apart their frail forms…

“No!”

Panrahk quickly turned in the direction of the voice in time to be flattened by the full fury of a flood unleashed by the Toa of Water. As soon as the gush subsided, Panrahk was able to recover just in time to stop Gali’s axes from piercing his skull.

“The Toa of Water,” it said in a flat, monotonic voice. “How pathetic.”

He prepared another seismic blast, but was enthralled in pain when a plume of white hot flame emerged from the ground and rocketed into him. When the fires subsided, the brown armored being fell to his knees, and then its face collided with the ground.

Tahu was about to bring his swords down on the Rahkshi when a blast of energy caught him from behind. He grunted in pain and turned around to find the blue armored demon, Guurahk, smiling at him.

“Two birds, one stone,” he hissed with pleasure, a fanged grin coming across his pale blue mouth. Energy crackled around his spear’s tip as it charged an attack.

Tahu used his Mask of Speed to reach the Rahkshi. He wrenched its spear from its claws, and the tool evaporated into thin air.

“Nice try!” Guurahk chided, its staff reappearing in its right hand. “But this fight shall not be that easy!”

It unleashed several bursts of energy. While they all missed Tahu, who evaded them with ease, they disintegrated the walls and statuary that were behind the Toa.

Tahu leaped out of the way of another burst, but it grazed his chest, searing off some of the silver armor and causing pain to explode through Tahu’s limbs.

Tahu fell on his back, the wound still steaming from the Rahkshi’s attack.

Guurahk charged, leaping into the air. It was about to bring its spear down on Tahu’s skull when a high-pressure stream of water caught it, throwing the demon across the city and into a wall.

Tahu rolled over and got up. “Thanks,” he said to Gali.

Gali rushed over to him. “We must get the Matoran out,” she said. “The city’s lost.”

“What?” Tahu demanded. “We can still—“

“It’s lost Tahu,” she cut him off sternly. “Accept it.”

Tahu looked into her eyes. Picking up his swords, he muttered, “So be it. Get the Matoran to safety. I’ll try to hold them off.”

Gali nodded. She leapt onto one of the rooftops and headed for the gates, where the Matoran were already evacuating.

Tahu heard a shriek and the sound of a Matoran hitting the ground. He turned to find Lerahk, its armor still clean and polished as if no battle had ever happened. At his feet was a young Ta-Matoran.

Before Tahu knew what was happening, the Rahkshi had materialized its staff. It twirled the weapon at its side for a split moment before sending its tip through the Matoran’s throat.

“No!” Tahu shouted.

Lerahk simply smiled and twisted the weapon into the Matoran. He picked up the bleeding corpse with his weapon and tossed it aside.

Rage filled Tahu’s body. He charged the demon, swords raised, and brought them down on the creature. Lerahk blocked the attack with his staff, and threw the weapons off. Tahu spun around, charging his weapons with fire, and brought them across the Rahkshi’s chest. Lerahk hissed, but responded with a massive blow. Tahu tried to block it, but the force knocked his weapons from his hands.

Tahu ducked to avoid another sweep of the spears razor-sharp blade. He grabbed the weapon, and he and Lerahk entered a deadlock. The two fought for control of the weapon.

Eventually, the Rahkshi shrugged, and the weapon evaporated. With nothing holding him up, Tahu fell towards the demon. It responded with a headbutt that sent the Toa of Fire staggering backwards.

Lerahk rematerialized the weapon and used it to sweep Tahu’s legs out from under him. The Toa fell to the street with a satisfying thud.

Virulent jumped down from his perch in a guard tower. He shot several patches of a black substance onto Tahu’s wrists and shins, sealing him to the ground.

“Thank you, Virulent,” Lerahk congratulated.

Virulent gave a hideous smile. “You’re welcome.”

“Now, goodbye,” the Rahkshi hissed. He grabbed Virulent by his throat and held him into the air.

“What?” the shadow creature asked, horrified. “I thought I—I was Makuta’s servant. I was to help you!”

“You are not a servant,” Lerahk explained, “just a pawn. A weak, expendable pawn.”

Tahu watched in horror as Lerahk filled Virulent’s maw with poison. The shadow being’s skin reacted violently, turning into a black, sludge-like tempest. Virulent screams bubbled through the liquid.

Lerahk regarded the scene with a grossly sadistic smile and then hurled Virulent over a wall and into the Lava Lake.

“Now that that’s finished,” he mumbled, sweeping his hands together. He turned towards the still-restrained Toa of Fire. “Time to take care of the bigger problem.”

He slowly marched towards the Toa. His staff appeared in his hands. Placing a single, giant foot on Tahu’s chest to hold him down, Lerahk grinned wildly. “Time to die.”

He slowly brought the staff across Tahu’s left cheek. Poison seared into the wound. Tahu screamed as the acidic toxin seeped into the gash, wounding it further.

CLANG!

Lerahk staggered backwards. “What the?”

Tahu opened his eyes through the pain to see Turaga Vakama hitting the Rahkshi in the head with his walking staff.

“Back!” the Turaga shouted. “Back foul creature!”

Lerahk hissed and raised his staff.

An axe embedded itself in Lerahk’s spine. Gali leapt down from a wall and retrieved the weapon. Startled, Lerahk whirled around to face the Toa of Water, who promptly slashed another blade across his face. Lerahk fell to the ground.

“We’ll handle this, wise one,” she said to the Turaga. “Go.”

Vakama nodded and rushed towards the city’s exit.

Gali quickly turned to the Toa of Fire, who was sitting up. She then caught sight of the deep, brown and green gash across his face.

“Tahu, your mask!” she gasped.

“It’s… nothing,” Tahu responded, shaking his head. He got up. “Are the Matoran out?”

“Yes,” Gali responded. “Now we need to leave!”

Tahu nodded, and then heard the sound of armored footsteps. He turned to find Guurahk and Panrahk marching towards them. Both Rahkshi bore no scars from their previous fights. The Toa watched in horror as the wounds on Lerahk healed, and the emerald demon rose to his feet.

Tahu grabbed Gali’s arm. “Come on, let’s move!”

The two dashed through the city streets, the Rahkshi not far behind them. Tahu passed by an abandoned lavaboard market stall. He grabbed an oversized board as they ran past.

Eventually, he and Gali reached the edge of the city, and were backed into a wall.

“Don’t worry,” Tahu whispered to Gali. “I’ve got a plan.”

Gali nodded.

The three Rahkshi emerged from an alley way. Each of them roared, splitting apart their helmets and revealing their actual “faces”. The organs were too hideous to describe.

Lerahk’s helmet fell back together again. “Now, we remove this thorn from our father’s side,” he hissed. “Panrahk!”

The brown armored demon stepped forward. Its staff crackled with energy as it leveled the weapon with the Toa. It fired.

A burst of powerful seismic energy slammed into the Toa, throwing them through the wall and over the sea of lava.

The pair fell in, disappearing under the surface of the molten rock.

The Rahkshi looked over the edge, scanning for signs of the Toa.

“They couldn’t have survived that,” Guurahk hissed. “We should go.”

Lerahk nodded. “Sink the city,” he ordered.

His fellow Rahkshi bobbed their heads in acknowledgement. They slammed their spears into the ground, pumping massive amounts of disintegration and seismic energy into the rock below. Massive cracks emerged in the stone island that held Ta-Koro up. Slowly, magma filled the fissures. The city began to creep into the lava.

The Rahkshi removed their staffs and took to the air, quickly flying off in the direction of Le-Koro.

Then, something broke the surface of the lava lake. Gali and Tahu clinged to the top of the lavaboard as the Toa of Fire dropped his protective shield. He turned to the city, which was now aflame and sinking into the lake.

Gali put a hand on his shoulder.

Tahu blinked. He couldn’t understand what was happening. The city--his city—had fallen… It wasn’t possible.

“I—I’m sorry,” Gali whispered.

Tahu clenched his fists, trying to hold back tears. “Sorry?” he asked angrily. “My village is GONE!”

Gali wished she wasn’t on the board anymore. She didn’t want to be here. Tahu let out another scream of anger and fell to his knees on the board. He eventually gathered himself and was able to use his power to shift the board across the lava.

They reached the shoreline, where hundreds of Matoran watched as the last tower of their once-great home disappeared beneath the molten rock.

Many sobbed, others simply huddled together in groups, trying to count what few possessions they know had.

Gali looked around at the Matoran. Many Ga-Matoran, tourists staying from the Kolhii game. They stood, horrified, or tried to comfort friends or acquaintances from the city.

She caught sight of the Turaga, who whispering silent prayers in the direction of the city.

Tahu stormed up to the elder. “What in Karzahni were those things?” he demanded.

Vakama sighed. “I told you. They were the Rahkshi. The living sons of Makuta himself.”

“What did they want?” Gali asked in a much softer tone.

Vakama simply raised a finger in the Toa’s direction.

“Us?” Tahu asked, raising an eyebrow.

“They want you to die, Tahu,” Vakama stated. “They exist to destroy the Toa. The only reason they were here is because you were.” He paused for a moment. “I fear for the other villages now…”

“Then we must warn them!” Gali shouted. “If I hurry, I can reach Le-Koro and tell Lewa to—“

“No!” Vakama halted her. “The only reason they left is because they think you dead. If they find you…”

“But…” she said.

Vakama shook his head. “Le-Koro is lost anyway. With any luck, Lewa will be able to escape unharmed.”

“Turaga,” a voice interrupted. The group turned to see Jaller and Takua walking towards them. “What if we warn the other villages?” the general asked.

“I’m not sure if you could, General,” Vakama said. “You’d be lucky to even get there before the Rahkshi.”

“We can try, can’t we?” Takua asked.

Tahu nodded. “Turaga, at least they can attempt to warn our brothers in the other villages of what is to come. Hopefully they can muster some sort of defense.”

“Besides,” Takua added, “they’ll search Le-Wahi before attacking the village. If we’re lucky, we’ll get there before them.”

Vakma nodded. “Then it is decided. You two shall head to Le-Koro and warn the village and its protector of the Rahkshi threat. Then head to Ko-Koro, then Onu…”

“Right,” Takua said. He whistled. From the rocks emerged a large Ussal crab, Takua’s favorite travelling companion.

“You’re really taking Pewku?” Jaller inquired.

“Why not?” the Chronicler responded. “Besides, how could I leave her behind?” He hopped onto the large crustacean.

Jaller shook his head and boarded the crab as well. They headed off in the direction of Le-Koro.

Vakama sighed and turned towards Tahu. He noticed the scar on the Toa of Fire’s cheek, but said nothing.

Gali approached Tahu. “Again, I’m sorry,” she whispered. It did nothing to help the angered being, however.

“My home is gone…” he muttered again. The scar glowed a faint green for a moment.

Gali shook her head. “Tahu, we should try to assemble the rest of the Toa. If we get caught—“

“Then we’ll all be killed, Gali. What you’re proposing is suicide. We need to stay split up. If one falls, than another could possibly—“

“No, Tahu!” Gali interrupted. “We have to remain united. It’s the only way to defeat these things.”

Tahu let out a long, angered sigh. “If you insist.”

___________________________________

With the emotion of the death of a city and the terror of the Rahkshi, no one turned their gaze towards the lava lake.

Had they done so, maybe someone with a keen eye would have spotted the now red-hot, sludge covered being slowly pull himself from the lake and rise to its feet.

Peeling back its molten face, a burned Ahkmou let out a roar of anger. The Rahkshi would pay for what they had done to him today. They would pay. And pay. And pay…

Chapter XLI

Takua and Jaller rode on the Ussal through the jungle of Le-Wahi, slowly but surely making their way through the undergrowth of the forest.

“I hate the jungle,” Takua spat, swatting away a mosquito that had found a gap in his armor.

“How can you say that?” Jaller questioned. “It’s incredible. One of Mata Nui’s finest creations.”

“You obviously haven’t been here that often,” Takua responded, rolling his eyes.

“Is there any place on Mata Nui where you do feel at home?”

“I never complain about Ta-Koro.”

“But you wander off every chance you get looking for stories!” He pointed at his companion. “What about your story?”

“Me? I don’t have one.”

Jaller shook his head. “That’s because you don’t stand still long enough to make one. We all have a destiny.”

“You know me, always different.”

Jaller finally relented. He ran his finger into a pouch on his side and pulled out an object. He began wringing it between his fingers.

“What’s that?” Takua asked.

“This?” the General asked. “Hahli gave it to me before we left. For good luck.”

He held it up. It was a hollow crystal attached to a string. Within the crystal was a small amount of liquid. The water appeared to be glowing faintly.

“It’s a crystal, from Ga-Koro,” the yellow and red armored Ta-Matoran explained, lowering the necklace. “They grow on the ocean floor, and water pools within them. She wanted me to have it to remind me of her…”

Takua rolled his eyes. “How romantic,” he chided.

“Hey, this is part of my story. My destiny. Takua, really, you need to actually consider living life rather than spending the rest of it exploring an island that has already been completely mapped.”

“Not all of it,” Takua responded. “Besides, none of us know the will of Mata Nui. Perhaps I’m meant to do this?”

“I guess you have a point,” Jaller said. He placed the crystal back into his pocket.

Jaller looked up in time to see a great, orange Ash Bear step onto its hind legs and let out a roar.

“Holy—run!” Takua yelled.

The two leapt off the Ussal crab, which quickly retreated into its protective shell. Jaller and Takua dashed to the nearest tree, and quickly ascended it. They sat down on a large branch and looked down. The bear was now clawing the trunk and letting out loud, throaty bellows.

Jaller got up, pulling a knife from his belt.

“What are you doing?” Takua demanded.

“Don’t worry,” the general responded. “I’ve seen Toa Lewa do this a ton of times.”

Before Takua could stop him, Jaller had hurled himself off the branch and landed on the Ash Bear’s back.

The bear roared and began bucking like a wild Mahi, trying to shake the Matoran from its back.

Jaller yelped as a rather jarring motion from the bear threw the knife from his hand. It landed in on a dirt path a few feet away.

Suddenly, a lasso made of thick vines swept around the bear’s legs and pulled tight. The bear let out a bellow as it fell to the ground. Then, the lasso began to pull itself over an unseen tree branch, bringing the bear up and Jaller with it.

The Ta-Matoran fell off as the Ash Bear turned upside down.

Takua clambered down the tree. Once he reached the forest floor, a tall, silver and emerald-clad being landed next to him. In the being’s hand was the vine that now restrained the bear.

“Toa Lewa…” Jaller said, bowing out of respect.

“Mata Nui, little one,” Lewa chuckled, “where’d you learn to bear-ride like that?”

“Just now,” Jaller grunted, feeling a bruise that was beginning to form on his back.

“Well, I’d say you’re a natural,” the Toa joked. He looked at the canopy nervously for a second before returning his gaze back to Jaller.

“Something wrong?” Takua asked.

“No,” Lewa quickly responded. “No, nothing at all. All’s fine.”

Takua raised an eyebrow, but decided not to question the Toa.

Jaller picked up his knife and dusted it off. “Well, better finish what I started,” he sighed. He took a few steps towards the bear.

“Woah, back up fire-spitter,” the Toa of Air said, waving his hand. “No need to get violent. The Ash Bear had no quarrel with you. Just doing her duty.” He gently let the bear down and uncoiled the lasso. “If this were your home, now, you’d protect it to.”

He petted the bear’s nuzzle, and then waved it off. The giant creature obliged, heading off into the underbrush and disappearing into the jungle.

“Now, fire-Matoran, what are you two doing in Le-Wahi?” Lewa asked.

“Well,” Jaller answered, “we were heading to Le-Koro to warn them about—“

“Heading to Ko-Koro, no doubt!” Lewa cut in. He was again glancing around the canopy, his pale green eyes looking quite fearful of… something.

Takua said, “Well, we were, but not after warn—“

“Would you need an escort?” the Toa of Air asked. His eyes were focused on a specific part of the underbrush.

Takua followed his gaze, and in a darkened patch, he could see a pair of yellow eyes burning beneath the shadow of a tree branch.

He knows, thought the Chronicler.

“We would be honored to walk with you, Toa Lewa,” Jaller accepted, not noticing the spear wielding being in the shadows.

Lewa chuckled. “Walk? The Toa of Air does not walk!” He gave a loud whistle. In response, a giant Gukko bird descended from the canopy. It landed and let out a loud crow.

“Ever wind-fly a Gukko bird?” the Toa asked.

“I’ve been a second,” Takua responded, “but I’ve never flown one myself.”

“Well, always time for learning.” Lewa ushered the Matoran onto the bird in a space between its four wings. He watched as a spear materialized in the claw of the shadow-covered being. The Toa of Air drew his katana.

Takua motioned to the Ussal crab. “Sorry Pewku, no room,” he said. “You’ll have to go back.”

The crab regarded Takua with saddened eyes before turning into the jungle.

“Come on!” he shouted! “Let’s fly!”

He angled the blades against his legs, angling his body into a downward-facing wedge-like position. Using his power of air, he swept a powerful updraft into his body. Combined with his mask’s power of levitation, he quickly ascended into the sky. The Gukko and Matoran took off, not far behind them.

_______________________________

Within the shadows, Guurahk cursed. He should have just killed the Matoran and the Toa. That would’ve been easier than waiting to catch the Toa of Air alone.

Oh well, it thought happily. Time to burn another village.

“No,” Lerahk interrupted, reading its azure brother’s thoughts.

“What?” Guurahk demanded. “That’s how we flushed the last ones out!”

“If you remember, they were already there,” the emerald armored Rahkshi hissed. “And Makuta wants most of the Matoran alive. No point in ruling an island of corpses.”

Guurahk gritted his teeth and hissed.

“We’ll burn the city of ice instead,” Panrahk hissed. “That will lure its patron Toa out for sure.”

_______________________________

Takua watched the clouds fly past him as he and Jaller ascended with the Toa. From his vantage point, he could see much of the island. The mountain of Mangai still dominated the center, but he could still see Le-Koro. And the lake where Ta-Koro had once stood…

The terrain far below them slowly began to change. Instead of the lush, green jungle, it was now a grassy plain. As they moved on, the grasses began to get more and more sparse.

Eventually, the grasses began to disappear under slow, and only their scraggly tips penetrated the surface of the material.

Lewa eventually landed when the elevation became too high for the Gukko to fly any further. The group landed on a snowbank. Mount Ihu towered above them like a god on judgment day.

Jaller hopped off the Gukko, but he tripped in the snow and fell mask-first in. Takua landed next to him, judging his landing properly to keep from sinking too far in.

“This is as far as I go,” Lewa said. He glanced towards the sky. Within one of the clouds, he could see the silhouettes of three powerful beings pass over. “I’m going to regroup with the other Toa-heroes.”

“Why can’t you go further? We could use the escort,” Takua suggested.

“This is not my trail-path,” Lewa said. “I have my own destiny to fulfill.”

“Well, Tahu and Gali were at Ta-Koro… well… what was left of it,” Jaller said, somberly.

Lewa nodded. “I heard,” he responded in a low voice.

“How?” Takua asked.

Lewa nodded southward towards Le-Koro. “News travels fast in Le-Koro, and the drums sound everywhere.” He turned in the direction of Ta-Koro. “Farewell, Matoran. May your path be ever-safe as you walk!”

With that, the Toa of Air took off, the Gukko following close behind. The bird then headed back to the jungle, but Lewa kept gliding under his own power westward.

Takua watched him fly off. The Chronicler wringed his hands across each other. The Toa of Air looked nervous through the whole journey. From what he had seen and heard, Lewa was rarely ever nervous.

For some reason, this worried Takua more than anything else ever could.

“Well, you ready to go?” Jaller called. “It looks like a storm’s brewing up ahead.”

Takua looked northward. A black cloud hung over the area. Its ominous presence loomed above the great mountain peaks like the shadow of a hand before it crushed an insect.

“Alright, let’s go,” Takua said. “Maybe we can reach Ko-Koro before the blizzard hits.

The two headed off, following large stone markers along the snow-covered road to Ko-Koro.

Chapter XLII

Kopaka slowly descended along the eastern face of Mount Ihu. Over two years ago, he had found his first Kanohi Mask here. Now, here he was, some new kind of Toa, with more control and power than he ever had.

But something’s changed, he thought. I feel it.

For some reason, he could tell something bad was going to happen. He didn’t know why, but he just knew.

He walked across a massive snow drift, moving over a large snow drift. He enjoyed these walks over the mountain. They gave him time to think. Usually, he would be lucky if he had a single moment to let his mind clear.

Then he saw it. Smoke. Rising slowly in a black plume from Ko-Koro.

“What?” he whispered aloud. This might have been the origin ‘the feeling’ he had had.

Activating his Akaku, Mask of X-Ray Vision, he peered through the mountains surrounding the city and looked inside. What he saw frightened him.

The Matoran were safe… for now. They were huddled in the cemetery, avoiding three massive beings that were now destroying anything in sight. Their repulsive appearance only served to fuel Kopaka’s rage.

Calling upon his powers of ice, he created an ice slide, and quickly rode it to his home city.

The Toa of Ice circled around the city on the bridge once, trying to get a view of the situation. He couldn’t see much, though. The beings he had seen from Ihu’s slopes seemed to have disappeared.

Kopaka leapt from his slide and landed in the center of Ko-Koro. The village wasn’t exactly in ruins, but fires had broken out here and there, and that didn’t happen normally in this city.

He looked upwards. A dark cloud was crawling across the sky. Lightning flew from the covering, causing an eerie white-on-white contrast in the snowy city. A the wind began to howl as a blizzard slowly began to form.

Kopaka stood, waiting. The creatures were somewhere nearby. He knew it.

The Toa waited for quite a while in the freezing conditions. Snow had begun to pour from the sky and pelted his armor. Neither the cold nor the pellets bothered him, however. He began to think about how to go about the situation.

While Kopaka meditated, Lerahk slowly rose from the snowdrift behind the Toa. His staff materialized in his right hand as he brought it above the Toa.

Kopaka opened his eyes. He quickly unsheathed his sword and whirled around, bringing the weapon across the Rahkshi’s chest. Lerahk screeched in pain as the weapon tore across his chest armor. Kopaka fired two icicles at the beast, which impaled in its left leg.

Lerahk let out a bloodcurdling scream as the icy spears pierced through his legs. Kopaka paused a moment, relishing in his victory. But he had thought it over too soon. Lerahk simply stopped screaming, smiled, shook his head, and tore the icicles out with little pain.

Kopaka’s eyes widened. He quickly leapt away as the Rahkshi tried to strike him with his spear. He then brought the sword across its leg, but only scratched its armor. Lerahk responded by smashing Kopaka across the back with the shaft of its spear.

Kopaka hurled into the snow. He rolled as Lerahk tried to stab him multiple times with its spear.

After getting fed up with the battle, Kopaka used the blizzard around him and directed the full fury of the storm upon the demon. The Rahkshi staggered back as ice began to form across its armor.

Kopaka smiled, but was quickly broadsided by the flat part of a large spearhead. He grunted, and looked in the direction of the blow. Panrahk and Guurahk stood, smiling, and brandishing their spears.

Kopaka cursed.

I’ve got to get them out of the city, he thought.

Using his elemental power of ice, he tore the snowdrift behind them and slammed it down upon the demons. He then dashed for the entrance.

The three Rahkshi emerged from the pile of snow, let out a roar, and chased after him. Kopaka lead them across the slopes of Mount Ihu, creating barriers of crystalline ice to slow their progress through the snow fields.

Kopaka looked behind and silently laughed to himself as Lerahk slammed into another icy barrier. He then turned back ahead. Activating his Akaku, he was able to see two Matoran climbing towards them, completely oblivious to the three demons that were on the attack.

The Toa sprinted towards the Matoran. He would have to get them away from the battle if they wished to stay alive.

_______________________________________

Takua and Jaller caught sight of Kopaka sprinting towards them. The Toa was running impossibly fast over the snowdrifts.

“Look!” Takua said, pointing at the Toa.

Kopaka stopped next to them. He removed his large, circular shield from his back and placed it on the snow.

“Get on,” he ordered. “No time to explain.”

The Matoran quickly exchanged a confused glance but did as the Toa said. Once they had both managed to fit themselves onto the shield, Kopaka gave them a shove, and they flew down the slopes.

The Toa of Ice turned to immediately be tackled by Guurahk, who latched onto his arms and wrenched him from his feet. Kopaka grasped the Rahkshi’s spear and tried to wrench the weapon from it, pulling the creature to the ground as well. The two tumbled down the slopes of the mountain, with Lerahk and Panrahk desperately trying to catch up.

The two stopped their tussle as Kopaka braced himself. He managed to rip the spear from Guurahk’s grasp, but the weapon simply disappeared as soon as it left the Rahkshi’s claws. A blast of energy threw the Toa skyward, and he landed at the feet of Takua and Jaller, who had come to a halt at the shoreline of a frozen lake.

Kopaka grunted as he sat up.

“Toa Kopaka, are you alright?” Jaller asked.

“I’ll be fine, General,” the Toa of Ice quickly responded. He looked up to see the three Rahkshi slowly marching down the mountainside towards him. “Move!” he shouted.

Kopaka jumped to his feet and ran to the center of the lake. The three Rahkshi pursued him. Lerahk knocked the Matoran away with his spear as he passed them, but he did not stop. He was too focused on Kopaka.

Kopaka watched as the Rahkshi crossed the frozen lake, waiting. When the Rahkshi were about two-thirds of the way to him, he smiled. All of the ice covering the lake’s surface, save the area underneath the Toa, vanished. The three Rahkshi hovered in the air for what seemed like an eternity, and then gravity took its effects, pulling them into the water.

“Rahkshi,” Kopaka said, “washed, and chilled.”

He stabbed his sword into the lake, and the water quickly froze over. Lerahk’s claw pierced through the surface, but it too was quickly covered in a layer of ice. Immobilized, the beings’ could do no more harm.

Jaller and Takua looked on in awe, hardly believing what they had seen.

Kopaka pulled his sword from the now-frozen lake and walked towards the Matoran.

“What in Karzahni are you doing here?” he demanded. “Aren’t you a little far from Ta-Koro?”

Takua responded, “Well, in case you haven’t heard, Ta-Koro is no more.”

Kopaka pursed his lips. “Where are the others?” he finally asked.

“I don’t know,” Jaller asked. “We last saw Tahu and Gali outside of the refugee camp, but they could have left to avoid the Rahkshi.”

“They won’t be doing any more harm,” Kopaka said, nodding towards Lerahk’s frozen claw. “I’ll go find them.”

With that, the Toa of Ice set off in the direction of Ko-Koro, leaving the two Matoran in the snow.

“Now what?” Takua asked.

Jaller scanned the terrain. In the distance, he saw what appeared to be a stone obelisk, glowing with torchlight.

“There,” the general said, pointing in the marker’s direction. “You see it?”

Takua followed Jaller’s finger. “Yeah,” he responded.

“It’s an Onu-Koro tunnel marker. You know, in case the entrance ever gets covered in snow, crews can find it.”

“Of course I know that,” Takua spat.

Jaller rolled his eyes. “Come on. The sooner we’re out of the snow, the better.”

The two dashed towards the tunnel. From there they would be able to easily access Onu-Koro.

When they reached the entrance to the tunnel, something tackled Takua.

“Takua!” Jaller shouted, fumbling for his knife.

“Pewku!” Takua shouted.

Jaller looked up to see the large Ussal Crab gleefully hopping around the Matoran.

“She must have come all the way up through the jungle!” Takua said, sitting up and petting the crab’s head. He was eventually able to push the crab off him and get up, dusting snow off of his armor. He then turned to the entrance of the tunnel, and peered at some worn, carved letters on a sign attached to the cave’s ceiling. “Onu-Koro highway. Yeah this should lead us straight towards the City of Earth.” He then considered the darkness. “But we don’t have a torch or a lightstone…”

Jaller thought for a moment, and then pulled the small crystal from his pocket. The faint glow of the object was able to slightly illuminate the area in front of him. “Who needs lightstones?” the general asked sarcastically, heading into the tunnel. Pewku followed after him.

Takua rolled his eyes. “Tunnels,” he spat. He then ran to catch up with Jaller.

Chapter XLIII

Makuta’s titanic form, sitting on its black throne in Mangaia, opened its eyes.

“How can this be?” he breathed, slowly rising from the stone chair. “My noble sons are now bound in ice…”

He let out a long hiss. Holding out his right hand, he caused his massive staff to appear in his fist.

“So my hand is cast.”

He motioned into the darkness behind him. A powerful being, clad in white, scaled armor, stepped into the faint light.

“Anger shall blind them to their unity.”

The white being let out a loud, disturbing, angered hiss before being silenced by a wave of Makuta’s palm. The god motioned into the darkness again. From it emerged another being, this one wearing armor black as night with long, withered looking spikes lining its back.

“Hunger shall consume their duty.”

The black being simply hissed once and then went silent as a powerful, terrifying screech emerged from the darkness.

Makuta smiled as a red being, taller than any of his sons he had yet revealed, came into view. IT was clad in armor red as freshly spilt blood. Its faceplate was as ornate as the mask on Makuta’s face. In its hand it carried a spear tipped with a wicked, flame-patterned head. Around it glowed an aura that caused the other two Rahkshi to cower in submission.

Makuta’s firstborn had entered.

“And fear will keep them from their destiny.”

It placed its spear on the ground. The other two Rahkshi bowed in its presence. Turahk, Demon of Fear, turned towards Makuta, and placed its fist against its aegis.

“What do you command of us, my lord?” it asked.

Makuta raised his staff northward. “Go, and kill the Toa your lesser brothers could not.”

Turahk bowed. He then motioned to the other two, Kurahk and Vorahk, to follow him to the surface.

As the three left, Makuta leaned back into his chair. This time, he spoke across the void of time and space to a god all too gone to hear him. “Do not worry, brother,” he said. “They will not disturb you…”

The exit to Mangai slammed shut.

_________________________________________________

Tahu stood on a cliff overlooking the Lava Lake, watching the molten rock flow over what was once his home. Behind him was the makeshift camp of Gali, himself, and Lewa, who had recently found them.

Tahu shook his head. “It feels, wrong waiting.” He then let out an angered growl. “We should be fighting those things! Not hiding on these cliffs like children!”

Gali turned towards him. “Tahu, you know we can’t beat those things, not alone.”

Lewa nodded. “I saw them hunting me in the forest. The only way I could escape was by getting out of the jungle fast. Takua and Jaller caused a bit of a hold-snag on that plan, but not enough for the Rahkshi to get me.”

“And what of our brothers in the north?” Tahu asked.

“Takua and Jaller are going to warn them, remember?” Lewa reminded him.

“I know,” Tahu responded, feeling the cut on his cheek, which glowed a faint green. “But I’ve been thinking. Haven’t you noticed that Makuta almost always sends thing at us in sixes?”

Gali and Lewa gave him a puzzled look.

“Six of us Toa. Six Kanohi masks for each of us. Six shadow counterparts. Six Bohrok swarms. These things are the first instance where beings sent to hunt us have only come in half that number.”

Lewa shrugged. “Arrogance, perhaps?”

Gali shook her head. “He’s right. We rarely encounter a threat that is not equal to us in number.”

“So what are you hint-insinuating, firespitter?” Lewa finally inquired.

Tahu said, “I think that while we’re hunted in the south and west, another set of these creatures is attacking our brothers in the north or east.”

“That would leave them more vulnerable to…” Gali murmured. “And Pohatu is in Onu-Koro…”

“We have to go,” Tahu said. “Perhaps five of us can defeat at least three of these things.”

The Toa nodded. Summoning their Kanohi Kakamas, they sped off in the direction of Onu-Koro, hoping to reach Onua’s village before something else did.

_______________________________________

Takua and Jaller rode through the Onu-Koro tunnel on the back of Pewku, Jaller’s Ga-Koran crystal lighting the way. The tunnel was a strange sight to say the least, as it hadn’t been used in a long while. Stalactites hung from the ceiling, water dripping from their tips onto the ground. The road itself was also in decay, as years of weathering had caused the floor of the cave to become a strange, puddle like pattern.

“Why do you think this tunnel hasn’t been used?” Jaller asked Takua. “It’s not like the Onu-Matoran to just abandon one of their tunnels like this.”

“That’s not true,” Takua said. “They abandon tunnels lots of times. Rahi infestation, lack of minerals. This one probably just hasn’t been kept up because no one wants to go into the middle of Ko-Wahi when they can just take the main underground highway to the city.”

“I guess,” Jaller said. He felt the back of his neck. Looking ahead, he could see a faint light filtering through the tunnel. “That must be it.”

Takua nodded. “Onu-Koro, City of the Earth.”

The two passed out of the tunnel and into the main cavern of Onu-Koro. A wondrous construction, the city had gone through a major overhaul after the Bohrok invasion. The Onu-Matoran had lit their city with great torches, and turned their home into a thriving center of civilization that could rival the now destroyed Ta-Koro in sheer size and architectural prowess.

Statues adorned the city streets that Takua and Jaller passed through, mostly of the Toa, but a few of them were of great Matoran heroes too. Ihu, Naho, and the legendary Lihki all stared down upon them. Jaller even caught an effigy of himself, clad in full armor, on one of the street corners. In the statue’s hand was a massive lightstone that lit the crossroads.

Around them, Matoran of multiple elements walked in the marketplaces, exchanging goods of all kinds.

“Cool city, huh?” Takua said, turning to Jaller.

The Ta-Matoran nodded and looked around. The cavern ceiling towered a good ninety feet above them, supported by massive stone columns in turn braced with steel imported from Ta-Wahi.

When they heard booming laughter coming from one of the street corner taverns, the two messengers knew that they had found their marks. They leaped off Pewku, and Onua found an Ussal pen to let her rest in while they talked to the Toa. The two walked in. The smell of freshly-brewed mead and ale filled the air.

At a table in the center of the room were the Toa of Stone and Earth. A crowd of cheering Matoran huddled around them, watching them participate in a drinking game. Judging by the large amount of tankards piled on a nearby table, the game had gone on a rather long time. The Toa did have a peculiar immunity to the ill-effects of such drinks.

Onua finished off his latest mug of ale and wiped some froth from his lips. “Concede, brother?”

Pohatu gulped the last bit of honey mead from his tankard and slammed the drinking vessel to the table. “Never,” he said, smiling.

The two grabbed another pair of tankards filled to the brim with froth and ale, clanked them together, and placed the glasses brims to their lips. The Matoran cheered as they began to drink.

“Toa Pohatu! Toa Onua!” Jaller called.

The two Toa finished off their latest drinks and placed their tankards back on the table.

Pohatu let out a loud burp. “What do you need?” the Toa of Stone asked.

“We bring news from Ta-Koro!” the general said.

Pohatu nodded, and waved off a Matoran brining him another mug. “What’s happened? I hope Tahu hasn’t burned down the place since Gali, you know.”

Takua sighed. “Well, he didn’t.”

Onua’s eyes widened. “What?”

“Ta-Koro’s been destroyed,” Jaller announced.

For a moment, the room stood still. Ta-Koro, the most powerful fortress on Mata Nui, had fallen. What could this spell for the new Onu-Koro? What could this spell for all the cities on the island?

“I saw it with my own eyes,” he continued, shaking his head. “These… things attacked. They’re called ‘Rahkshi’. Vile creatures, and they exist for only one purpose: to kill the Toa.”

Pohatu and Onua exchanged a worried glance. “And what of Tahu? Does Gali know about him?”

“They’re fine. They escaped, but the Rahkshi believe them dead. Kopaka stalled the things for a while, but they’re coming here next!”

The Toa just stared at Jaller.

“You need to leave now!” the yellow and red-clad Ta-Matoran finally said.

A fanfare of trumpets sounded throughout the cavern, signifying to arrival of more esteemed guests. Pohatu and Onua rose and rushed past the general and the Chronicler and headed outside. The two Ta-Matoran quickly followed behind them.

When they got outside, they could see Tahu, Gali, and Lewa rushing to meet the other two. Tahu had a long gash down the side of his face…

Before the two groups could exchange any words, the cavern wall to the south exploded. Rubble rained onto the ground, and two powerful beings emerged from the dust.

Two more Rahkshi. One clad in black. The other in white.

Panic ensued as Matoran screamed and scattered, heading for their buildings. The Toa stood firmly, waiting for an attack. But the Rahkshi just stood there, gazing upon the uproar with condemning eyes.

Then, it emerged from the shadows between the two Rahkshi. A third, much larger demon, clad in crimson armor and carrying a wicked blade. He shook his head at the uproar.

“Silence,” it hissed.

No one took notice of the Rahkshi’s command, and kept running about, some completely unaware that the Makuta’s sons had appeared.

“I. Said. SILENCE!” Turahk slammed his spear into the ground, and a wave of red energy fell across the crowd. The Matoran all turned to the massive beast, trembling in fear.

He smiled, and stepped down from the cavern. His fourteen-foot tall form towered over the Matoran. Slowly, he made his way across the highway to the Toa, who were also now paralyzed in terror from his attack. He used telekinetic power to ease Matoran out of his path, making an effort not to harm them.

He stopped when he reached Tahu, who stood at the lead of the group.

Tahu gritted his teeth. Raising his sword, he growled, “I am not afraid of you.”

A single “Pfft” was all Turahk had to respond with. “You’re right,” he said. “Anger has always been your personal demon.” With that, he grabbed the Toa of Fire by his throat, and tossed him towards Kurahk.

The Rahkshi of Anger smiled wildly as he picked up the Toa of Fire from the ground. He raised Tahu until the Toa was almost level with his eyes. He laughed. “You Toa,” it hissed. “You are raging floods of emotion.” It raised a finger towards Tahu’s mask, energy swirling around it. “And I’m about to break the dam.”

Onua had had it. He shook off the thrall Turahk had put him in, and began calling upon his elemental Earth powers. “Well, since we haven’t had you here before,” he said, creating almost a literal ton of Earth above his head, “allow me to give you an Onu-Koro welcome!” With that, he hurled the dirt and rock at Turahk, which hammered the Rahkshi into the ground.

Vorahk was the first to respond to the attack, leaping upon the Toa of Earth, and wildly clawing and hissing as they tackled across the cavern floor. At first, Onua felt that he could easily take on this withered beast, but then… something happened. His energy slowly began pouring from his frame. The Rahkshi smiled as Onua slowly realized what it was doing. Then, blackness claimed him…

The thrall that had overcome the other three Toa subsided. Gali immediately raised her axes and shot a flood of water at Kurahk, throwing the Rahkshi away from the Toa of Fire. Pohatu tore Vorahk from Onua’s now energy-drained body. Before the vampiric creature could react, he summoned a storm of small rocks, pebbles, and sharp debris that hammered it, preventing it from gaining enough consciousness to even try to begin draining the Toa of Stone’s energies.

“Everyone!” he called, pulling Onua’s still unconscious form over his shoulder. “We need to leave! Make for the surface!”

All the Toa nodded and ran for an exit tunnel except for Gali, who had run to check on Tahu.

The Rahkshi regrouped.

“We should kill those two where they stand,” Kurahk hissed. “I’ve already destroyed one.”

“No,” Turahk commanded. “We shall let them kill each other instead. Let us head for the surface and hunt down the other Toa. After a meal…”

The Rahkshi turned and headed for another exit tunnel.

Gali kneeled over Tahu’s prone form, his body unmoving. She ran her hand along his back armor. It had been so long since she and him had… and now he might be dead… again.

Tahu whirled around. Gali looked into his eyes, and knew immediately that they weren’t Tahu’s. Or at least, the Tahu she knew. These eyes were sickly yellow orbs of madness, filled with rage and hate. All burning towards her. His mask was rusted and pitted like the infected Kanohi of one of Makuta’s Rahi.

Against her better judgment, Gali asked, “brother, are you alright?”

Tahu’s eyes narrowed. “Fire has no brothers.” A burst of heat and flame threw the Toa of Water away, slamming her against a wall. She quickly recovered, raising her axes to the ready. This was an infected Rahi now.

Tahu stabbed his two swords into the ground, causing twin sets of flame to shoot up from the ground. Gali leapt into the air to avoid them, and Tahu followed. The two fought across the rooftops of Onu-Koro, Tahu wildly hacking and slashing at Gali, trying to bring her down. Gali, however, was able to easily avoid all of the infected Toa of Fire’s maddened attacks, and eventually was able to return him to the ground with a powerful jet of water.

The Toa of Fire hit the floor with a loud thud. Gali jumped down from the rooftop and landed next to him. Tahu spun, kicking Gali’s feet out from under her. He tried to bring his swords down upon her, but she was able to leap up and land a blow in his face with the heel of her boot. She retrieved her axes, and the two became locked in a duel on the ground, Gali trying to avoid killing the Toa of Fire.

Their weapons finally locked in the middle of the town square, terrified Matoran looking on as the two Toa’s eyes locked. Tahu’s maddened glare only seemed to fill with more rage the longer the tow remained in this lock. After five seconds of the deadlock, Gali began to feel her axe begin to slip against Tahu’s sword.

Suddenly, Tahu froze. Not figuratively, but literally. A sheet of rock-hard ice quickly covered the Toa of Fire, freezing him in place. Gali removed her weapons from the deadlock and looked behind Tahu’s now unmoving form. There stood Kopaka, his blade lightly laid against Tahu’s shoulder. He smiled slightly, and then removed the weapon.

“Come on,” the Toa of Ice said in his usual flat and cold tone. “The others are making camp in a nearby wood. Help me get him there.”

Gali simply nodded, and the two picked up the frozen Tahu, and headed out the exit tunnel the others had taken.

Chapter XLIII

Gali watched as Tahu strained against Pohatu’s two claw-like tools, which were now holding him onto a stone slab in the middle of a clearing. Many of the others were… unsettled by the way their leader was acting.

Kopaka shook his head. “I don’t think this condition is curable,” he said ruefully. “We may as well put him out of his misery.”

He unsheathed his blade and began walking towards the maddened Toa of Fire, but Gali raised her arm in front of him.

“No,” she said. “Perhaps there is a way. Get Lewa.”

Kopaka nodded and walked towards where the others had made camp a few yards away. The two returned, Lewa still a little unnerved by Tahu’s erratic and terrifying behavior. It reminded him of when he himself had donned an infected Kanohi mask.

“Alright?” Lewa asked, breaking the silence. “What do you need me for? I’m no healer.”

“That’s exactly it. I’ve… been thinking,” Gali began. “We have so long used are powers for destruction, that perhaps we’ve ignored their ability to heal. Come on.”

She rose from the rock she was sitting on, and walked over to Tahu, positioning herself behind the maddened Toa’s head. She motioned for the other two to stand on either side of the Toa of Fire.

“Alright, cross your blades over his chest, and began pouring elemental power into him,” she ordered.

Kopaka looked at Lewa, who simply shrugged and pulled his katana from their sheathes on his back. The two laid their weapons exactly as Gali said, and began sending raw elemental power into the Toa of Fire.

Tahu screamed, seemingly in pain, as the energy coursed through his veins. Gali winced at the Toa of Fire’s agony.

After a few moments, Gali raised her hands. “Enough,” she said. They brought their weapons off him and cut off the flow of power. Tahu collapsed, unconscious.

Gali let out a sigh and slowly began to generate a large sphere of water in her hands. Once she had finished, she knelt down, and let the water pour of Tahu’s mask, and then carefully controlled it so that it slowly covered the rest of his body as well. Once he had been completely covered in a thin film of liquid, Gali released her control of it, and it slowly washed off of him. As the water flowed off his mask, so did the rust and pits of infection, leaving only a burnt-brown scar along his left cheek.

Gali collapsed and let out an exhausted breath. Lewa caught her.

“You did all you could,” Kopaka said.

Gali stood up and shook her head, and walked away in the direction of a small creek. There she could restore her lost elemental energy, as she was unsure if her body could generate more after such a complex task.

She placed her hands into the river and felt the cool liquid wash over her armor. Slowly, the liquid began to climb up her arms all the way to her shoulder. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the soothing feeling.

Her thoughts started to wander. She remembered Tahu before this crisis. Still easily enraged, but… lighter. The Bahrag incident must have put him on edge. And then the rest of the Toa. They had used to work like a team, and now they seemed to have drifted apart rather easily. Only Pohatu and Onua preserved the original camaraderie the Toa had once had.

She sighed. She wanted things to go back to those days, when they were a team, not just individual heroes.

A rustle emerged from the nearby brush, too small to be a Rahkshi. Gali opened her eyes and looked in that direction. Takua and Jaller appeared from a trail leading off into the woods.

“Toa Gali,” Takua announced, bowing.

Gali nodded. “What do you need?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Jaller responded. “Takua just wanted to find you guys. Something about ‘traveling with them in their darkest hour to chronicle the history’.”

Gali shot the blue and red armored Ta-Matoran a glare.

Takua shrugged. “What? It’s my job,” he defended.

There was an awkward moment of silence following the Chronicler’s comment.

“How’s Tahu?” Jaller asked.

Gali frowned and turned back towards the water. She felt that her stores of power had been replenished, and removed her arms from the river. “He’s… okay,” she said. “He took quite a beating after the battle in Onu-Koro, and is—“

Lewa emerged from the path leading to the Toa’s camp.

“Sister!” he called excitedly. “He is open-eye!”

Gali rose, forgetting about the conversation with the Matoran and quickly made her way over to the stone where Tahu was. The two Matoran followed, but stayed back while the Toa talked.

Gali approached Tahu, who was now sitting on the rock, feeling his wrists. The restraints must have just recently been removed. His eyes were back to their natural, faintly glowing orange.

“Tahu,” Gali began. “Are you well.”

Tahu flared his nostrils. “No,” he said, shaking his head. He felt the scar along his cheek.

Gali’s hopeful attitude dimmed slightly.

“But,” the Toa of Fire said, “I am alive. Thanks to you.” A smile formed at the edge of his lips. “Plus, I’ve also… opened my eyes, so to speak. Help me up.”

Gali aided him in standing to his feet. Tahu staggered a bit, the Rahkshi’s poison still having negative effects on his body. She slowly helped him walk to where the other Toa were sitting.

“Brothers,” he addressed them. It had been a long time since Tahu had used that word to describe the Toa. “I know that we’ve been forced into hiding by these… things.”

The Toa looked at Tahu, wondering where exactly he was going with this point.

“I also know that it was my fault we’ve been forced to this. I was the one who suggested we split up, leaving all of you more vulnerable to them.”

“That’s not entirely true,” Kopaka said. “I too conceded to that notion.”

“As did I,” Lewa added.

“But it was my job to keep us safe, and I failed by suggesting that,” Tahu lamented. “But I’ve finally realized what we’re supposed to do, thanks in part to the consideration of the views of our sister.”

Gali smiled slightly.

“It’s time we finally finish off Makuta once and for all. As a team,” Tahu said.

“And what of the Rahkshi?” Lewa asked.

“We’ll best them too. It’s not going to be an easy fight. But it is ours. All of ours.”

Gali added, “It’s in the virtues. Unity: together it’s our fight. Duty: it’s our duty to free the Matoran…”

“Destiny: to end the darkness of Makuta once and for all,” Onua finished.

Gali nodded in agreement, as did Tahu.

“So,” the Toa of Fire said, “we head for Kini Nui, and prepare ourselves for what is to truly be our final battle.”

The Toa nodded.

Takua emerged from the trail to the river. “And I’ll Chronicle it!” he proclaimed.

Jaller followed him and nodded.

“And so you shall, firespitters,” Lewa said, chuckling.

“Let it be known that Makuta no longer has domain over this island,” Tahu announced, raising his sword. “It’s time for Mata Nui to awaken!” He fired a stream of elemental energy into the sky.

The other Toa cheered, and did the same, creating a burst of light that shown even in the afternoon sky.

________________________________________

Far away in Ko-Wahi, Turahk saw the burst of elemental power as well. He slowly pulled the newly-thawed Lerahk to his feet.

“It’s a challenge,” the emerald armored beast hissed, staggering to its feet.

“That it is, Lerahk,” Turahk agreed. “But not for that particular area, or against us.”

“What do you mean,” Guurahk demanded, shaking the last bits of ice off his armor.

Turahk laughed. “It’s a challenge against Makuta himself!”

Chapter XLIV

Dusk was beginning to fall when the Toa and their two Matoran companions arrived at Kini Nui. The temple’s six great spires were beginning to cast long shadows across the clearing as the sun hung low in the western sky. The Toa spread out in a circle around the temple before climbing onto its rounded base. Tahu found the entrance to Mangaia, where it had always been: beneath the main altar.

“Alright,” the Toa of Fire said. “We hold the line here. Don’t let anything in,” he paused for a moment, “or out.”

A loud, angered hiss echoed from the jungle, followed by another. Four more joined the chorus, filling the dusk air with a terrifying call. Once the noise had subsided, the Rahkshi marched into view, three from the west, and three from the east. Their armor glistened as the crimson sunlight hit them, and the spines along their backs twitched with anticipation.

“Well look who’s joined the party,” Lewa laughed.

Jaller and Takua rushed into the center and cowered slightly beneath the rim of the Mangaia entrance, hoping not to get caught in the fighting.

Turahk was the first to approach. The towering beast let out a laugh. “Six puny Toa, all facing their demise with a falsehood they call ‘honor’,” he chided. “Do you really think you can defeat us? We are the spawn of Makuta, god of shadow and brother of Mata Nui himself! It may be your destiny to defeat Makuta, but it is our destiny to defeat you.”

“Don’t be wavered,” Gali whispered to the others.

“You can still surrender,” Lerahk said. He smiled, revealing a row of glistening fangs.

Pohatu looked upward for a moment in thought. “Hmm,” he said. “How about no.” A fist of solid rock appeared from the ground and slammed the emerald armored Rahkshi into the ground.

Lerahk rose to his feet, cursing all the way. “You little son of a Kavinika… Attack!”

The Rahkshi regrouped, readying for the charge.

“Stand together!” Gali shouted.

The Toa raised their weapons in unison.

In their makeshift foxhole, Jaller said, “I’m not sure whether to be frightened or in awe.”

Takua laughed nervously. “You’re right,” he responded. “With the Toa one’s never sure.”

The Rahkshi raised their spears, and fired six separate streams of destructive energy at the Toa. Just inches away from them, the streams blasted apart as if they had struck something else.

“We will not be broken!” Tahu shouted, his mask slowly losing its glow as it dropped the protective shield that surrounded the Toa.

Turahk smiled. “Rahkshi, attack!”

The beasts charged, each taking another Toa. Lewa was caught by Panrahk, who quickly began making wild, sweeping blows with his spear. Lewa dodged each swing easily, and fired bolts of elemental energy back at them.

Vorahk tried to drain Pohatu’s energy as the two fought over control of his spear, but Onua tackled it and beat the beast into the ground with his billhook.

Gali struggled to hold off Kurahk, who was using energy bursts rather than its anger power to defeat the Toa. Gali evaded the blasts, and eventually leapt over the Rahkshi. At the apex of her flip over it, she grabbed onto one of the Rahkshi’s spines and held on. Kurahk tried to shake her off in a rage, but could not.

Kopaka was easily blocking the attacks of Guurahk. The azure-armored Rahkshi didn’t seem to think as it attacked, which gave the calculating Toa of Ice a large advantage over it. Kopaka blocked another of the Rahkshi’s strikes with his shield, and then brought his blade down on its chest. Using his mask of X-ray vision, he peered into the Rahkshi’s innards. Slowly—and painfully for the demon—he worked his way through Guurahk’s chest cavity. The Rahkshi screeched in pain as the Toa surgically began to kill it.

Tahu was now helping Lewa against Lerahk and Panrahk, who were now both bearing down on the Toa of Air.

“Lewa!” Tahu called. “Make a tornado, and pick up as much sand as you can!”

The Toa of Air nodded and summoned a small twister, which he then ran across the temple. It picked up small debris as it went. Tahu distracted the two Rahkshi, and desperately tried to hold them off.

Once Lewa thought he had picked up enough sand and dust, he brought the tornado silently towards the Rahkshi…

Lerahk stood gloatingly over Tahu, a massive smile on his face. “Well, Toa, your time has come,” he said.

Tahu looked behind Lerahk and saw the twister heading straight for them. “I think not,” the Toa of Air retorted, leaping over to the left.

“Hey! Where do you think you’re…” Lerahk caught sight of the typhoon, and just enough time to let out a startled scream before being torn off his feet and into the twister. Panrahk was also torn into the raging storm.

Tahu smiled, and then shot streams of white-hot flame into the tornado. The sand quickly became molten, and then solidified. Where once three Rahkshi were being tossed about in a storm, now there was an odd, terrifyingly-shaped glass sculpture. Within the two Rahkshi were trapped like insects within amber, never to escape again.

Pohatu and Onua rolled Vorahk’s body over. The Rahkshi was a mess to say the least. Its withered form was covered with blood and gashes from Onua’s attacks.

“Do you think he’s…?” Pohatu asked, implying the creature’s demise.

Onua nodded. “He has to be.”

The two turned around and began to head off to help Gali, when they stopped dead in their tracks from the sound of a wet cough. They turned around and were met with a gruesome, terrifying sight.

“Don’t you know,” Vorahk hissed in a hollow voice, “to never turn your back on an enemy.” He grabbed the two Toa by their necks and raised them into the air. Blood dripped from his mouth, and bits of something Pohatu could not determine flew from his trachea as he spoke. “Especially a Rahkshi.” Slowly, he began to drain the two of energy. As their strength left them, Vorahk’s wounds began to heal.

Gali grasped tightly to the spine on Kurahk’s back. The Rahkshi was now trying to sweep her off with its spear, but she was just barely able to dodge its violent attacks. When she felt that she had gained the upper hand in the struggle, she raised her axe, asked Mata Nui for forgiveness, and brought the weapon down.

Kurahk’s head hit the floor and rolled a few feet to a halt. An angry grimace was still frozen on the creature’s face.

Kopaka finished his work on Guurahk and pulled his sword from the Rahkshi’s chest cavity. Already now it was experiencing extreme internal hemorrhaging from the severing of several arteries, and its right lung had been pierced open and deflated. Luckily, Kopaka had been merciful and stabbed the creature’s heart.

The Toa of Ice shook some blood off the sword and turned in the direction of Pohatu and Onua. He gasped as he saw the almost corpse-like form of Vorahk draining the energy from their still-struggling bodies. Kopaka shot an icicle that impaled into the creature’s midsection.

Vorahk raised an eyebrow as it felt the projectile stab into its abdomen. He shook his head and cast the two now-weakened Toa to the side to face his new opponent. The Toa shot another icicle, which took the ebony-armored Rahkshi in the thigh.

“Foolish Toa,” Vorahk hissed. “You really think your pathetic attacks can stop me.” He clenched his fist, and Kopaka could already feel energy beginning to leave his body. “I’ll have your strength as well. And then the rest of your pathetic breth—“

He choked as the claw-like weapons of Pohatu slowly encircled his neck. The Toa of Stone climbed onto the back of his enemy, and smiled into Vorahk’s now fearful eyes.

Pohatu smiled. “Don’t you know not turn your back on any enemy? Especially a Toa.” Pohatu’s smile turned into a scowl. He dug the weapons into the Rahkshi’s neck, and then tore, ripping open the beast’s jugular vein. He fell to the ground.

Vorahk grasped at his neck as blood poured from the wound. Gargled gasps for air sounded from his throat, and the sound echoed through the canyon. The Toa could barely stand the sight. Finally, and mercifully, Vorahk hit the ground. With a final, pathetic whimper, Vorahk’s flesh let go of his soul.

With the Rahkshi now dead and gone, the Toa regrouped.

“So what now?” Lewa asked, anxiously hopping from foot to foot.

“We head into Mangaia and don’t look back,” Tahu said, sheathing his swords.

Gali’s eyes darted around, a worried expression coming over her face. “Has anyone seen Jaller or Takua?” she asked.

“Why don’t you look over hear,” a dark voice hissed.

All the Toa turned to see Turahk, the last living Rahkshi, standing in the center of the temple. In his left arm, he carried both the Matoran. His massive hand easily grasped the midsection of both beings’ waists.

“Let them go!” Pohatu shouted.

“Wake my brothers,” Turahk shouted back. “Oh, right. They’re a little more than asleep at the moment.”

Tahu wanted to attack, but he couldn’t risk injuring the Matoran. “What do you want?” he asked.

Turahk laughed. “What do I want? Is that all you pathetic Toa ever ask? I want nothing!”

A massive force tore the Toa from their feet and threw them across the temple floor, sending them into a wall.

“What I need is for all of you to stop breathing!” the Rahkshi shouted. “For it is my destiny to destroy you!”

The Toa tried to pull themselves to their feet, but whatever force was holding them down was far too strong.

Turahk smiled. “So let it be known that today the Toa did fall!”

His staff dematerialized, and he raised his hand up. The Toa followed the motion, each trapped in the thrall of Turahk. Turahk then clenched a fist, and the Toa began to struggle as the force started to crush them.

Turahk smiled. Finally, it would be finished. His father would be back in full power over the island. And he would be rewarded greatly. He remembered the Matoran in his grasp. He raised them in front of them for a moment, and then tossed them to the side like useless junk. He no longer needed hostages to keep the Toa from attacking him.

“Turahk!” a guttural, animalistic voice called.

The Rahkshi looked over his shoulder, wondering who it could be that was demanding his attention. Perhaps one of his brothers had survived?

What the firstborn of Makuta saw terrified him so greatly that he completely forgot about the Toa.

Tahu hit the ground. His vision was still regaining focus, as he had nearly blacked out during Turahk’s telekinetic attack. He looked up in time to hear Turahk let out a single sharp “NO!” that was cut off by a massive tentacle of lukewarm orange magma slamming the Rahkshi into the ground.

“What in Karzahni just happened?” Pohatu shouted.

“Was that you firespitter?” Lewa asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

Tahu shook his head.

The tentacle retreated, revealing the true originator of the attack. While he was now dripping with lava and had skin more reminiscent of black, charred landscape than organic tissue, the being was all too familiar.

“Virulent,” Gali gasped.

“I thought he was killed by Lerahk at Ta-Koro?” Tahu asked.

“Well he’s here now!” Pohatu shouted.

The beast walked over to Turahk, and picked up the charred remnant of the Rahkshi. To all the Toa’s astonishment, the demon was still breathing.

Virulent held the Rahkshi’s face near his. “Any last words?” he asked in a menacing voice.

Turahk coughed and weakly opened his eyes. “Yes,” the blackened, half-dead Rahkshi said. “See you in hell.”

For a moment the two froze. The Toa watched as the two stared at each other for a moment. Then, virulent started screaming. A red aura surrounded them, signifying that Turahk was putting his power over fear to use.

Slowly, Virulent’s screams began to get shorter, eventually turning into terrified gasps for air as he collapsed to the floor. His igneous skin began to peel away from him, revealing a terrified Ahkmou beneath. The Matoran’s eyes were wide open, and his body trembled with sheer fright.

Turahk rose to his feet and staggered towards Ahkmou’s prone form. It was his turn to pick the Matoran up by the throat. But unlike virulent, he didn’t offer the victim any last words. He just held Ahkmou’s throat as tightly as he could. Eventually, the Matoran’s brown-armored body quit twitching.

Turahk dropped the dead form from his hands. He was breathing heavily, and looked as if he could barely support his own weight. He turned to the Toa who were now standing to their feet.

“Damn you,” he said, before collapsing to his knees. Eventually, even those limbs could not support him, and his body hit the ground. “Damn… you…” he choked.

Tahu stood over the Rahkshi, and watched as it let out one last breath.

“That was… messy,” Kopaka said, walking up behind the Toa of Fire.

Tahu stared at the Rahkshi for a while. For some reason, he couldn’t get the sight of Turahk’s final terrified moment before Virulent dealt the killing blow out of his mind.

“Tahu, are you okay?” Gali asked, placing her hand on his shoulder.

“Yeah,” he finally said. “I’m fine.” He turned towards the entrance to Mangaia and let out a long breath. “Let’s go achieve our destiny.”

The Toa all nodded and began walking towards the opening in the temple’s center.

“Takua, do you wish to come?” Tahu asked.

The Matoran, who was still a little shaken from his capture by Turahk, nodded. “Yeah. What about you Jaller?”

The general shook his head, eyes wide as dishplates. “No way,” he said. “After all this, I’m good.”

“Suit yourself,” Takua said. They exchanged a single, final goodbye. Takua then dashed over and joined the Toa.

“Do you ever experience fear?” Pohatu asked the Matoran.

“Oh yeah, all the time,” Takua said. “I just don’t consider personal safety over the sake of history.”

“Well, this time make sure you do,” Gali told him. “Stay back, and try not to get killed, okay?”

Takua nodded. “Yes Toa Gali.”

The group paused a moment in front of the yawning entrance to Makuta’s lair.

Tahu stared into the darkness, and remembered his first descent down this same tunnel.

He took a single, deep breath, and took the first step in.

Chapter XLV

Lewa looked around the tunnel that lead to Mangaia. He was sick of tunnels. Tunnels, caverns… every enemy they had to face was lead from under the earth, wasn’t it. Just once he wished that something would have to be fought midair. Then he’d have the advantage.

The tunnel wound deep into the earth, having changed little since their last visit here. Again, Tahu was the only one able to provide a source of light with his weapons, but now they created a glow that illuminated all of the Toa. Another benefit of protodermis-enhanced powers, he guessed.

Takua clutched his notebook. He had never seen a tunnel this dark before, even with all his travel in Onu-Koro’s extensive highway system. The darkness felt like an almost physical presence that threatened to crush him with every step he took.

Eventually, the Toa reached it. Makuta’s extensive lair, built below the magma chambers of the Mangai volcano. The lair was a terrifying place, choked in a heavy, greenish fog. Around them, massive, semi-opaque pillars glowed a sickly green, and a strange, black substance crisscrossed their surfaces. In the center of the chamber was a massive pool of silvery protodermis, shaped in the same form of the crescent-encircled symbol of the Three Virtues. Beyond that, there was a massive black throne, in which a titan sat.

Takua found a pile of rubble to hide behind, knowing things were going to get messy fast.

Tahu stepped forward, leading the Toa to the edge of the pool of energized protodermis. The titan didn’t even seem to acknowledge their presence.

“Makuta!” Tahu shouted. “We have come!” His voice echoed through the chamber.

Silence.

“Of course you have,” a voice said, coming from almost everywhere.

A powerful, unseen force slammed the Toa into the ground and threatened to drag them towards the back wall. At first he thought it might have been a massive wind, but then Onua grasped the truth. Makuta had altered the gravity of the chamber to where it was pulling from the wall instead of the ground.

After a few moments, the force subsided.

The titan’s blood-red eyes opened. For a moment he seemed to relish in the fact that the Toa had finally come to him for their destruction. Slowly, the being rose, and the sound of metal grinding against metal sounded throughout the chamber, only furthering the unnerved sense that was overcoming the Toa.

“Well, Toa,” the titan said, staring them down, “you wanted me. Here I am.”

Makuta stepped into the light, and the Toa took a step back. The being was easily five times the size of any single Toa. His armor was black as night, and was pitted with splotches of ancient rust and battle scars. On his face, he bore a mask that seemed to make his eyes peer into the very souls of the Toa. From Makuta’s back sprouted two massive, leathery wings, which seemed to sway in a nonexistent breeze. All this added together confirmed the godlike presence that was the Makuta. The Dark Lord, the Master of Shadows, was here in full power.

Tahu stood defiantly, meeting Makuta’s stare with his own.

“It’s time Makuta!” the Toa of Fire shouted, pointing towards the being. “Mata Nui shall awaken this day!”

Makuta laughed, a sound none of the Toa would ever forget. The bellowing sound echoed throughout the cavern, reverberating off of every column and giving the illusion that there were a million voices all laughing with him.

“No Toa,” Makuta said after finishing his laugh. “I’m afraid my brother will get to rest quite a bit longer.”

Tahu gritted his teeth. Before anyone suggested an idea, Tahu charged the being, swords at the ready. Using his mask’s power of levitation, he performed a leap that threw him far into the air. He raised his swords above his head, and was about to bring them down on the Makuta’s face.

Just inches away from the Master of Shadows mask, Tahu was violently repelled by some sort of energy field. The Toa of Fire flew across the room, hitting a wall and falling to the floor. He grunted as he tried to rise to his feet.

“Did you really think that would work?” Makuta chastised. “I’m a god. It will take more than that pathetic tactic to even land a blow against me!”

Tahu clenched his fist, and was about to make another run for the Dark Lord when Gali grabbed him.

“No, Tahu!” she shouted, grabbing his shoulder. “That idea would be suicide.”

“Do you have other ideas?” the Toa of Fire demanded, shaking her hand off his shoulder.

Gali thought for a moment. Then, she asked, “How have we defeated every other enemy we’ve encountered?”

“We usually combine our elemental Toa-powers,” Lewa responded.

Gali nodded. “Right. So what makes you think Makuta will be any different.”

Tahu considered this for a moment. “Alright, let’s try it.”

The six Toa formed a line facing Makuta. The Master of Shadows stood, glaring at them with a patronizing glare.

The Toa raised their palms and unleashed a maelstrom of elemental energy straight at the god. He was caught within it, the power of earth, wind, fire, water, ice, and stone all combined into a single mass of energy more devastating than a thousand hurricanes.

The Toa let off their streams of power, but the energy kept swirling around the Master of Shadows. Then came the sound of Makuta letting out a yell of exertion, and a mass of shadow blasted through the typhoon of energy, tearing it apart and freeing him.

“Well, Makuta said, “now we’re getting somewhere.”

With that, the dark god let out several tendrils of shadow, each targeting a separate Toa and knocking them off their feet. When the Toa recovered, Makuta pummeled them down with bursts of gravitational power and sonic waves.

Tahu grunted as the next wave of sonic energy overcame him, forcing his already too heavy form back into the ground. He struggled to raise himself to his knees. Once there, Makuta unleashed a burst of chain lightning that caused a muscle spasm and returned Tahu to his prone position.

Alright, that’s it, the Toa of Fire thought, grinding his teeth. He began to muster his power.

Takua watched as the nearly one-sided battle went on in Makuta’s advantage. The Toa were barely able to raise their gravity-laden bodies to their feet before Makuta would strike them down again with chain lightning or bursts of sonic energy. Then he noticed something. It was subtle at first, but slowly began to show more and more. Tahu was glowing. His body was beginning to become a torch. Eventually, heat began to ripple off his form.

Kopaka noticed the change in the Toa of Fire as well. “Get down!” he yelled to the other Toa, who were trying to rise up yet again.

Once they were all down, Tahu exploded, filling a section of the cavern with an inferno that nearly rivaled the sun in terms of light and heat. Flames blasted past the rock Takua was hiding behind, and the Matoran cringed, trying to avoid getting turned into ash.

Tahu concentrated hard to keep the inferno well away from his brothers. One errant move, and this blast would surely vaporize one of his fellow Toa, and that would have more negative effects than he could count.

After a full minute of keeping up the nova blast, Tahu collapsed to the floor.

The Toa looked around them. Apart from the small spaces on which they were laying, the whole room was glowing faintly from the sheer amount of heat that had been unleashed upon it.

Kopaka used his power over cold to slowly bring the chamber’s floor to a temperature that one could safely walk on, and the Toa spread out. Makuta had disappeared it seemed.

Gali rushed over to Tahu, who was still lying prone on the floor. She rolled him over, and let out a breath of relief when she discovered he was still breathing.

“Is he gone?” the Toa of Fire asked hoarsely.

Gali looked around. “I think s—“

She was cut off as an absolutely massive tendril of shadow formed at the other end of the room. Before anyone could react, it swept across the cavern and caught the Toa, slamming them into a wall. When they had just barely begun to recover from the attack, another tentacle appeared and caught them up, this time running them into the ceiling and embedding them into the top of the chamber. A final tentacle brought them all into the ground.

Takua once again dashed behind his rock and quickly scribbled the battle so far into his notebook, ignoring the sounds of stone being crushed as Makuta beat the Toa into the ground…

After several minutes of punishment with shadow tendrils, the Toa, battered and bruised, rose to their feet. Makuta’s titanic form emerged from a wall, melting out of the shadows cast against it by the light of the pillars. The Dark Lord smiled.

“It appears this battle is over,” he gloated.

“Not yet!” Pohatu choked out.

Makuta frowned. “Oh really? Well then, I guess another round should beat all of you into submission.”

This time, the attack assaulted their ears, as Makuta had unleashed a power scream that threatened to shred the delicate membranes within the structures and render them deaf. Once that attack subsided, Makuta negated gravity around the Toa. They floated uncontrolled in the air, still grabbing at their ears from the previous attack. The Master of Shadows then magnetized the Toa’s armor, causing them to slam together into a single contorted mess of beings. Makuta reestablished gravity, and they clamored to the floor.

The magnetic field wore off, so Makuta hit them with a barrage of chain lightning that jarred the Toa into a thrall of painful muscle spasms.

Makuta let out a breath of disgust and used his powers to create six hands of shadow that were able to pick up each Toa and hold them aloft.

“Now you understand,” he said, holding the moaning, pain enthralled forms of the Toa all around him. “You have defied the will of the Master of Shadows. You have threatened a god. And like all those who have come to attack me before you, you shall be silenced.”

He assaulted the Toa with more bursts of electricity that threatened to ravage their nervous systems.

“I am Mata Nui’s brother,” Makuta announced. “I am incapable of death or defeat by your hands. By the hands of anyone! And what are you? The little pathetic spawn of my brother that think they can challenge true divinity with pathetic imitations of the like.”

He pummeled the Toa through several of the pillars that dotted the area, and then deposited them on the ground in front of him.

“This charade is over,” Makuta finally spat out. “Either admit defeat at my hands, or be exterminated.”

Tahu, shaking, bruises beginning to form all over his body, rose to his feet and took a few, small limps forward.

“You are just shadow,” the Toa of Fire said. “And all shadows fade when they come into the light.”

Makuta shook his head. A tendril of shadow caught Tahu in the chest and brought him all the way to the ceiling before letting him fall back to the ground.

“Fool!” Makuta shouted. “Where shadows are, I AM! Where shadows have been, I AM. Where shadows shall be, I AM. Shadows are everywhere Tahu, and unlike light, there is always shadow. Light requires source, I do not. And when all other lights in this universe are extinguished, I shall endure.

“Face the truth Tahu, you’ve been defeated.”

Takua let out a saddened breath. There was no way the Toa could recover after this attack. It was over. The legends were just that: legends.

Miraculously, Tahu was able to rise to his feet yet again. Rage burned in his eyes, and the lines of elemental energy along his body burned brightly as well.

“I am fire,” Tahu said in a tone colder than Kopaka’s. “Makuta. Were fire is, I am. Where fire once was, I am. Where fire shall be, so AM I!”

When the last sentence left his mouth, Tahu rose up, and light exploded from within him, tearing through his armor. The light blinded the Toa and forced Takua back behind his cover Even Makuta shielded his ancient eyes from the blinding glare.

When the Toa were able to see again, they were astonished. Tahu’s armor was gone. His body was gone. His body had been replaced with a single form made of elemental fire energy. Tahu turned his gaze towards the Toa, and they saw that his face was now all but featureless, and only his two, orange eyes remained. But even they glowed brightly, and lacked pupils.

Makuta’s face was overcome with a horrified expression. He launched a tendril of shadow straight at the Toa of fire’s pure elemental form, but the appendage simply passed straight through Tahu.

Gali stared amazed at Tahu, who just floated stoically in front of Makuta, who kept trying a variety of attacks on the Toa.

A strange feeling came across the Toa of Water, and she looked at her arms. The lines of energy across them were glowing brightly now, similar to Tahu’s. She took a deep breath and walked towards her now-elemental friend. Then, light exploded from within her as well, and her physical from turned to dust. Her body too had been replaced with an elemental avatar, made of deep blue energy.

The other Toa noticed that their lines of energy were brightly glowing now. Each of them stared in wonder at the sight before them.

Lewa was next, his body vaporizing into a form of glowing green energy. Onua followed, and his body transformed into a grey mass of elemental earth energy. Pohatu did the same, and became a being of pure orange stone energy. Finally, Kopaka sacrificed his corporeal form, becoming an avatar made of elemental ice energy.

Makuta looked frightfully from one Toa to the next. He unleashed multiple shadow blasts in a desperate attempt to stop them from achieving their destiny.

Takua observed the spectacle from a distance, hardly believing what was happening. Makuta was now unleashing blasts of shadow in a vain attempt to stall the Toa as they formed a circle around the Master of Shadows.

Run…

The word passed through Takua’s mind. He pondered it for a moment, as he had no intention of missing out on the defeat of Makuta.

Run…

This time, the word was accompanied by a vision of intense light devastating Mangaia, and turning all within it to dust. Takua started to consider the thought.

RUN!

Takua obeyed, sprinting for the exit. Once through, he didn’t stop. He kept running, heading for the surface. It was as if his legs wouldn’t let him stop. He quickly dashed through Mangaia’s tunnels, not turning back to see what was coming.

The Toa had formed a perfect circle around Makuta, who was now looking about them, trying to discern a weak point to exploit, but finding none.

The Toa joined their hands, enclosing the prime form of Makuta from escaping physically. He tried to transfer the majority of his consciousness as far from this location, but he couldn’t for some reason. Now, it appeared he was trapped. His once-omnipotent form had been cut off from its godlike powers, and he was vulnerable.

For the first time in his eons-long existence, Makuta was genuinely terrified.

Tahu felt his hand meet Gali’s. He looked at her, but all he saw was the elemental avatar she had become. She turned towards him, her glowing yellow eyes meeting his.

If he could only talk… say something to her before it was all over…

He felt a ripple of energy pass from her being into his. It was Gali, saying… something. He looked into her eyes again, and they widened slightly.

Another ripple of power ran through Tahu’s form, and this time he felt what she had said.

I’m sorry.

Tahu nodded, and responded with his own ripple of power. I’m sorry too.

They looked into each other’s eyes for a long moment. Then, Tahu felt a ripple of energy come from Kopaka. It’s time.

Tahu nodded, and looked ahead. The Toa started to enclose the circle around the terrified, vulnerable Makuta.

Tahu sent one final message to Gali. I love you.

The Toa drew closer, and light began to swirl around them. Makuta looked from one Toa to the next, gritting his teeth. When they were inches away from him, and the light became unbearable, and his physical form began to decay at the atomic level, Makuta screamed.

_________________________________________-

Takua dashed out of the cavern to Mangaia and leapt from it, landing a few feet away. As soon as he cleared the edge, a blast of pure, white light ascended into the sky. With the column of light came a sound. For the first and last time in history, all across the island, the Matoran heard Makuta scream.

________________________________________

From his position outside the Ta-Matoran refugee camp, Vakama watched the beacon illuminate the entire island. All the Matoran in it turned towards the pillar of light as well, all watching in sheer awe as it blasted far into the night sky.

When the beam subsided, there was a long moment of silence.

Then, one Matoran in the crowd realized what had happened. “Makuta has been defeated! Mata Nui has awakened!”

The Matoran gasped, and then began to cheer. A celebration began. Matoran hugged, they yelled in delight, they cheered, they danced, and they laughed.

All but Vakama, who stared into the portion of space where the beam had fired into. Like all the Matoran there, he felt as if something was just slightly off with the universe. Most would write it off as the defeat of the dark god that had so long enthralled their lives. But Vakama new the truth, for he had long studied the legends.

He let out a sigh, still unwilling to except that Tahu, Gali, Lewa, and all the others were…

He looked remorsefully back towards the sky and shook his head.

Makuta had been defeated.

And the Toa were dead.

Chapter XLVI

Takua breathed heavily and waited for the column of light to disappear. Eventually, the thunderous sound of Makuta’s scream faded away, and the illumination dissipated into nothingness.

The Chronicler sighed. Makuta was finally gone. The Dark Lord had been defeated, and the Matoran could get back to a real life. One without the fear of Makuta’s Rahi descending upon a village and maiming all its inhabitants. One without having to worry about every shadow in the corner, nolonger having to fear the idea that perhaps Makuta was watching from it and waiting to strike.

Yet, during this moment of triumph, Takua felt as if something else had left with Makuta. Part of him felt… empty all of a sudden.

Jaller approached him. “What happened down there?” the general asked.

Takua shook his head. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

The Ta-Matoran turned around and stared at the tunnel to Mangaia.

Jaller looked around worriedly for a moment. “Where are the Toa?”

Takua waited a few moments, and then he realized why he felt like something had gone. The Toa had destroyed their material forms to defeat Makuta. They had sacrificed themselves to destroy the Master of Shadows.

“They’re dead,” Takua said flatly.

Jaller looked at him with wide eyes. “How can you say that? The Toa can’t die!”

“I watched them down there,” Takua responded. “They… did something, and turned into pure elemental energy. Whatever they did after I left must have…”

Thunder rang out across the landscape, and then a light ran began to blanket the area. Droplets fell and pooled all across the Kini Nui temple complex, and some of the puddles emptied into the Mangaia tunnel.

Takua cursed. “So this is how Mata Nui works?” he questioned the sky. “Just kills six of his most loved creations just so he can wake up from a nap!”

Jaller looked at the Chronicler and shook his head. “You do realize that they’re probably in Artakha now?” he inquired. “They’re somewhere much better than here. And then we’ll see them again. Eventually. If you stop thinking like Makuta, that is.”

“Jaller, don’t you see? Mata Nui just killed six of his own children just to wake up! Does someone like that really deserve our devotion?”

Jaller shook his head. “You’re thinking like Makuta,” he stated.

“Well maybe Makuta was right!” Takua shouted. The Ta-Matoran then took a step forward, and his foot landed in a puddle. The right mixture of stone and water caused him to be thrown off his feet. He landed on his back, and his head hit the ground. Hard.

Takua’s world went black.

_______________________________________

The Chronicler’s vision suddenly flared to life, and he was quickly blinded by the bright light that quickly filled his eyes. He shut their protective lids tight, and rubbed them, trying to clear his vision.

Takua stood up and opened his eyes again. While still hard to see, Takua could definitely tell he wasn’t on Mata Nui at the moment.

The world around him was bathed in a bright white, gold, and orange glow. Mountains of whitewashed stone rose from the horizon on all sides. The sky was ablaze with massive, unnatural aurorae that glowed a myriad of yellows, blues, and silvers. The entire world was vaguely shrouded in a dull grey mist that only served to reflect the intense radiance of the area.

“Takua…” a voice whispered. Or rather roared. It was truly a whisper, but the voice sounded from everywhere. The rocks, the mountains, the sky, all of it called at once.

The mist in front of the Matoran slowly began to dissipate, revealing a path of golden bricks, lined with assorted gemstones of many kinds. The path wound quite a ways off, but ended at base of a large, marble white tor.

Takua gasped at what he saw.

Along the base of the tor were four powerful beings, radiating power and authority. Their presence alone was enough to make Takua want to bow. The Chronicler could recognize two of the beings from their depiction in ancient carvings and old Matoran legends. Artakha, clad in ornate green and gold armor, stood there, holding his staff of creation. Massive wings of golden energy waved slowly in a nonexistent breeze, and his horned helmet reflected and gave off luminescence.

Next to the archangel stood his brother, Karzahni, king of the damned. The deformed seraph wore a mask that looked like a patchwork quilt, stitched together from several other Kanohi. Large horns pierced through the eyeholes. His armor was also a patchwork blend, made up of several mismatched pieces of varying colors of red, orange, and white. He too had large wings of glowing energy, although they were far more skeletal. In his hands he carried a long spear, eerily reminiscent of a Rahkshi’s weapon.

The other two Takua could not recognize. One wore armor just as beautiful and ornate as Artahka’s, but it was instead colored multiple shades of grey and black. In his hand, he carried a large, polished scythe. The other being—female, judging by the stature and curves of her armor—wore smooth, slender, light purple and lavender armor and carried a silver shield and sword.

But, as if those four beings’ presence wasn’t enough, there was one last individual standing on the very top of the tor. He wore polished gold armor that shown like the sun. Covering the gilded panoply were ancient symbols and ornate detailing that wound from his feet to his mask. In his hands, he carried a shield that eerily resembled the symbol of the three virtues, even having empty spaces between the crescents and inner circles. His sword was long, and shown the same gold as the rest of his armor. He wore a stylized Kanohi Hau, with an image of a humanoid figure, limbs extended in a near X pattern, wrapping around the mask. Two great wings of blue-white energy, far more massive than any of the seraph’s, swayed over the tor. His whole appearance and aura cast a godlike presence across the area.

Takua bowed. After all, he was in the presence of Mata Nui himself.

“Arise, Takua,” Mata Nui said.

The Chronicler did as he was instructed.

“I apologize for angering you,” the god said, planting his sword into the tor. “But you must realize it was necessary for these things to come to pass.”

“These things?” Takua asked, an angered tone behind his voice. “The Toa are dead! You killed them!”

Mata Nui shook his head. “Their sacrifice has set me free from Makuta’s thrall. You should be thankful.”

“Thankful?” the Ta-Matoran cried. “The Toa did a far better job protecting us than you ever have!”

The god simply shrugged. “If you remember, I was asleep,” he responded.

“And you slaughtered your greatest creations to wake yourself up!”

Mata Nui’s eyes narrowed. He raised his hand and clenched his fist. Takua slowly raised into the air, and was dragged towards Mata Nui.

“Listen, Takua,” he said in a commanding tone. “I enjoyed sleeping. After breathing life into all of your ancestors, your world, and creation itself, I probably deserved it!”

He slowly let the Matoran back down to the ground.

“But, I couldn’t remain asleep forever. Makuta and I… we exist as a balance.” He looked skyward. Takua followed his gaze, and on the sky, he could see images of both Mata Nui and Makuta moving across the sky.

Not images, the Matoran thought, memories.

“I am creation,” Mata Nui explained, “and Makuta, chaos. Without one, the other cannot retain existence. That is why Makuta did not just cast myself into the netherrealms when he had the chance. For that same reason, I had the Toa … transport him to a place where he can do no further harm to you or your people.”

“So Makuta’s still alive?”

Mata Nui nodded. “Yes. Very much so.”

“Then why did the Toa have to die to awaken you?” the Matoran asked.

“They did not die to awaken me,” Mata Nui said. “They died to save you.”

Takua was still confused.

“Makuta is no longer a threat to your homeland, Matoran,” the god said. “He will never be able to interfere with you ever again.” The being then chuckled. “Besides, what makes you think I could keep the Toa down.”

Takua saw the grey armored seraph raise his weaponless fist and open it. Hovering in the angel’s palm, the Matoran could see six spheres of white energy. The spheres hovered there for a moment, until the being cast them out like seeds. The orbs the fell into the mist and vanished.

Takua then saw the scene begin to rush away from him, and the light of the realm slowly began to grow dimmer and dimmer…

Chapter XLVII

Takua opened his eyes and saw Jaller’s mask hovering above him.

“Takua!” the general announced, elated that his friend was finally conscious.

“What happened?” Takua asked, sitting up and rubbing the back of his head. The spot throbbed with pain.

“You fell and hit your head on the step,” Jaller informed him. “Pretty hard, too. You were out for quite a bit.”

Takua looked around. He was back on Kini Nui. The sky was still grey as ever, and raindrops fell from the sky. The puddles had become much larger, however, and they had collected across the temple complex.

Takua stood up and wiped some rain off his mask. “I guess we should start heading for the camps?” he suggested.

Jaller nodded. “I guess. Vakama will probably want to hear about the battle from the Matoran who witnessed it.”

The two started down the steps of the temple when a sound came from the tunnel that stood where the altar had once been.

Takua turned to Jaller. “Could it be?” he said, eyes widening.

The two turned and dashed up the steps.

Nothing. The tunnel was still as dark an empty as before.

The two were about turn back again when a red-armored hand emerged from the darkness and grabbed onto the entrance’s rim.

From the darkness, Tahu hauled his prone form out, an unconscious but still breathing Gali on his back. Kopaka emerged next, and behind him Pohatu. Onua and Lewa finally dragged themselves from the tunnel.

All six Toa collapsed into gasping heaps. Their armor was scorched with signs of battle, and their silver protodermis armor had disappeared along with the lines of elemental energy that once lined their forms. But they were alive.

Epilogue 1

Two days later…

The sun rose over the island of Mata Nui, illuminating the beaches and villages of the island. Warmth slowly enveloped the island, but a certain celebration was already underway.

Tahu ran across the jungle path that wound through the forest that led to Naho bay. His newly polished and refined armor gleamed as the rays of sunlight filtered through the canopy and reflected off of his armor.

The forest slowly gave way to a rocky outcropping, which slowly ascended until it reached its peak at a cliff that overlooked the entire bay in which Ga-Koro rested. At the top of the cliff stood Gali, who had already arrived and was waiting patiently for the other Toa.

Tahu sprinted up the incline. When he reached the top, he swept up Gali into his arms and embraced her. The two stood at the top of the cliff listening to the waves crash against the rocks far below.

The Matoran on the platforms in the bay below began to cheer wildly.

Tahu let Gali down and scratched the back of his neck nervously.

“Sorry,” he said. “I forgot this was a public appearance.”

Gali let out a short laugh. “Of course you did,” she responded sarcastically.

Tahu smiled at her.

Lewa arrived next. When he reached the top of the cliff, he did a series of backflips and other acrobatics before finally coming to a rest next to Tahu.

The Toa of Air then cuffed his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Hello Mata Nui!”

The Le-Matoran in the crowd cheered wildly.

Lewa laughed. “I always wanted to loud-shout that,” he said, smiling.

Kopaka arrived next, skating in on an ice slide that dissolved behind him, giving the illusion that he was flying. He landed behind Gali and raised his weapon towards the crowd.

The Ko-Matoran raised their fists in response. The Toa of Ice cracked a smile.

Pohatu finally arrived, carrying a Toa sized Kolhii staff and a large Kolhii ball. The Po-Matoran in the crowd began to shout, “Kohlii! Kohlii!” in response.

Pohatu laid the ball on the edge of the cliff and used the hammer end of the staff to send it flying into the crowd. Several Matoran scrambled to catch the sphere, until finally, Hewkii emerged, holding it in his hand.

Pohatu laughed and took his place behind Kopaka.

Onua arrived last, and stood behind Pohatu. He silently waved at the crowd, and the Onu-Matoran responded with their own silent waving. The Toa of Earth smiled and stood behind Lewa.

The Toa raised their fists into the air, and all the Matoran cheered at once, creating an uproar that drowned out the sounds of the waves and the gull’s call.

The sun seemed to burn brighter that day, its rays just a little warmer.

Tahu smiled, and looked at Gali. She looked at him and smiled back.

The Toa of Fire returned his gaze towards the Matoran and laughed.

It was finally over. The Toa had won.

Epilogue 2

Makuta’s consciousness slowly hovered in The Void, a realm of literally nothing but emptiness and shadow.

Of course, this meant the Dark Lord was perfectly at home.

But he was still angered. Cut off from the world he himself had taken a part in the creation of.

He hovered there, brooding.

It didn't matter how long it took. A day. A month. A century. He would figure it out eventually. Time was nothing to a god.

One thought passed through his head, rhythmically tolling in his mind over and over again.

I will return…

To be continued in City of Legends...

Acknowledgements

Well, there are quite a few people I guess I should be thanking for helping me along with this endeavor, seeing as how I probably wouldn't have made it through this alone. First off, I'd like to thank Varkanax39 and Matoro1 for inspiring me with their great stories and writing methods, and quite a few other users for suggestions and support. Chicken Bond and Sidorak12814 also deserve some mentioning, as I had some talks over the novel with them during its writing. Some non-wikians I'd like to thank are those who tolerated my long spans of writing this, along with Greg Farshety and CA Hapaka for their contributions to the Bionicle story that inspired this book. I'd also like to mention JRR Tolkein and how much he's had influence over me as an author. And finally, I'd like to thank God, since it is from Him that all good things come.

Trivia

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