This article was written by BionicleChicken. Please do not add to it without the writer's permission.
|Next||United But Not One|
This was a story told to me by my father and to him his father. Whether or not it be true, all of us still believe in it. As a parable to learn from.
Many years ago, it was a time of relative peace. The island of Okoto was home to many wonders. The most famous of them were the Masks of Power. Artifacts that granted the power of the elements themselves to the wearer. After an event lost to time, only seven exist. The six Masks that allowed control over Fire, Water, Jungle, Earth, Ice, and Stone. The other two belonged to the Mask Makers.
The twin brothers Ekimu and Makuta wore the Mask of Creation and the Mask of Control respectively. What power the Masks granted were a mystery, but nonetheless the two were responsible for the existence of such powerful items on Okoto. We accepted them as one of our own, but it was clear that the twins were different. Their armor and flesh were dissimilar to our own. The plates that cover their body were golden, shining, untouched by filth. Not even the ashes of their legendary forge sullied them. The body beneath the armor appeared to be made up of energy. Ekimu seemed to be made of lapis lazuli, bright blue and crystal. Makuta's was violet, like amethyst.
For the longest time, they were responsible for forging the weapons and equipment Okoto's defenders required for their duties. These Protectors defended their tribes and villages from threats from a horrific dimension known as the Shadow Realm. We know not of its origins, but all accounts tell us that the Shadow Realm coexists with Okoto, sitting on the same plane as us, and yet somewhere else entirely. Every once in a while, the borders between our worlds would open, and nightmarish creatures would come through these openings to disrupt our peace. The Mask Makers and the Protectors worked together to fend off these monstrosities. One such threat were the Skull Raiders, undead abominable perversions of our ancestors.
But our way of life was soon to be changed. The revered twins began shifting in equality. Ekimu became the favorite of the Okotans. His creations were prefered. Makuta grew jealous, even though we still looked up to him as much as we did his brother. The reason behind what happened next, we are not certain. Perhaps he did it of his own free will, blinded by envy and an arrogance he was known for. Maybe he was spurred by the darkness of the Shadow Realm, influencing him to question his bond with his own twin. Whichever the case, Makuta broke a sacred rule: he used all the Elements of the island to create the Mask of Ultimate Power. The very Mask that our precursors declared was too much for one being to have, as it would disrupt our unity.
Makuta placed the Mask upon his face, and was transformed. He turned into a twisted version of himself, malformed and giant. The Elements of the island went haywire. Okoto was being torn apart by Makuta's failure to keep the Mask of Ultimate Power under control. Despite Ekimu's pleas, Makuta refused to take the Mask off. We often ask if he could in the first place or whether he self-centeredly believed he would eventually have full command over it. Before this question could be answered, Ekimu worked quickly.
Swinging his mighty hammer, he struck the Mask of Ultimate Power off of his brother's face. The blow unleashed a powerful shockwave across the island. When the dust settled, Makuta was gone, and Ekimu was sent into a deep slumber. The Mask Maker was not dead, but he might as well be in the eyes of the Okotans. No one knew how to continue the twins' work, and no one believed they were worthy enough to try.
An age of sorrow began that day. We try to this day to keep our spirits up. But danger grows.
And who knows how much time we have left before something just as cataclysmic happens again?
"You think Ekimu might come back someday? Maybe he'll fix everything," said young Bitone.
Narmoto sighed. He sunk back into his chair, as if trying to relax before laborous work came crashing into his home. "I'm not so sure, son," the Protector of Fire said. "It was a long time ago, you know? So long that I'm not even sure which of your grandfather it was. We've lost count of how many 'greats' he's supposed to have."
Bitone laid back on his bed. Narmoto looked at his seven year old son, his young face illuminated by the small fireplace at the corner of his room. Narmoto always told him the story of Ekimu and Makuta, ever since he was born. By the time Bitone had learned how to comprehend stories, the tale became his favorite.
Narmoto watched as his son closed his eyes and went limp, indicating that he was going to sleep. "Good night, dad," Bitone said. The Protector grunted as though to indicate "likewise, son."
He waved his hand over the fireplace. The flames dissapated, leaving behind burnt logs and embers. He got off of his chair and carried it into the main room of his hut. He placed it back where it should be and went outside. On top of his duties as a father, he also had to deal with being both the leader and the primary defender of the Region of Fire. Hard to believe that it has only been about five months since his father had passed away from old age. In his final moments he had bestowed upon his son the Mask of Fire. With it, he became empowered with the entirety of the island's heat and flame. With a simple command he could shoot fire out of his pointed finger. Not that he had to, he could. Along with the mask, he received his family's twin Flame Swords and Elemental Fire Blaster.
His father could not have passed to the next life at a worse time either. When he died, it had only been a year since Narmoto's wife had died. He never knew how, just that his father had approached him with the saddest expression on his mask one day to tell him about how the mother of his child had been found in the Region's jungles, lifeless. Narmoto had no time to grieve for both his wife and father. As if his age hadn't already been a factor in how taxing such events would be on him. The loss of a spouse, a father, the duties of a Protector, and the duties of raising a child by himself.
His fellow villagers had offered to babysit for him, but he refused. In hindsight, Narmoto saw this as a terrible decision. The way he declined was in a way that seemed to portray his choice as final. Yet another result of all the stress stacked upon him.
The Protector of Fire took a walk through his village. The layout and hut designs were similar to the Region of Fire's district in the City of Mask Makers. A generation that had never seen such a place is still hoping to return to it one day.
Narmoto left the village grounds as soon as he decided he was tired of looking at its huts. As he left, he nodded to the guards. He had an appointment somewhere and he was going to leave the Village of Fire in their capable hands. He entered the dark jungle, the near-deafening silence save for some insect chirping felt like it was enough to drive anybody into paranoia.
Even though he had walked through such a place since his childhood, the recent reports of the potential return of the Skull Raiders worried him. What if he was ambushed and killed? What would his village think? What would Bitone think? His boy was still young, and it distressed him to wonder if Protectors can be as young as his son. Most of the tales he heard of his predecessors were that they were usually fully grown adults. Some of the youngest would be around their late teens.
Narmoto let out a sigh of relief as he saw his destination in the distance. Its natural glow illuminated the night sky. The Temple of Time. The most sacred place on the entire island of Okoto. Within it was rumored to hold the fabled Mask of Time. Nobody was ever able to make sure. The last time Narmoto remembered someone attempted it, that person lost all sense of time, and flip flopped consciousness between the past, the present, and the future. Some of his fellow Protectors suggested that they listen to such victims, but the others, including him, argued that madness was sure to be a factor of such a predicament and the motion was vetoed.
The Protector of Fire climbed the stairs up the Temple of Time, traveling through its labyrinths of corridors until he reached the center of the structure. A clearing with a glowing well at the center, projecting the light anyone could see from a distance. Surrounding the well were Narmoto's fellow Protectors.
"There he is," said Izotor, Protector of Ice and the pretty much the most rude person Narmoto knew. "Bed wetting from the boy make you late?"
"Izotor," said Korgot, Protector of Earth firmly. "Narmoto, we understand if Bitone is causing delays, no need to be concerned."
Narmoto nodded, without a word. But Izotor's words reminded him that when he gets back he'll probably have to deal with Bitone's bed wetting again.
"Shall we get to business?" asked Narmoto.
"Who was it that suggested this, anyways?" asked Izotor.
"Not one of us, if I recall," replied Vizuna, Protector of Jungle. At the base of his spine, his unusual tail wagged, as though to show that the Protector was secretly and excitedly itching to get what they were planning over with. "We just discussed these 'Skull Spiders' and the talk just devolved into talk about the Prophecy. I told you all so that this was going to happen."
"Yeah, we know. Your tail tell you anything else? What am I about to say?" asked Izotor.
"You're about to stammer in confusion when I tell you about how you're going to team up with an ape-rhino."
"Wh-wait, wh-what? A-what did..." stammered Izotor in confusion.
"Guys, are we going to get through with this or not?" asked Kivoda, Protector of Water. "The more time we waste, the more those spiders or whatever those things are get the chance to tear Okoto apart. I've heard whispers of things happening over at the City of Mask Makers."
All of the Protectors turned their attention to their friend.
"What's happened?" questioned Narmoto.
"I'm not sure," Kivoda said in a worried tone. "Some of my villagers, they were wandering near the grounds of the City and reported to me that they saw...people wandering around. Marching along the walls and borders as if watching guard. They said the way they moved wasn't normal."
"Not normal in what way?" asked Izotor.
"Like their limbs were stuck. Something in their joints forcing them to struggle in simply moving. Now can we please speak the Prophecy? I don't like the idea of strangers near our old home."
"Could it be the Skull Raiders?" asked Korgot.
"Couldn't be," said Nilkuu, Protector of Stone. "The Skull Raiders were sent back to the Shadow Realm. How was never properly explained, but they are definitely gone from this world."
Narmoto looked up at the night sky. Hovering just above their world were six celestial objects. Each had a color corresponding with the six Elements.
"What do you think will happen if we do this?" Narmoto asked.
Everyone looked at him.
"What do you mean?" asked Vizuna.
"We were told of this 'Prophecy' ever since we were kids. It was hammered into our minds until we could recite it in our sleep. But Dad never told me exactly what it'll do."
"My father said it'll solve our problems, but only the dire ones," said Nilkuu.
The other nodded in agreement or murmured.
A brief silence filled the Temple as the Protectors stared at the well between them.
"Why are we just standing here again?" asked Izotor, an eyebrow raised.
"I think we're stalling for some reason," said Kivoda.
"I have no idea."
"Look, let's just..." sighed Narmoto. "Let's just say it and see what happens, alright?"
Everyone nodded. If there was anybody's judgement to trust, it was Narmoto's.
They all cleared their throats and spoke in unison:
"When times are dark all hope seems lost, the Protectors must unite, one from each tribe. Evoke the power of the past and future, and look to the skies for the answer. When the stars align, six comets will bring timeless heroes to claim the Masks of Power and find the Mask Maker. United, the elements hold the power to defeat evil. United, but not one."
As soon as they finished, the Protectors looked up at the sky in anticipation.
"So..." said Izotor. "What are we expect--"
Suddenly, from the well burst a beam of blue light. It seemed like a signal sent to the heavens, a beacon for help. A hum emerged from the base of the beam, filling the Protectors' ears. A wave of energy washed over them, causing them to squint. It felt as though a powerful wind was right in their faces.
"What's happening?" asked Kivoda over the noise.
Narmoto looked up to the sky. His eyes widened. "'Look to the skies for the answer...'" he recited.
The Protectors followed his command, they gasped at what they saw.
From the six moons came six comets. Each of them were the colors of the Elements as well. They fell towards Okoto, splitting away from each other.
"Where are they going to land?!" shouted Izotor.
Narmoto followed the red comet, which he assumed was for his own element of Fire. He watched as it headed straight for a volcano in the Region of Fire. It entered its opening, and Narmoto could feel a crash from within. "They're landing in our Regions. Like the elements themselves are going home."
"Timeless heroes," muttered Korgot as she watched the purple comet land in the direction of the Region of Earth. "Could it be that they...those are the Toa?"
"Oh, I hope they didn't hear us take their names in vain..." said Kivoda, a worried expression on his face.
"You better get to the volcano, Narmoto," said Vizuna, who had just finished watching the green comet land in the Region of Jungle. "Something's going to lead you there."
"Somethin--?" Narmoto snapped towards the northwest. His attention caught like a fish in a net.
"Narmoto, what is it?" asked Korgot, staring at her friend with concern.
Narmoto didn't say anything. He felt a presence. It was drawing him, some aura was pulling at his interest and beckoning him to follow. He finally spoke, "There's something in the jungle outside."
"What?" Izotor grunted. He looked at Vizuna. "Do you see anything with that thing of yours?"
For once, Vizuna looked confused as well. "No, my tail's not picking up anything. Maybe it's that something that'll lead Narmoto."
"It's invisible to your tail?" asked Nikluu. His hands were slightly raised, as though he was ready to grab his Sandstorm Blaster from the back and ready it for combat.
Before anything else could be said, Narmoto began running towards the alluring presence. He didn't say a word, like he was hypnotized by whatever was calling him. His fellow Protectors called for him to wait before they gave chase after him.
"The volcano!" shouted Vizuna, who was working his way up a tree. "Head towards the volcano! That's where he's going!"
The branches of the jungle scratched against Narmoto's skin. The ground was uneven, and he almost tripped on a rock or two as he ran after the presence. He wasn't sure what it was, but a sense of familiarity drew him towards it. He felt it in his entire being. He felt it in his mask. He felt it in the energy that it filled him with, the energy that allowed him to control flames.
The jungle was soon behind the Protector of Fire. Narmoto stopped himself, bouncing as he nearly skidded. He looked up. He was at the volcano he saw the comet enter. It was bigger than he thought it would be. Narmoto remembered how the presence of the Region of Fire's three volcanoes were common knowledge. Not even the children batted an eye at the trio of deadly magma-filled mountains that were only a few leagues from their village. His father would brag about how surfing within those volcanoes was a favorite pasttime of his and his ancestors before him. He explained that the sports the other islanders would partake in had become dull and mundane once one experienced the powers of the Mask of Fire.
Narmoto heard rustling of leaves behind him and spun around. There appeared the other Protectors, out of breath and clutching their weapons tightly. "Don't..." panted Izotor. "...do that!"
"What brought us here anyways?" asked Korgot, who was wheezing.
Narmoto shook his head. "I'm not sure. It just felt like something I knew. Something familiar."
"Well, there's...there's nothing here besides us and that bird up there," Kivoda pointed upwards towards a distant fowl.
"And several of those Skull Spiders coming at us from within the jungle," said Vizuna, turning around to face the trees.
"What?!" shouted Kivoda. "Why didn't you say anything?!"
"I wasn't supposed to yet."
"You are just useless, aren't you?" muttered Izotor as he grimly listened to the sounds of incoming creatures.
"Enough," Narmoto held up a hand, looking up at the side of the volcano. He could barely make out an opening high above. Some kind of balcony could be seen. "I'm really not sure what I'll find in there, but I think I'm supposed to look for it alone, guys."
"Anything we should tell your boy if anything happens?" asked Nilkuu as he stood poised with his Sandstorm Blaster.
"Nothing," Narmoto said firmly as he sheathed his Flame Swords. "I'm gonna be back."
The Protector of Fire then jumped until the slope of the volcano, clutching at the rocks to climb up. Only he didn't. He failed to grab a proper bump on the slope. His fingers and feet slid on the surface of the stones and Narmoto promptly and ignobly ended up back where he started.
"Uh," he muttered, feeling even more humiliated by the fact that he landed on his feet rather than his rear. "Nilkuu, can you...?"
The Protector of Stone scoffed. He turned around, aimed his Blaster at Narmoto's feet and fired. A single Elemental pellet struck the ground under the Fire Villager. From where the pellet hit, a large pillar of Stone erupted under Narmoto, sending him into the air. His scream faded fast, but its echoes scattered across the spot the Protectors were at.
Korgot sighed. "Fire Villagers, always with the dramatic exits."
Narmoto reached his arm out as he soared towards the balcony. His hand was outstretched, hoping to grab the edge of the structure. For a brief terrifying moment, he felt his fingers slip. Luckily, he managed to grab hold. With a groan, he pulled himself up with great difficulty. He didn't do much climbing, and only now did he realize just how much weight he was carrying with his weapons, armor and mask.
As the Protector got to his feet, he could hear distant and faint noises of conflict below him. He heard something similar to "Skull Spiders" and a feeling of regret washed over him. He could be down there, helping them ward off the threat before coming up here. They might have even had a chance of joining him to see what had landed.
Narmoto stepped forward, his heart beating like wardrums as he entered the volcano. What was he going to see? The Skull Raiders returning? The legendary Master of Fire Toa Tahu, standing at the center of a lake of molten magma?
When Narmoto reached the end of the walkway, he realized it was none of those things.
At the center of the lake was a crater, bordered by pillars of jagged rocks brought about by the impact. Those very pillars were somehow keeping the lava from seeping into the depression. Within the crater was a golden object. Just large enough to fit over one's face.
A feeling of realization creeped over Narmoto. "No..." said the Protector in disbelief.
To his shock, sitting at the center of the crater was a Golden Mask of Power. From the shape of it, it looked to be that of Toa Tahu's, according to the carvings in the Temple of Time. But where was the Toa himself? Surely the Prophecy would bring the Master of Fire along as well?
Narmoto scanned across all he could see from his vantage point. Nothing but rocks and lava and a golden mask. The Protector scratched his head in confusion. "'Bring timeless heroes' huh?" asked Narmoto to no one.
The Protector's ears pricked at the sound of skittering. Narmoto turned to find a large swarm of Skull Spiders coming at him. In the distance, he could make out his fellow Protectors lamenting about something. No doubt they were kicking themselves over failing to keep the creatures from following him.
Narmoto drew his Flame Swords. His shoulder-mounted Fire Blaster aimed at ready. But the Fire Villager knew that he was cornered. His Mask of Fire can manipulate flames, but it wasn't powerful enough to protect him from lava. If he tried to walk on it, he'd just be burnt and destroyed.
A spider leapt at his face. Narmoto was pulled out of his thoughts and smacked the spider away, causing it to fall into the lava screeching. He activated his Blaster and opened fire on the arachnids. The rapid fire function of the device made short work of the many spiders approaching him, but it seemed that the more he got rid of, the more replaced those that perished.
Narmoto soon found himself backing up as more Skull Spiders came at him. The second he felt his heel press against hot air, he knew that he was out of room to back up. The increasing clicking sound of his Blaster told him he would run out of pellets soon. Within twenty or so rounds fired, the blasts were replaced with empty clicking. He was out of pellets. He would have to wait a while until new pellets formed within his blaster. Nobody he knew properly explained how his blaster worked, but he was told that the Elements themselves would provide ammunition. Lot of good that did right now.
The Protector was forced to use his Flame Swords now, swatting at the Spiders that made for his face. As he leaned more and more over the edge, he took a quick glance at the lava below. He then glanced at the many Skull Spiders.
Narmoto took a deep breath. This was not how he figured he would learn how to lava-surf.
The Protector raised both of his swords and plunged it into the ground. The Skull Spiders stopped, confused at their prey's action. With a great shove, Narmoto pushed himself and a slab of rock off of the walkway. The Skull Spiders screeched as they raced towards him, like they were all competing for who got to devour him.
Narmoto fell, the slab of rock beside him and descending Spiders directly above him. "This better not kill me or I'm going to regret something else today," he muttered.
Nilkuu slashed at the Skull Spiders with his staff, firing pellets along the arching motion. Those the pellets hit were encased within Stone structures. Unlucky Spiders became entangled in crag cages that were too small and tight, even for them.
"No!" shouted Izotor as he saw many spiders climb up the side of the volcano. "How did I miss these things?! There are so many of them!"
A spider suddenly latched itself on Izotor's mask. It shifted itself until it completely covered the Protector of Ice's face. Muffled from behind the creature, the other Protectors could hear Izotor shouting for help. His body covulsed as limbs went from frantic to calm and reserved. Soon enough, Izotor's body went limp and kneeled, unmoving. Izotor's cries for help could still be heard.
Kivoda shouted his ally's name and rushed over to pull the Spider off, but yet another creature stuck itself onto the Protector of Water's face. In rapid succession, a Spider leapt and latched itself onto a Protector's mask. Each of them struggled and grunted, but to no avail. They too fell on their knees and stayed still. They could feel the warmth of the arachnids' bodies against their Mask, the way their squirmed made them wish to pull the creatures off of their heads more. But they couldn't. Their bodies were paralyzed, under the control of the Spiders.
But why have they only made them kneel?
The answer came in the form of something in the jungle. Their bodies might paralyzed, but the Protectors could still move their eyes. They looked around until they saw that the Skull Spiders' eyes were transparent, and peered through them. Emerging from the trees was a large muscular being. Or at least his rusted gunmetal/red armor made him look muscular. Everything from his face to his limbs told the Protectors this was a walking skeleton.
The being stared at the Protectors, inspecting them like he was some kind of drill sergeant looking over his cadets. His skull face held no emotion. Despite the lack of any visible organs, he opened his mouth and words came out.
"Toa?" he groaned in a raspy voice. He stared at the Protectors more. "No..."
He looked at Kivoda, then Izotor, then Korgot, then Izotor again, then Vizuna, then Nilkuu, then Kivoda once more. "Not Toa..." he hissed. "Where...are...the Toa...?"
The Protectors felt their mouths feeling more free, as if the Spiders had shifted their bodies to allow them to talk. But none of them were able to speak a word. They were stunned silent, unable to say anything or even comprehend what the being meant.
An explosion erupted above. A beam of fire burst from where the opening was, blowing away burning spiders that turned to ash before they even hit the ground. The fire died quickly, but the power of the blast could still be felt, even below.
The being grunted after looking up at where the large fire was. He looked at the helpless Protectors and made a quick hand motion. The Skull Spiders that were attaching themselves to the Protectors popped off their hosts. The Village leaders gasped in relief as the creatures let their bodies go and quickly darted to grab their weapons.
Just as they were about to get into formation once more, a whistling could be heard from above. They all looked up, and saw a ball of fire coming towards them from the balcony. It landed with a scorching but somehow contained explosion. The flames receded into its center, a humanoid Protector-shaped figure.
"Is that...?" Kivoda stared in disbelief.
Narmoto stood, his body irradiated with red energy, his body gave off heatwaves that shivered the air around him. On his face was no longer the Protector of Fire Mask that was passed down to him. On it was a golden mask, its shape almost boxlike, its jawline thick, and two vents on either side of its cheeks.
The skeletal being stared at Narmoto's empowered form, his fleshless face still unreadable. He seemed only interested in the Protector's newfound power.
"Get away from them," said Narmoto with a fierce voice.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, the skeleton held up his hand, and was suddenly pulled into the jungle fast. Something had literally gotten him out of there. The remaining Skull Spiders fled as well, resigning the Protectors to a moment of relative peace.
The Village leaders turn to their Fire counterpart. Shocked expressions colored their faces. The fires around them died down, leaving nothing but soot and small smoke. Narmoto looked at his fellow Protectors.
"So, uh, do any of you have an idea of what this is?" the Protector of Fire pointed at his new golden mask.
The skeleton lumbered through the forest, the enormous beast of a spider following close behind him. Once he saw the comets fall from the sky, he thought it was time. He thought today would be the day that the power he sought would appear.
He was somewhat correct.
When he saw those beings, he sensed elemental energy surging within them. But upon closer inspection, he saw that that energy came from their masks. Their masks were not even the shape he expected. They were all identical in form with the exception of their colors. Their fair youth also furthered his suspicions. They were not the Toa.
But that Fire man. He had the power and mask he expected the Toa of Fire to have. However, that was clearly not the Master of Fire that was prophesized to arrive on Okoto in the darkest of times. The dark times he, the monster, and his master had engineered.
But alas, perhaps time will tell if their plan will achieve success. The skeleton and the monster made its way back home, ready to try out a new method.
"Yeah, I can't take it off," Narmoto tugged at the golden mask lightly. He was using the normal amount of strength needed to pry his Mask of Power off, but the new item was not budging. It was stuck to his face. It was starting to worry him. "It's starting to worry me."
"Why? You got a powerful thing stuck to your face to give you power greater than any of us," said Izotor, with a hint of envy in his tone.
"Because you and I both know we don't wear our masks all the time," rebutted Narmoto.
Korgot stared intently at the mask, curious. It was like she was memorizing everything to the smallest detail. "It matches the description of Toa Tahu's mask, alright."
"So Narmoto got a legendary Mask of Power and now it's doing some kind of symbiotic bond thing with him?" asked Kivoda. "Wait, that must mean the other comets, they're masks as well, right?"
Narmoto scratched at the edge of his mask. "We don't know if it's just the masks. For all we know, Tahu probably actually came with the mask, and is wandering around the jungle confused out of his mind."
"So we just look for him?" asked Nilkuu, arms crossed.
"If the Toa are indeed destined to come and help us, then they should stumble their way into us on their own, shouldn't they?" observed Vizuna. "And Nilkuu, don't."
"Don't what?" asked Nilkuu, confused.
"Eh, you'll see."
"Okay, so how does the mask feel?" questioned a curious Izotor.
"Well, I can definitely feel the power," replied Narmoto, who was getting increasingly agitated as he tugged at the mask. "But it's overwhelming, you know? It's kind of like when I put on my family mask for the first time, but double that. Only I can take it off."
"Okay, yeah that part's starting to creep me out, too," said Nilkuu, reducing the distance between him and Narmoto.
"Anything starting to feel wrong, Narmoto?" asked Korgot as she circled her friend.
"Huh, now that you mention it, the mask is starting to tremble a bit," said Narmoto, touching the object on his face. "Yeah, it's moving."
"I don't like this," said Nilkuu, pulling out his Sandstorm Blaster. "I'm getting that thing off."
"Wait, how?" Narmoto didn't like the way Nilkuu was holding his Blaster.
"Well, hands won't do, so I guess the Elements themselves will," Nilkuu pointed his blaster towards the ground. A pellet embedded itself into the dirt.
"That still doesn't--" Narmoto's last words were muffled as soon as a tentacle of Stone clutched at his face. The last thing he saw was Nilkuu swinging his blaster in the direction of Narmoto before his vision was stunted by darkness. "Uh nuh."
"I told you not to," Narmoto heard Vizuna say. He felt rocks cover his feet, achoring him to the ground. The Protector then felt the stone tug at his mask. Harder. And harder. And harder. He slammed his hand against the stone that covered his face repeatedly.
"Nuhkloo! Way! Way! Way! Stuh! Stuh!!" shouted a muffled Narmoto.
Through all this, his mask continued to tremble. Until it suddenly stopped. A high-pitched ring was heard by the Protector of Fire as his vision went from darkness to bright white.
"I don't recognize you," said a wise-sounding voice. "You are not who I expected, but you appear trustworthy. Search for me, hero. Search for Ekimu. In--"
Narmoto let out a guttural groan as the vision ended. His head snapped back, breaking apart the stone around his mask. It was illuminated, glowing a warm yellow, as if activated by something.
"Great, the thing's resisting," grunted Nilkuu as he watched Narmoto's mask dim.
"No, no!" exclaimed Narmoto, panting. "It--it showed me something. I think...I think Ekimu was trying to talk to me."
The Protectors were silent, their mouths hung open and their eyes wide in shock.
"Impossible," muttered Korgot.
"THE Ekimu?" asked Izotor. "The Mask Maker himself? What did he say?"
"I'm not---I think whatever he was trying to tell me, it was interrupted by something. Actually, it felt like the message was fragmented. Like it was incomplete or something."
"So what now?"
"We search for the other masks," said Vizuna.
"What, did your tail tell you that?"
"No," said Viznua bluntly. "Just common sense. Narmoto got a mask. He got part of a vision, so we get the other masks and we get the rest of the vision."
Izotor stared at his Jungle counterpart. "Eh," he shrugged. "Then I'm off to wherever my mask is. See you weirdoes in a jiffy."
The Protector of Ice ran into the jungle, fast as he can go, in the direction of the Region of Ice.
"He's eager to get such a mask, isn't he?" observed Kivoda.
"His family is a proud one," said Korgot, still staring at the part of the jungle Izotor disappeared into. "If Izotor doesn't strive to be the best of all of us, he'd be doing his line a disservice."
"So off to get our masks?" asked Kivoda.
"Well, Vizuna's off to do that," said Korgot. Kivoda turned to where Vizuna stood. In place of the Protector of Jungle was empty space. "But more pressingly, I think we've forgotten something else."
"Our villages!" exclaimed Narmoto. He broke into a run and entered the jungle.
Behind him, he could hear Korgot call, "If the vision is true, it'll tell us where to meet! We'll rendevous there!"
The Protector of Fire didn't give a response, but etched that into his mind as he ran. How long had he been away, he wondered. In their excitement over what had happened, did the Protectors leave their villages open for attack that only they could counter?
Narmoto reached the border of his village. He was still within the trees when he stopped and stared in relief. The Village of Fire was still intact. People were still going about their day, guards were still patrolling the grounds, staring right at him and pointing in a panic, aiming their Elemental blasters in his direction and--wait a minute.
The Protector of Fire shouted as he dived forward, the trees he was within exploding in flames. The fact that he was wearing Tahu's mask still hadn't settled in on him and he forgot he probably could have survived the fiery blast. His heart racing, Narmoto stood quickly, ducking just in time for a Fire Pellet to whizz past his head.
"Wait!" shouted Narmoto, raising his hands. "I order you to cease fire!"
The order came too late, and many of the guards fired at their leader just before they realized who they were dealing with. Luckily, Narmoto had found his footing in the situation and held out his palms at the incoming ammunition. The village leader could feel power surging from his golden mask as he willed the pellets to stop mid-air. He was controlling the elemental flames contained within them.
With a flick of his wrists, the pellets popped in small bursts of flame. Their remains dropped to the floor, smoking.
"Sir!" shouted a guard Narmoto recognized as Jaller. "We're sorry, we, uh, didn't recognize you."
Narmoto breathed heavily. "Yes, it's...it's been an interesting couple of hours. I understand. Any trouble while I was away?"
Jaller relaxed his blaster, as did the other village guards. "We saw a horde of Skull Spiders heading in the direction of the village an hour ago. We readied for attack, but they suddenly shifted directions and headed towards what we believed to be one of the Region's volcanoes."
So something was controlling those arachnids to come after the Protectors. Most likely whoever sent them expected the Toa as well, and were as surprised as they were when they didn't find any legendary heroes where the comets landed.
"We can't let up," said Narmoto. "Continue lookouts. Those things were after either this," Narmoto pointed at his mask. "or whoever it was meant for."
"Is that mask what I think it is, sir?" asked a guard named Kapura.
"Yeah," breathed Narmoto, who was calming down. "The mask of Toa Tahu, Master of Fire. But I think something went wrong and now it's...stuck."
"Oh," said Jaller, a look of uncertainty on his face.
"I'm just waiting for the other Protectors," said Narmoto, heading into the Village of Fire. "Keep up the patrols! I want to be informed if anybody looking nothing like an Okotan shows up! Understand??"
The guards affirmed their orders and hurried to return to their routes.
The walk through the village was an uncomfortable one. Narmoto thought he had left the stares behind since he's become a Protector, but now he has to endure more now that he's wearing a fabled mask of a fabled hero. Surely the villagers are filling up with inquiries about what had happened during his absence, but are too mesmerized by their leader's transformation. They were too stunned to be able to process what they wanted to question him on.
Narmoto arrived at his hut, and entered swiftly. He softly entered his son's room, to see if he's still there, or dragged off by some four-legged creature Narmoto would love to burn to ashes. The last part was starting to look good as Narmoto saw that Bitone's bed was empty.
A wide-eyed scowl compressed his face as he rushed out of his hut. He looked around before finding a staring villager walking past.
"Excuse me, have you seen Bitone?"
The villager tried to quickly get over Narmoto's new appearance. "Uh, yes, Protector," she answered. "Little Bitone came out of the hut when those strange comets fell. I believe he's with his friends right now."
Narmoto gave thanks to the villager, who pointed in the general direction of where she last saw Bitone. He snaked his way through the collection of huts until he found his son talking amongst other children. The kids gasped in shock at the sight of him.
"Who's that?" asked a boy next to Bitone.
Bitone leaned forward, eyes squinted. "Dad?"
Narmoto's son ran up to him, giving him a hug around the waist. "What was that in the sky? What were those things that fell? Did you say the Prophecy? What are you wearing? Is it a new Mask of Power? Where did you find it?"
The Protector of Fire kneeled down and placed his hand on Bitone's head, silencing him. "Those were comets, this mask is one of them, yes we did, I'm wearing what the other Protectors and I think is Toa Tahu's Mask, maybe, and I found it in that volcano over there." Narmoto pointed towards the volcano where he had last been.
"So you said the Prophecy and that thing fell into that volcano?" said Bitone, energetically curious.
"We're still not sure what 'this thing' is anyways," said Narmoto standing up. He went over to a spot near the group of children and sat down. He sighed, as if finally having a chance to relax in a while. "In fact, who knows. Maybe this IS Toa Tahu's mask, and if he comes here, he'll be very grumpy about me taking his mask."
"You met Toa Tahu?" asked a boy.
"No, I just found this mask," answered Narmoto patiently. "But the other Protectors and I are confident the Toa are just...lost or something. Tahu will probably come by and take this, actually."
"Does he have to, Dad?" asked Bitone, who sat in front of his father. "Maybe he'll let you keep it. You probably need it more than he does and I know you deserve it."
"No, Bitone," said Narmoto, his tone laid-back. "The Prophecy explicitly said that the Toa would come for these. So even if I liked having it, I'm duty-bound to fork it over to Tahu."
"What's 'explicitly' mean?" asked a girl.
"To be clear, having no double meanings."
"So you came back to wait for Tahu to come get the mask?" asked Bitone.
"Well, that and the other Protectors are finding the masks," said Narmoto, suddenly feeling interrogated. "If the Toa come, we have gifts to present them this way. Why all the questions?"
"I don't know, Dad. You don't seem like you want to give that mask to Tahu."
"Like I said. Even if I liked having it, I'll have to give it to him if he comes along. For the time being, I'm staying here until...well..."
"Until the others tell me what to do next."
Izotor groaned in annoyance as he decided he was fed up with the blizzard. He concentrated and felt his mask shimmer with power. He waved his Ice Saw, prompting the snowstorm to cease its winds. It dimmed for a moment, before appearing once more. The Protector of Ice continued trying to make the storm vanish, but to no avail. Either his Mask wasn't strong enough, or something was resisting him.
The Golden Mask of Kopaka.
But this storm is hindering his visibility. How was he supposed to partake in a scavenger hunt if he can't even look for whatever he's looking for? The Protector thought hard, determined to get Toa Kopaka's mask, if it was indeed what he was after.
The winds. Izotor perked up, realizing that he was being blasted with the solution already. If his suspicions were true, then the mask ought to be in the direction of the icy gusts. Izotor began his journey, heading in the direction from where the wind blew.
It was only a few meters from where he stood when he saw a silhouetted figure against the storm. Izotor knitted eyebrows and tightened his grip on his weapons. Raising his saw slightly like a shield, he stepped forward, feet sinking slightly into the ankle-high snow.
He approached the figure, then used his Mask to briefly tone down the storm. He relaxed his stance when he saw that the figure was an Ice Villager whose back was turned towards him. Izotor sighed in relief, "By Kopaka, villager. You had me worried there. What are you doing so far from home?"
The villager turned around. Izotor gasped and quickly returned to his stance. On the man's face was a Skull Spider, thicker than the ones he and the other Protectors encountered in the forest. This must be a breed that was more accustomed to the colder climate of the Region.
The controlled villager screeched, the noise barely heard over the winds. Noisy as the terrain may be, Izotor heard spiders emerging from the snow around him. They had been waiting for him. That skeletal being back at the volcano must've ordered them to ambush him. A spider lunged at him, but Izotor was quick. He blocked the creature's attempt to take his body with his saw, pushed it into the air, and blasted it with an ice pellet, freezing it solid. The cube of ice containing the arachnid fell into the snow with a crunch.
Izotor quickly bolted towards the direction where he was going. He paused for a moment before grunting and taking the spider-faced villager with him. Once he got Kopaka's mask, he might be able to free this man from the body-jacking he was going through. From the sounds of snow crunching and legs skittering, the Skull Spiders were giving chase.
"Idiots," Izotor grinned, thinking back to the power Narmoto wielded back at the volcano. Soon enough, he'll have the Ice equivalent of that, and these bugs will regret wasting their time hiding in the snow for him.
Eventually, Izotor reached his destination, and saw that it had transformed into a small field of ice spikes. At the center of it all was a spike tall enough to be a large pedestal. Atop of it was Izotor's goal: Kopaka's mask. Like Tahu's it matched its description in the legends. Most notable of its design was the three-lens scope over the right eye. With it, Izotor would literally be the Protector with the best vision.
The Protector of Ice was snapped from his thoughts by the approaching Skull Spiders. He turned to the controlled Villager, whose spider-face was screeching at him harmlessly. Izotor figured that this creature didn't want to let go of a body it just got and had resorted to showing its resistance by being loud and annoying. With a quick shove away, Izotor aimed his blaster at the villager's feet. An ice pellet impacted with the snow, and the man was encased in ice.
Being from the Region of Ice, the villager can obviously handle being frozen better than others, but Izotor will still need to hurry before the guy freezes to death. He placed his saw on his back, giving himself a free hand, and dashed towards the spike field.
"Hmm," pondered Korgot as she completed her circling of the Village of Earth. "Nothing. Looks like nothing happened while I was gone."
An Earth villager walked alongside her. "Is that not good, madam?" asked he.
"No," Korgot quickly shook her head. "No, actually this is a relief. I was worried this place would be crawling with spiders while I was away, but looks to be devoid of any danger. Save for the fact that we are literally living on the side of large cave walls..."
Korgot looked over the stalagmite railing and into the abyss below. Even though she was now a fully grown mature woman, she still felt like the little girl who would be afraid to venture down there with her father. He would always chuckle in amusement over her fear. It still baffled her how he never worked to make that fear vanish so that she could eventually take his place.
"Anyways," sighed the Protector of Earth. "Inform the villagers that the Prophecy of Heroes has been recited at the Temple. Have them spread the word, morale may need a boost with our...current situation."
"So the Toa have arrived?"
"Not...necessarily," Korgot looked away in uncertainty. "We brought something down for sure, but not really what we expected."
"Whatever the case, as long as it helps us with the spiders, I don't think the villagers will care, nor will I."
"Another thing: tell everyone that I'll be in the Underground."
"To look for Toa Onua?"
"Maybe. If he comes along without me, don't assume the worst, he probably wandered off from where he landed."
The villager nodded and walked away, heading towards the nearest villager and spreading the news. Korgot made her way to the Crystal Mine entrance. This was where the projectiles for the Protector's blasters came from, or at least their material. Many unknown years ago, someone discovered a way to encase the Elements themselves into self-reloading ammunition to be fired from a device that could be shoulder-mounted. They used the Crystals found in the Region of Earth, as they were found to be mystically in harmony with the natural world Okoto was situated in.
From a guess, Korgot estimated that Onua's mask may have landed somewhere within these mines. When she was above ground, she saw a large crevice had been created, leading to deep underground. From where she stood, she had spotted the dim glow of the violet crystals that naturally grew from the cave walls of the mine.
The Protector entered the mine, and began what she would soon discover to be a rather tedious search. After about ten minutes of walking, Korgot was already impatient. She didn't seem to be closer to the large room she saw from above ground. All she saw so far were tunnels, lined with glowing purple rocks that lighted her way but failed to provide any hints for her journey.
Then came scurrying. Korgot froze in place, recognizing the sound. She spun around towards the noise, her mace-like Star Drill at the ready. She saw, burrowing from the ground, a Skull Spider. And following it were more of its brethren, all of them coming from the Earth. These looked different from the ones that she encountered at the Region of Fire. These must be more adaptive to the subterranean environment of her home.
Korgot fired her Rapid Shooter at the spiders. She got several, but many replaced the ones that perished and began scurrying towards her. Raising her Star Drill, Korgot smashed through a tunnel wall, appearing in another rocky corridor. But even here, the Protector found herself faced with more Spiders. They were within the walls, travelling by burrowing through the rock. As she ran, she felt afraid for her village. She now knew that the Skull Spiders were situated within the cave walls of the Region, ready to strike at the Village at any time they or whoever their controller was desired.
The amount of spiders crawling at her told Korgot that she would not be able to take care of them all with her Rapid Shooter nor her throwing knives. So she ran, her Star Drill pointed forward to take care of any obstacles she wanted out of the way. However, the more tunnels she entered, it seemed that the number of spiders multiplied. One pathway would be filled and Korgot would be forced to go down the one with the least amount of arachnids.
Korgot turned and ran, almost absolutely refusing to even look at the spiders pursuing her. She began regretting entering the mines. Why did she have to be born, raised, and assigned to protect a Region that is infamous for tight spaces? And what do you know: a dead end. Korgot was out of breath, leaning against the rock wall. Obviously not a problem, but the pursuit was exhausting. She's traveled across Okoto many times, but she doesn't recall a moment of her life where she ran as hard as she did here.
All of the spiders closed in on the female Protector. They came in slow, as if savoring their victory.
"Ha," breathed Korgot as she pulled back her Star Drill. She thrusted it forward, smashing a hole into the wall she was against. As she fell through, she tapped the peak of the opening, feeling her mask energizing and surging its power into her Drill. It burst through the weapon's tip, causing the opening to fill up with debris.
Korgot sighed in relief as she laid on the cave floor. As she got to her feet, she could hear skittering and digging from the other side of the cavern wall. The spiders were coming through anways. The Protector turned to survey the room, only to be met with an incredible sight.
She was in a large room, and there was a large hole in the ceiling. She moved her sight to the direct beneath the opening and breathed a relieved laugh. It was Onua's golden mask, resting atop a crystalline pedastal. All around the area, there were crystals protruding from the walls, as if something had caused them to grow spontaneously. The power of Onua must have nudged the ore vein within the island to create them.
Korgot heard rocks falling away behind her, the familiar cry of a Skull Spider pierced her ear. Surely an entire horde was behind it as well. Korgot darted towards the Mask to meet her unfair challenge. Unfair for the Spiders, anyways.
"Underwater," muttered Kivoda. "Of course it's underwater."
The Protector of Water was standing on the edge of a small bluff, facing the endless ocean of the world Okoto was resting upon. When he was up here, Kivoda would often wonder if any other lands existed out there. Was Okoto, this large, divided island of the Elements, alone on this planet? Never in his life had he heard of any accounts of foreigners. It seems that Okoto just appeared one day and the islanders were along for the ride.
Kivoda looked down at the waters below. To any normal observers, it would be still, nothing out of the ordinary. But Kivoda was not a normal observer. He was practically the island's specialist on water, despite the absurdity of such a title. He's seen disturbed waters before, and what he was looking at were some very disturbed waters. Kivoda shrugged, and the twin Aquatic Turbines attached to his shoulders came to life, flipping outward so their blades faced his front and back.
With a deep breath, he stepped forward and leaped into the sea. The impact didn't bother him, but he still felt some pain on his body. He must've screwed his jump up, miscalculating the position of a limb his father instructed him on.
Kivoda passed various reefs and rocks. Everything was laid out for him, but he still couldn't see much. Where was Gali's mask? It was at this moment that Kivoda felt the currents of the water shift. Something was drawing the flow of the sea towards it. It must be something elemental. The Protector of Water started up his Turbines with his mind and was propelled forward. He inched closer to the anamoly, the currents growing stronger and pulling him forward like some kind of gravity well.
A twitch in his mask was felt, and Kivoda turned off his Turbines. He drifted closer to the source of the currents as he looked around, wondering what his mask had sensed. He then felt something swim behind him, and Kivoda turned towards it. Still nothing but the vast ocean.
Something latched itself onto Kivoda's leg. The Protector snapped his attention towards it, and saw a Skull Spider attached to his shin. Its exoskeleton was of a different color, and its swift movements told Kivoda that this must be a breed of Skull Spider that was very efficient in water. Another swam at him, attaching itself onto his thigh. Then another on his other shin. Another on his bicep. Another on his forearm. Two more, one on his chest and another on his other forearm. Soon, his body was covered in Skull Spiders save for his head. He struggled. Panic filled Kivoda's mind, but enough rationale remained for him to know that he should hold his breath.
A final Spider swam towards him, turning around so its bottom was facing him, ready to take his body for its own. Kivoda grunted and concentrated. He felt his mask shiver with energy. He wasn't sure if he could pull this off, but the approaching Skull Spider seemed to give him enough time to figure it out.
His mouth still shut, Kivoda exclaimed. The water that engulfed him and the Spiders all over him pulled the arachnids off his body. The Protector's turbines pushed him away from the path of the Spider. He willed the turbines to reach their peak, and he was catapulted towards the current anamoly.
Sure enough, before him, closing in, was Gali's golden mask. How did he not see it before? Kivoda reached his hand out, grabbing for the mask as the Skull Spiders behind him gave pursuit.
The deserts of Okoto were harsh, but home to Nilkuu. He traveled across the barren wasteland, a vast expanse of dust that is somehow adjacent to an icy mountain range and a land of canyons. Nilkuu never thought about such strangeness and only focused on his job: obtaining Pohatu's Golden Mask. Then maybe he'll be good enough.
He had walked over many sand dunes already, anybody who was willing to endure the scorching sun was welcome to follow his footprints. After Pohatu knew how long he had traversed this desert, Nilkuu saw his destination in the distance. A crater with a pillar at the center. Atop it was a golden object. The mask. Nilkuu pointed his Sandstorm Blaster at the ground and fired. The pellet created a pillar of stone that catapulted Nilkuu closer to the mask. He repeated this until he was certain he was at a nice distance, upon which he fired a pellet that created a ramp for him to slide down to ground level safely. Many of his peers had often criticized his reliance on his Elemental Blaster. In his humble opinion, Nilkuu felt he was probably the only one of the Protectors to use his weapon effectively. He was using it both as a tool and a weapon. Was he not using it right then? Such a question kept nagging at him. Nagging that he's not good enough.
Nilkuu stood on the edge of the crater. The large hole in the ground was almost empty save for the sand slowly leaking into it. No threats anywhere. The Protector of Stone gripped his Blaster handle. He stepped forward cautiously. A twitch at a spot of his mask told him there was something here. He took another step. A Skull Spider burst from the dirt like a mine being stepped on. Nilkuu swatted it away with his Blaster, a large fleshy thud eminating from the arachnid's body as it was flung a considerable distance. Alright, there are Skull Spiders possibly everywhere. If Nilkuu kept calm and did what he just did again and again, he'll rid the area of the threats and will be able to peacefully get Pohatu's mask--a Spider sprung, Nilkuu smacked it away. Two more Spiders came out. Nilkuu was now swinging erratically. Skull Spiders emerged from the dirt by the dozen, all of them skittering towards the Protector of Stone. Nilkuu was now swinging wildly, teeth gritted and dashing towards the mask without looking. What was he thinking, he's tiring himself, especially after that long walk. Who knows how many more Skull Spiders there were in the desert. Maybe he had passed many of them and his wild attacks were now alerting the lot. Stupid. He's not Izotor. Don't rush into things. This is why he's still not good enough.
The Protector wedged his Blaster into the ground and fired. But only a click was heard. The pellets hadn't reloaded after his fight with the Spiders at the volcano. And he wasted them just because he got lazy for a second. He had to get excited over seeing Pohatu's mask and had to rush over. Not good enough.
He smacked another Skull Spider away. He stabbed his Blaster into the pillar, using his hand to lift himself up, then stabbing the Blaster into a spot directly above his head. He's nearing Pohatu's mask. With it, maybe he'll meet the level his father was. He'll be good enough.
Vizuna leapt from branch to branch.
He checked on his village. They're fine.
He continued leaping across branches.
He found Lewa's mask, just where he thought it'd be.
There are Skull Spiders.
He's seen this coming.
Except for that moment when he didn't. He didn't notice it. Why should he? It's a minor inconvenience. Minor inconveniences happen.
Narmoto sharply inhaled as he awoke from his nap. Bitone and his friends jumped at the Protector of Fire's sudden awakening.
"Dad!" cried Bitone, darting forward and hold his father. "What's wrong? What's happening?"
The Golden Mask-wearer sighed. He relaxed. But his eyes remained glazed, hypnotized by something he saw in his mind. "A message," Narmoto replied.
The voice echoed in Narmoto's mind, as did it in the other Protectors' minds. Narmoto didn't know how he knew this, but he did. He listened to Ekimu's voice.
"The Golden Masks of Power. The legendary artifacts of the days of old has returned. And while the Toa have not come, they have called to you six. The people's heroes of Okoto. I am Ekimu. I am in a deep slumber, unable to move but able to communicate to all of you. The Prophecy is underway, thus my ability to guide you to your destiny. To all of Okoto's destiny. At the darkest of the island's hours, the time has come to awaken me. The Mask of Creation is the solution to your problem. Come. Seek me in the City of Mask Makers. And I will help you end this threat and return Okoto to its Golden Age once more. Come, heroes."
Narmoto's head dropped, as if something had taken hold of it and held it up throughout the whole vision. His mind felt free from whatever had grasped it. The message was clear: Ekimu must be awakened to stop the Skull Spiders and their masters.
"What happened, Dad?" asked Bitone.
"Ekimu talked to me," said Narmoto. The children around him looked at each other in surprise.
"What did he say?" was the overall summary of the children's follow-up questions.
"That pretty soon," said Narmoto. "It'll be time for all of us to return home."
"It's pretty weird to see all of you with variety instead of the same face for a change," said Izotor, his stance boastful.
The Protectors were standing at the end of a decaying bridge. Once golden, it is now the color of copper, its once pristine decor now peeling away from age. The Protectors weren't there in person, but they heard the tales. They had abandoned the City thanks to Makuta's creation of the Mask of Ultimate Power. Ekimu's slumber and Makuta's vanishing left a very, very bad taste in everyone's mouths and eventually nobody wanted to live here anymore. It felt haunted by the events of the past, and the island's sudden turn from serene and beautiful to hostile and mysterious didn't help. Soon, they simply left, feeling more safe in nomadic villages than a vast metropolis where miracles were literally forged.
Narmoto looked at the once great city of legends. The deafening silence was unnerving, and the cloudy weather didn't help either.
"So this used to be our home, huh?" asked Kivoda.
"Yes," said Korgot sadly. "I can't imagine what it must have been like to live here."
"We can find out soon enough," said Izotor, flexing his shoulders. "What are we waiting for? Let's go wake Ekimu up."
"Wait," said Kivoda, putting a hand on Izotor's shoulder. "Are we forgetting what I told you guys? Something's in there. It's not entirely abandoned."
"You said something was marching along the walls?" asked Narmoto.
"Yeah. And I'm pretty sure my villagers aren't ones to make up stories about this place."
"You don't know a lot of people, do you?" asked Izotor. "We all know about this place's reputation. It's a ghost town. A muse-place for ghost stories around a campfire. We have the Toa's Masks, for Kopaka's sake. I'm sure we can take what's dished out at us."
"Even so," said Korgot. "We've only used these masks on the Spiders. That...thing back at the volcano isn't as small or as weak as them. We literally don't know what we're up against here."
Narmoto nodded in agreement when he saw Vizuna out the corner of his eye. The Protector of Jungle looked oddly concerned. He was usually accompanied with an amused expression, knowing of what is to come, but refusing to say anything about it due to some fear about muddling with the timeline. Sometimes he used this to his own amusement. But now, Vizuna was visibly worried about something. He was unsure.
"You alright, Vizuna?" The Protector of Fire's question prompted all the others to stare at Vizuna as well.
Vizuna shrugged. "It's this place. Something doesn't feel right. And I'm always sure about how places feel. My tail can't pick up anything."
"So you can finally stop being such a wise-guy about the future?" snorted Izotor. Nilkuu lightly punched him in the elbow with a small glare on his face.
"Vizuna, I'm sure...I'm sure we won't need your future-seeing," assured Narmoto. "Izotor's right. Even if we don't know how to fully use these masks, they are still the Toa's masks. Besides we get to be the first Okotans to visit and explore the City of the Mask Makers in, what, several generations?"
The Protectors reluctantly nodded in agreement.
"Well if we're done with the pep talk, the power of ice and snow has some work to do in the ghost town," said Izotor as he turned to walk towards the City. Not ten steps later, Izotor felt a tremor on the old bridge.
"Wait, are we sure this bridge is stable?" asked Kivoda worriedly.
Izotor paused. "It's not unstable. It didn't shake because I stepped on it. There's something under it."
As if on cue, the entire bridge shook as something bashed against it in a rhythm. Giant legs were crawling up the pillars that kept the bridge up. A large scaly body emerged from the side of the bridge, eventually setting itself at the center of the structure. Its six red eyes pierced into the Protectors' souls like spears. It screeched. It was a louder and deeper variation of the noises the Protectors heard come from the Skull Spiders.
"Is...is that a Skull Spider?" asked Kivoda, his eyes wide with horror.
"I'm pretty sure that thing is too big for our faces," muttered Narmoto, who was equally stunned.
Izotor, the closest to the creature charged forward, his saw spinning. He thrusted his circular weapon into the monster's leg. Sparks flew as Izotor's saw and arm were knocked back by the leg's strong hide. The Protector of Ice snarled as he jumped back. He pointed his Blaster at the ground, and an ice slide was formed upon impact. He slid backwards, slowing down until he was parallel to his fellow Protectors.
"Wow, you actually hung back," said Narmoto.
"I'm not stupid, that thing would've crushed me if I didn't get out of there," retorted Izotor. "But with our Elements, this thing doesn't stand a chance. Its little clones barely did."
Nilkuu charged forward, his Blaster at the ready. He was launched into the air by a stone pillar. The other Protectors saw that his golden mask was glowing, and a large piece of the pillar broke off from the structure. It crushed itself into a spear, which Nilkuu launched at the giant with a thrust of his Blaster. Instead of lodging into the Spider's head, the monster smacked the spear away, shattering it. Swiftly, the giant Skull Spider spat out a ball of web at the Protector of Stone, wrapping him in silk and sending him crashing into the ground.
Branches grew from the bridge, wrapping themselves around the Spider's legs. Vizuna twisted his Flame Bow, mentally controlling the Element of Jungle with Lewa's mask. The Spider's struggling broke the branches, but more grew to replace them.
An idea struck Narmoto. He rushed over and used Tahu's mask to burn off the webbing off of Nilkuu. "Nilkuu!" said Narmoto, glancing over to see that the Spider was quickly freeing himself from Vizuna's flora. "Hit him with a giant block."
Nilkuu looked over and nodded. He summoned the power of Pohatu's mask, and a giant box of Stone appeared from nowhere. Nilkuu sent it flying at the spider's face. Just as the monster had completely freed itself from the branches, it was struck back by the cube, which distintegrated upon impact. The spider was brought closer to the City entrance, but stopped itself. It screeched angrily, very irritated by the bruise on its face. It charged forward.
"Korgot! Wall!" Narmoto shouted. The Protector of Earth smashed her Star Drill into the bridge, a crack quickly made its way towards the Spider, and from it a thick wall of Earth burst out. A crash was heard. More angry screeching. Narmoto readied himself. The Spider burst through the wall in two or three hits, and the Protector of Fire blasted it with a Fire Pellet. He saw that most of the eyes were now burnt out. Disoriented, blinded, and angry. Good.
The Spider charged in the direction of the Protectors. Narmoto shouted to Izotor, "Izotor! Big ice patch! Make it slide!"
Izotor fired an Ice Pellet at the floor directly in front of the incoming Spider and swung it behind him. A large layer of ice appeared and the giant Skull Spider slipped. The Protectors darted out of the way of the squirming creature, and watched it slide past them, rumbling the bridge as it did. It was stopped by a pillar, which collapsed and dropped a large piece of it on its head. The Spider was furious now. It skittered back the way it slid, its eyesight barely working, but enough to know what to kill.
Narmoto shouted, "Kivoda! Use the ice to throw him over!"
Kivoda nodded frantically and shut his eyes. Gali's mask glowed bright gold as the Protector of Water held out his hands. Suddenly, the ice patch spontaneously melted into a long puddle. With a wave of his arms, the water shot upwards just as the Spider was running across it. The monster struggled against the water, which held him as if it was trapped in a large pond. Kivoda grunted and swung his arms towards the edge of the bridge, and the water threw the Skull Spider over it. It screamed as it fell.
"Please be bottomless, please be bottomless," chanted Narmoto as he rushed over to the side it was thrown over. The Protectors stood beside him as he looked over the edge. There was nothing but mist below. If there was a bottom, they couldn't see it. What if the Spider had landed on its legs, and is making its way up? The Protectors listened closely for a landing, each second passing increasing their fear.
Finally, after a few minutes or so, a thud was heard. The village leaders sighed in relief as several of them collapsed onto the floor from exhaustion.
"There...there aren't more are there?" asked Kivoda.
"And is the bridge okay?" asked Korgot looking at the sight of the battle. The Protectors looked over as well, seeing the signs of a conflict spread across the floor of the bridge.
"I'm...I'm sure it's alright," breathed Narmoto. "Oh Tahu, this was just the first obstacle."
The other Protectors groaned as they came to the same realization.
"No matter," said Nilkuu, who straightened up, ready to go out again. "We got a job to do. Can't let a stupid thing like a giant spider demoralize us."
Izotor stood, his face red with stress, but his pose bold. "Nilkuu's...right. We got a Mask Maker to wake up, AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO LET A MONSTER WE JUST KILLED MAKE US GO HOME!" He shouted towards the City. His shout echoed, no one but the other Protectors to hear him.
"Here's to hoping that didn't alert anybody in there," groaned Kivoda. The Protectors collected themselves. They sheathed their weapons and all took a deep breath. Then they stepped forward.
Onward to the City. May nothing but the end of the world itself stop them from their task.
To Be Continued