Northern Continent, 17,500 years ago
“Okay… how about, uh… five widgets. I can give you five widgets. It’s all I got.”
Lhikan sighed as he shook his head. “I’m not a charity, Jahnis. I’ve got a business to run and I can’t run it if I give away every tool I make for whatever a Matoran happens to be carrying on their person at the time.”
“Come on, fire-spitter,” Jahnis groaned. “You’re the only crafter in town. It’s not like you’ve got competition; we’ve got no one else to turn to.” The Fe-Matoran dug around in his satchel, not bothering to hide the disgruntled look on his bronze mask. He then pulled out some metallic materials and put them onto Lhikan’s desk along with the five widgets he had already placed down.
“Tell you what, you can have some of the scraps I found yesterday. You can use it to make more tools or whatever. Deal?”
Lhikan stared down at Jahnis’ offerings, contemplating whether to accept them or not. He really did not want to establish a precedent of letting the other Matoran in his village getting away with discounts, not after he had already been forced to lower his prices by the village’s leader. At the same time however, it was getting late and he wanted to get Jahnis out of his shop as quickly as possible. Realizing he had no other options, the Ta-Matoran crafter scooped up the widgets and placed them into his till.
“Deal,” he said. “Thanks for the materials.”
Jahnis grinned as he picked up the tool he had purchased. “Don’t mention it!”
“I won’t,” Lhikan muttered under his breath as soon as the Fe-Matoran had gone out the door. It really got under his mask how easily beings like Jahnis were able to haggle him and get goods for a price lower than he had intended to sell them for. It was one of many reasons why he wanted to move out of the northern continent and set sail for somewhere like Stelt or, dare he dream, Metru Nui. At least then his skills would be respected and he would be able to make a name for himself, rather than be exploited by the likes of Jahnis.
Sighing to himself, Lhikan quickly closed up shop, putting away his tools and materials. As he was about to take down the lightstone at the entrance before turning in for the night, he heard a strange sound coming from outside. It sounded distant, probably coming from the outskirts of the village, but close enough that it got his attention. When he heard it again, he involuntarily shivered. It sounded like a high-pitch shriek, akin to a Lava Hawk screeching, while also sounding like someone screaming in pain. He couldn’t tell if it was a single sound coming from a single source, or two separate sounds that were overlapping with each other. The fact that he even had to ask that question was not a good thing, in his mind.
Taking a deep breath, he slowly opened the door to his shop and boldly poked his head out. He could see that other Matoran wandering around the village had also heard the sound, including Jahnis who had a petrified expression on his mask. He then saw the village’s Po-Matoran leader Meporus and gestured for him to come closer.
“What in the Great Spirit’s name was that?” Lhikan asked.
Meporus shook his head. “Your guess is as good as mine. I suggest you take shelter, in case whatever made that sound comes here.” To all of the other Matoran within earshot, he said, “That goes for all of you. Hunker down now or—”
He trailed off as the sound came again, this time louder than before… and in a larger multitude. Lhikan’s eyes went wide as he spotted several twisted shapes flying in towards the village, quickly growing larger as they came closer and closer. Jahnis and the other Matoran cried out in alarm and ran for cover as the strange creatures descended and landed, striking the ground with long staffs in their hands. They had a serpentine look to them, with sharp fins jutting out from their hunched-over backs. As the Matoran fled, one of the creatures shot a bolt of energy from its staff which struck Jahnis square in the chest, knocking him to the ground.
“No!” Without even thinking, Lhikan ran over to the Fe-Matoran’s side, ignoring Meporus’s protests. Upon reaching Jahnis, Lhikan saw that the other Matoran had sickly green lines coursing through his body. As the crafter’s mind raced on what to do, the twisted creature that had attacked Jahnis started to stomp towards them, its green face splitting open to reveal an even more disgusting serpentine creature within. Whatever these things were, they had to have come from the depths of Karzahni… and even then, Lhikan wasn’t sure if Karzahni could dream of nightmares as terrible as these.
As the Ta-Matoran stared at the creature, frozen in shock, it raised its staff again, ready to strike, when the village was lit up by a fireball that flew out of nowhere and struck the monster in the back. Screeching in pain, the creature whirled around only to receive more fireballs directly in the chest. Overwhelmed, it fell to the ground before having its head smashed in by a large hammer. Lhikan’s eyes went from the slain creature to the tall black and red figure that now stood over it, hammer in one hand and a readied fireball in the other.
“Don’t you Matoran have a curfew to meet,” Toa Dume asked him wryly.
Still staring wide-eyed at his savior, Lhikan gestured to the poisoned Jahnis. “Please… he needs help.”
Dume acknowledged him with a nod before hurling the fireball still in his hand at another one of the creatures. “Kolak,” he called out. “We need a healer over here.”
It was at that moment that Lhikan realized that the Toa of Fire had not come alone. As a Toa of Ice made his way over to where they were, a bulky Toa of Earth burst out of the ground and grabbed one of the creatures by the legs before pulling them back underground with him. Meanwhile, a Toa of Stone and Toa of Air teamed up to unleash a tornado that sent rocks flying at the heads of the twisted monsters.
It was the first time in his life that Lhikan had witnessed Toa in action… and already, he was questioning whether a crafter was what he wanted to be for the rest of his life.
Upon reaching them, Toa Kolak knelt down beside Jahnis and looked over the Fe-Matoran’s poisoned body. Without his word, his mask began to glow and the green lines throughout Jahnis’s body slowly began to fade away.
“This should sustain him for now,” the Toa of Ice said, though Lhikan wasn’t sure if he was speaking to him or Dume. “Once we’re done, Madia should check on him and use her element to fully cleanse him.”
“Right.” Dume fixed Lhikan with a stern look. “You should take your friend to safety. And stay there. Things could get hectic here.”
Without waiting for a response from Lhikan, the Toa of Fire turned around… only to jump back when a Toa of Water suddenly appeared right in front of him. Flames burst out involuntarily from Dume’s hands and he quickly closed them to dowse them.
“Madia,” he said slowly, as if trying to control his temper, “how many times have I told you not to do that?”
The Toa of Water smirked at him. “I had to get your attention somehow,” she said. “Anyways, Aduro and the others have managed to push the Rahkshi back to the edge of the village. We’re going to try and push them into this bottomless pit we’ve found.”
“Bottomless pit?” Lhikan repeated, causing Dume to look back at him as if he was surprised the Ta-Matoran was still there. “You mean the Chasm of Despair?”
Toa Madia snorted. “You mean it has a name? That’s cute.”
“It’s serious!” Lhikan snapped. “We Matoran avoid it for a reason. The terrain surrounding it is incredibly unstable. One wrong step and you’ll find yourself sliding to your doom.”
“Thanks for the warning, but I think we’ve got this handled,” Dume said coolly. “Now get your friend and yourself to shelter immediately.”
With that, the three Toa swiftly departed, tools at the ready as they headed off to deal with the remaining creatures—”Rahkshi,” as they were apparently called. Lhikan watched them leaved before scanning the village for any other Matoran. Meporus was shouting and directing others to their homes. As a Vo-Matoran ran by, Lhikan waved her down and asked her to help him carry Jahnis to his shop. Once they were inside, they set the Fe-Matoran down on Lhikan’s cot and the crafter took a moment to check on his friend’s condition. While his body was no longer coursing with poison, Jahnis still looked rather weak, his eyes dim behind his Kanohi Kakama.
Looking up at the Vo-Matoran, Lhikan said, “Stay here with him. I’m going to get some help.”
“But Meporus said to stay here,” she started to say.
But Lhikan wasn’t paying her any heed. Rushing outside, he ran in the direction of the Chasm of Despair, where he could already hear the sounds of fighting. He jumped over the fence that separated the village from the outside area and looked ahead. At least seven of the mutated Rahkshi remained, exchanging blows with the six Toa. The Toa of Earth that Lhikan had seen earlier lunged at a Rahkshi in maroon armor with his arm-mounted drills only to be struck with the Rahkshi’s staff. Inexplicably, the Toa staggered back and seemed to lose his footing, his eyes closing as he drifted into a deep sleep.
“Hold on, brother!” the Toa of Stone cried as he hurled a curved blade at the Rahkshi, knocking its staff out of his hand. He then summoned the tool back to his hand with his Mask of Rebounding before stomping the ground with his feet, causing a large rock to erupt from the ground and smash the Rahkshi to pieces.
‘‘Wow’’, Lhikan thought. In all of his life, he had always thought the stories of the Toa to be exaggerated. But here, he was seeing firsthand just how powerful they were.
Above him, the skies started to rumble and Lhikan saw that a golden Rahkshi was pointing its staff to the sky. The Toa of Air Aduro stood before it, concentrating as he activated his Mask of Weather Control. The thunder grew even louder as rain started to pour down.
“Aduro, don’t!” Toa Madia said. “You’re making it—”
“I know what I’m doing, Madia,” Aduro snapped.
“No, you’re making it rain!”
Alarm bells went off in Lhikan’s head as he realized what was happening. The rain was starting to make the ground at the Toa’s feet wetter and less stable… and they were standing at the precipice of the Chasm of Despair. Whether or not this was what the Rahkshi was trying to achieve, it took advantage of the situation and stabbed the ground with its staff, causing the ground at the Toa’s feet to fall apart. While Madia managed to teleport away with her Kanohi Kualsi, Aduro got caught in the mudslide and he started to fall towards the pit. His brothers and sister called out his name but none of them were able to reach him in time. As the Toa of Air fell into the pit, so too did the Rahkshi and both of their cries could be heard as they plummeted into the Chasm of Despair.
As Lhikan watched on in horror, a blue-plated Rahkshi spotted him and started to charge towards him, its staff raised high as it released an ear-piercing shriek. Lhikan snapped back to reality and turned to run, only to slip and fall due to the wet terrain. As the Rahkshi bore down on him, the tip of its staff glowing, Lhikan felt his life flash before his eyes as he prepared for the end….
With a roaring cry, Toa Dume descended from above and brought his hammer down on top of the Rahkshi, smashing its armor into pieces. A bolt of energy fired from its staff and Lhikan barely dodged in time to avoid it. It struck a nearby rock and reduced it to a pile of dust.
Lhikan stared wide-eyed at where the rock had just been, realizing just how lucky he was to still be alive. He then rolled onto his back to look up at Toa Dume, who was staring down at him with admonishment.
“You really know how to get yourself into trouble, don’t you?” the Toa of Fire remarked.
“Believe me, I’m not like this everyday,” Lhikan replied.
Dume gave him a doubtful look before turning when Madia teleported next to him, panting heavily.
“I’m sorry, Dume,” she said. “I tried to… tried to get him out, but the pit collapsed in on itself. I had to get out of there.”
Dume put a hand on her shoulder. “You did what you could, sister. There’s nothing we can do for him now.” He then looked around, realizing how quiet it had gotten. “Are the others…?”
“Taken care of,” Madia said. “Kolak froze the remaining Rahkshi and Rudolm smashed them apart. Now they’re just trying to wake up Tehumus.”
Dume nodded solemnly and seemed to be deep in thought. As he rubbed his chin, he glanced over at Lhikan and a smirk began to appear on his Kanohi Kiril.
“Well, crafter, since you seem so eager to be in our presence, maybe you can help us take care of our friend the same way we helped take care of yours?”
Lhikan stared at the Toa of Fire in silence for a moment, processing his words. He then quickly nodded as he got back to his feet.
“Certainly. My shop is always open to you. I’m sure the people of my village would love to meet you.”
“And we would love to meet them.” This time, the smile on Dume’s mask seemed sincere. “Lead the way, crafter. You do have a name, don’t you?”
“Of course. My name is Lhikan.”
“Toa Dume.” The Toa of Fire paused to give the Ta-Matoran an appraising look. “You know, Lhikan, I see some of myself in you.”
“I can’t tell if that’s a compliment or not.”
“Then you’re already off to a better start than I am.”
Several days had passed since the Rahkshi incident. The Toa had long since departed and the storm had subsided, revealing blue skies above.
The Matoran were blissfully unaware of the two figures that now walked on the outskirts of their village, carefully approaching the Chasm of Despair. One of them peered into the deep pit and spotted the remains of what appeared to be a green-armored Toa and a mutated golden Rahkshi.
Letting out a low whistle, the first being said, “I take back what I said. That Mask of Mutation of yours sure is something.”
“It certainly is,” his partner said. “Perhaps the Shadowed One should consider paying me more for my continued service.”
The first Dark Hunter snorted as he shook his head. “Don’t get your hopes up. You’re lucky he doesn’t just kill you and take the mask for himself.”
“Can his species even use Kanohi?”
“Doesn’t matter. So long as no one else can use it.”
A groan came from below and the two Dark Hunters looked back down into the pit.
“Wait,” the first one said. “Is he still alive?”
The other regarded the Toa of Air carefully, watching as his badly-injured form twitched. “Seems like it.”
“Shall we finish him off?”
“Or,” the other Dark Hunter said, “we bring him to the Shadowed One to show that this wasn’t a complete waste of time.”
The first Dark Hunter looked at his partner, then to the Toa of Air, then back again. Then he grinned.
“Now that, my friend, is a wonderful idea.”