Chapter 7: The Court of the Crimson King
“Now Voriki… we enter the second phase.”
He notices his matoran’s smile shifts a smidge towards uncertainty, but doesn’t comment on it.
“The second phase? What’s that?”
He can’t help but snicker in absolute delight. What happens in the second phase? The entire point of this exhaustive undertaking, the end goal of all of his experiments and research on matoran and elements…
“The second phase! Finally the second phase! The second phase of this entire endeavor Voriki; you should be very proud!”
That was a true compliment. Despite all the testing, the violence, the headaches; Voriki had blown away his expectations. Even if she once had the drive to destroy every atom of Karzahni’s being, he had taken a liking towards Voriki and her tenacity. Sure; few hiccups here and there, but she did it.
“So… what happens in the second phase?”
Karzahni is usually a calm and collected being; sure an outburst would occur on occasion, but the God of Chaos could keep his emotions under control.
(The irony was not lost on him either.)
But for this moment, all of his precautions and filters fell away against the onslaught of excitement that practically gushed past his mandibles. Sure, the passing of time was hardly felt by the Great Being, but for the first time in his deific existence did the many months of work tear away at his patience. Many days spent secluded on his private isle, in his secret citadel, slaving away on an idea that would’ve been considered foolish by anyone. Dozens of his brother’s beloved pets kidnapped and torn apart; reborn as twelve different failures that only fueled his ambition further-
-and now there’s Voriki, the thirteenth attempt; defied all the odds, a paragon of his ideas come to life and living proof that Karzahni wasn’t on a madman’s journey.
Though, as he unloads his excitement onto the matoran, the Great Being can’t help but notice that Voriki has had little reaction to anything he was saying. A slight tension builds within his chest.
“- matoran, and creating a new home!” Karzahni finishes.
Voriki stiffens sharply.
“I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” she asks, her voice small.
Karzahni gives an inward sigh, slightly disappointed. A majority of his vigor went with his first explanation; having to repeat it all again kind of takes the fun out of things.
However, the confused look she’s giving him convinces the deity that another bout of exposition wouldn’t hurt.
But as he recites his elaborate plan to Voriki, the matoran seems to… space out, for lack of a better word. No indication that she was listening to anything Karzahni was saying.
Maybe it sounds boring? Perhaps I should give this explanation some dramatic flair.
As he talks to Voriki, he begins to gesture with his arms in almost a comedic fashion. Despite the growing tugging sensation in his chest, the Great Being performs an erratic dance of sorts to his monologue.
As he reaches the end, he does a twirl and defiantly points to the unseen stars above him.
He glances to the matoran-
There’s finally a reaction, but it’s not one he’s expecting.
Fear is etched onto Voriki’s face, panic seeping into her blue eyes.
“What… what is happening?”
It’s not his explanation or his ridiculous body language.
No, something was seriously awry.
Karzahni lowers his arm, “Is something wrong, Voriki?”
Her eyes are wide in fear.
“It’s like… things are skipping… like time is-”
Then he feels it.
There’s a sharp tug within his chest, like some unseen force yanked his torso back. An elusive feeling of dread seeps into the Great Being.
What is… what is this?
He now notices Voriki has stopped moving.
The matoran’s mouth is still open, stuck trying to explain the strange phenomenon that was occurring. No breathing, no eye movement; it as if she were frozen.
And her purple platings. They seemed… diluted, leaning towards a grayish color.
What is going on.
What is going on.
WHAT IS GOING-
Karzahni shakes his head furiously.
No, stop panicking. You do not panic, you are always on top of everything. Analyze the situation.
The room he and Voriki are in has also become diluted in color. So whatever was causing this unusual event was at least encompassing the training hall. Though judging by how quiet it’s become, it was likely a much larger range. There was also no sign of a foreign presence in the citadel; thus if any being was behind this… attack? The closest they could be would be outside on the isle’s rocky cliffs.
Now for Voriki.
Karzahni carefully makes his way around the matoran. However, even with simple movements like walking, the odd sensation buried in his chest constricts him with every step. With a hiss of irritation, he pushes the feelings to the side and studies Voriki. His eyes dart all over her body, looking for some deviation.
No… whatever this is, it’s not directly connected to her, the Great Being concludes. But that doesn’t do much to explain what’s going on.
Tentatively, he touches her shoulder.
Is she stuck? Can she be moved?
With a little force, Karzahni gives Voriki’s back a shove,
For a moment, Voriki looks like she’s about to fall- but before gravity can take hold, her body slows to a crawl before stopping mid-fall.
So her body can be moved by an external force; however once removed, the effect returns…
Karzahni sighs. He didn’t want to resort to this; he would rather deal with this problem himself. But time was something he hated to waste.
He’ll have to consult his brothers.
He strides to the exit, slowly reverting back to his true form.
Time is something I hate to waste.
Wings unfurl from his back as he goes under the archway.
Karzahni slowly peers back at the frozen form of Voriki, his pupils slowly becoming smaller with panic.
“If this is what I think it is,” the deity whispers to himself, “then we might be in serious trouble.”
With a final lingering glance at his favorite creation, he propels himself down the corridor to the citadel’s exit.
“Yes, this is a huge problem,” mutters the eldritch god.
Karzahni soars over the now frozen sea towards the massive island of Artakha, mandibles clicking with agitation. While the waters north of the island were more frigid, the waves were frozen not by ice, but trapped within their surging movements. Heck, even the few flying Rahi Karzahni soared past were pinned into the air, blissfully unaware of their entrapments.
Time has stopped.
As a Great Being, he and his brothers had lay witness to many unusual events; after all, the duties of god-like beings were almost completely based in the unimaginable. Creating life, molding worlds, remarkable miracles; commonplace errands of the three brothers. But the passage of time had an unspoken sacredness, never touched upon by any of the brothers. Of course, Karzahni had occasionally theorized how to go about time-traveling, but he wasn’t an idiot. Time-travel only brought headaches and endless, looping consequences.
And honestly? Makuta and Ekimu were probably too stupid to even consider about how time-travel worked.
Though as he approaches the Palace of the Great Beings, a nagging sensation creeps into his mind. His brothers were all-powerful beings, sure; but this was something new. Unknown. And now, Karzahni can’t help but feel slightly concerned for the Creator and the Overseer.
He lands on the balcony of the main hall and rushes inside. His many eyes scan his surroundings, searching for his brothers.
“Ekimu? Makuta?” he calls out.
Then, a tug in his chest.
Color seeps into his surroundings, the sounds of wildlife crescendo back to life as a weight is lifted off Karzahni’s chest.
Time has resumed.
And as he peers down the main hall, he spots his two brothers. A sense of relief fills Karzahni. He scurries towards them.
“Ekimu, Makuta! What has-”
Something isn’t right.
Makuta, the immovable giant, is hunched over panting. For the first time in Karzahni’s life with his controlling brother, he has never seen this level of concern etched on Makuta’s face.
And Ekimu… looked different.
The God of Creation always donned his Mask of Creation, as he and his brothers all wore masks corresponding to their powers. But the mask on Ekimu’s face was one unbeknownst to him. It had a half disc-like shape covering the top portion of Ekimu’s head, and was arrayed with a plethora of strange symbols. The strangest part, however, was how the mask contorted the light around itself, making it appear almost blurry. As Karzahni got closer, he could make out tiny stands of light criss-crossing over the mask.
Makuta turns towards Ekimu, “It seems that I have limited movement while time is stopped. For some reason, you are more susceptible to the…”
Makuta’s voice trails off as he finally notices his third brother approach them. His eyes narrow.
“Makuta, is something wrong?” Ekimu asks. “Is there someone there?”
Karzahni stops a few feet from his brothers and crosses his arms in frustration.
“And here I was thinking that you two didn’t have the brains to figure this stuff out,” he says, with a twinge of annoyance. “Explain yourselves; what is that mask, and why does it exist?”
Ekimu’s head jerks towards Karzahni’s direction, as if he were spooked by his presence.
“K-Karzahni! When did you arrive?!”
The Chaos God raises an eyebrow in skepticism; though before he can voice his confusion, Makuta straightens himself up and points to Ekimu’s new mask.
“While using the mask, we have found that the user loses all visual ability, as well as a decent proportion of hearing,” Makuta says. “They can only see the realm within the mask.”
Karzahni gives the two a blank stare, as thoughts race through his mind. Were his brothers not aware of what just happened? The sheer scope of power that this object wielded?
“Did you… find this mask?”
He had an inclination of the answer already, but for once he wanted to be wrong.
“No,” admits Ekimu, who now has removed the time mask, “I created it.”
Karzahni glances at Makuta, his tentacles anxiously twisting around him.
At this point, Makuta would be giving a scolding lecture about being cautious of what Ekimu created; or hell, he would’ve destroyed the mask already.
But the giant was all but silent.
“Makuta, you have nothing to say? No complaints? No concerns over this very dangerous artifact that Ekimu has created?”
“Why should I? The Vahi was not a surprise for me; we created the mask together.”
The Vahi? So the mask has a name; wonderful. It’s like the two idiots before him were oblivious to what they just-
Then it hits him.
Karzahni feels a strange sensation in his chest, a foreign feeling that was completely new for him.
“You two… collaborated on this project?”
His chest gets slightly tighter.
“And… you decided to exclude me? To not tell me?”
“You… you weren’t around,” says Ekimu, “and if… I mean we would’ve wanted… we would’ve…”
The stammering Great Being doesn’t make eye contact with his brother.
Karzahni’s head is pounding; he’s not exactly sure what he’s feeling, but whatever it is he’s not familiar with it and it’s making it difficult to think. He feels his mandibles open wider and wider, tentacles uncoiling and spines flaring up; an aggressive display.
But it didn’t make sense. He’s been angry and frustrated many times before; why is this situation making him react in such an unusual way? Why is his chest so tight? Why did it feel like his head is swelling under pressure?
Distressed, Ekimu pulls himself back as Makuta steps forward.
“Ekimu. You mentioned you wanted to see how your water tribe was progressing. Take your leave while I… placate our brother’s temper.”
Makuta and Karzahni lock eyes with one another, daring for the other to make a move. Ekimu takes his brother’s cue and hurriedly leaves the palace. The footsteps fade away as the remaining brothers glare daggers at each other.
It would be a tense moment of silence between them; if only Karzahni’s head wasn’t pounding along with the subtle hissing emerging from his throat.
Finally, Makuta sighs and breaks the fatal staring contest. He strides over to an opening archway, with a clear view of the mountains around them.
“Honestly now Karzahni; you, a tantrum?” says Makuta, with a tone akin to a parent scolding a child. “You’re embarrassing yourself.”
Karzahni doesn’t budge, “Why did you create the Vahi? For what purpose?”
“For insurance. In case something goes awry, with the Matoran or those elemental gods. We will have the power to undo our mistakes.”
The God of Chaos tenses up, eyes widening.
“… the mask does more than stop time?”
Makuta stands comfortably in the following silence, but Karzahni doesn’t need confirmation. It only makes sense that the mask could alter aspects of time; but to what degree was a mystery. A mystery that he will not be getting answers to anytime soon.
“… Your idea? Or Ekimu’s?"
“He accidentally discovered how to see our timeline; with my aid we refined it, under the pretense that the Vahi would be utilized as a safeguard.”
Another hiss slips out past Karzahni’s teeth. Of course they discovered how to manipulate the very fabric of time by sheer luck. Honestly, dumb luck would be more fitting term for them.
“I still cannot fathom why you idiots withheld this information from me!”
That was his most pressing issue. The Vahi was undoubtedly the most powerful creation any of the Great Beings ever conceived, so why didn’t either of them say anything?
Makuta turns to him-
-and there’s a smirk on his face.
A small one, almost unnoticeable, but it’s there.
Karzahni’s hissing morphs into a low growl, and he feels his body elongate and grow in size.
Soon, he’s looking down at his formerly giant brother. His jaws thrash in anger, clawed hands clenched into fists.
“YOU’RE PITIFUL, MAKUTA! YOUR PATHETIC VENDETTA AGAINST ME WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR DUTY AS A GREAT BEING?! YOU WOULD RATHER I LAY IN IGNORANCE OF AN ARTIFACT THAT CAN BEND THE LAWS OF TIME ITSELF!?”
His massive tentacles push against the stone walls, cracking under the building pressure. Vitriolic anger vibrate through Karzahni’s skull; his calculated coolness succumbing to the building rage.
“AND EVEN WORSE!” he seethes to his nonchalant brother, “YOU DECIDED TO FORCE EKIMU INTO THIS COLLUSION! DRAG OUR NAIVE BROTHER INTO YOUR SCHEMES LIKE THE SHAMELESS, POWER-HUNGRY CONTROL FREAK YOU ARE!! HOW DARE YOU STAND BEFORE ME AS IF YOU HAD ANY FIBER OF DIGNITY LEFT IN YOUR BEING!!”
Makuta is unfazed by Karzahni’s outburst. He calmly walks over and stops a foot away from his brother’s monstrous form. He softly chuckles and looks Karzahni dead in the eye:
“It was Ekimu’s idea not to tell you. He doesn’t trust you anymore.”
As soon as the words leave the Overseer’s mouth, all of Karzahni’s aggression evaporates and leaves behind numbness. Confusion crosses his face as his mind tries to register what his brother just stated to him.
Makuta’s smirk returns to his serious demeanor as he returns to his position near the archway.
“You seem shocked. I don’t know why; you should have known this would happen. But of course, you always underestimated Ekimu.”
Karzahni begins to shrink down; he opens and closes his mouth, trying to speak but unable to find his voice.
“As much as I enjoy your confusion, I am obliged to explain on behalf of our brother wishes.”
He continues to stare out into the scenery, watching the twin suns slowly fall towards the horizon. The landscape is basking in a warm orange glow.
“He knows you’ve been taking matoran. He doesn’t know what for, but I can guess they’re either all dead or maimed, correct?”
Karzahni remains silent.
“Are you aware of how many you took? Ekimu verified who was missing from each village; the total number is around sixty matoran. That many matoran don’t disappear naturally.”
The only sound is the soft breeze blowing for the archway.
“You betrayed Ekimu’s trust; the brother he asks to keep an eye out for his missing people is the one behind it all; it’s frankly abhorrent.”
There’s no response. Makuta exhales, almost as if having to explain everything was exhausting.
“You know, my unfortunate brother, I can’t help but find your previous rant quite hypocritical. I wonder how you stood before us with any dignity, knowing you yourself were a selfish, lying, egotistical monster. You assumed that your intellect was invincible, that Ekimu was too simple and gullible to catch on to your schemes. For this past year, you placed yourself on a pedestal that you believed was indomitable; but all you’ve done is reveal your true colors.”
Makuta turns to his brother, disappointment etched upon his face.
“Pretend to be better than us; pretend to be untouchable and above consequences. Pretend to be unmatched in intellect and planning. But know this outcome is the price you pay for assuming you actually were.”
With that, Makuta heads down the hallway, towards the direction Ekimu fled towards. Karzahni, now smaller than he once was, watches Makuta’s hulking frame travel further and further. The heavy footsteps echo in the distance, before they too disappear. The hall is drenched in the crimson color of the fading suns, but Karzahni remains motionless.
Finally, he finds his voice.
“… I should return to the citadel. Make sure Voriki is okay.”
His chest hurts, his head is throbbing. His limbs don’t feel entirely in his control. And yet, all these pains and feelings remained unnamed to the God of Chaos.
Did he feel remorse? He wasn’t sure.
Was the Vahi out of his reach? For now at least.
… Would Ekimu forgive him?
Karzahni didn’t want to know the answer to that.
It is night on Artakha.
The Overseer and Creator sit on the massive staircase leading to the palace. Firebugs dance around them, their soft glow illuminating the brothers.
“… I… I’m glad you told me the truth about Karzahni and what he was… doing…”
Makuta side glances his brother.
Ekimu turns to him, “Was it right to keep him away from the Vahi? I’m not… I’m angry that he went behind my back but…”
“Trust me Ekimu. It was necessary for our brother to realize his mistakes, and he must learn that actions have consequences.”
Ekimu sheepish nods, “I guess so.”
“Do not fear, brother. It will all work out in the end.”