“The Reign of Darkness”
Makuta rose up from the sea, stretching his new limbs and shaking away the rust of his new bodys watery slumber. He moved his crimson eyes skyward and thought about the journey he’d taken to get here, all the way back to his time in Metru Nui, where it all began…
Back in the Coliseum, Makuta watched the toa enter at the floor, raising the great disks above there heads in triumph, and calling out to be recognized as true toa. How annoying. But how to deal with them? Should I challenge them to cross the floor? No, too risky, it’s possible they might succeed. Perhaps I should recognize them, they do recognize me as Turaga Dume right now. What could I accomplish with a toa team on a leash? No, still too risky, better to deal with them outside the public eye. Makuta raised his arms above his head “All hail the Toa!” he proclaimed to the people. “Come heros, meet with me in my chambers. Let us discuss the growing darkness in Metru Nui...”
Makuta smiled at the memory of tearing the young toa limb from limb. Ah, such fun, if only that mask maker had made me the Mask of Time before I was forced to kill him. It would have saved me so many years of tedious waiting. But no matter, I succeeded and that is what’s important, I even got the six great disks as a consolation prize. A poor prize compared to the Mask of Time, but a prize none the less. Once those pesky toa were out of the way everything fell into place, the Brotherhood, the Dark Hunters, even the Order, everyone did everything according to my plan. Makuta finished reveling in his own genius turned his gaze inside his massive new body, he saw chaos, glorious chaos, but chaos could not be allowed to remain. Chaos is what allowed him to get this body, and he would not allow chaos to take it away…
Ten years later…
The Legion of Darkness convened in a large chamber, the walls were decorated with Kanohi masks and toa tools, and, in some cases, pieces of toa themselves. A long table stretched down the center of the room, around it gathered the delegates from the Skakdi, the Brotherhood of Makuta, the Vortixx, and even the warlords of the League of Six Nations. At the head of the table shadows coalesced into the form of The Makuta himself. He was toying with the Mask of Psychometry when across the room space folded in on itself and at the end of the table stood Artakha. “Artakha, how nice of you to join us,” Makuta leered “Nice to see you’ve gotten over your agoraphobia enough to leave that island of yours. Would you care to give me that mask of yours yet?” Artakha glared at Makuta, “Why have you summoned me here?” “Well you see, I’ve finally managed to exterminate the toa, no thanks to you creating more every few years, and now I’m looking on to brighter horizons.” Makuta rose from his seat and began walking around the table. “The only problem is that this body doesn’t have he means to leave this system on it’s own, for that I need the Red Star. And, thanks to all those toa we’ve been killing in droves being resurrected on the Red Star, they were kind enough to destroy it for me.” now halfway down the table Makuta seemed to spit the last few words as though they were poison in his mouth. “So I need your mask to fix the blasted thing, so that I can get off this rock! What do you say? Care to give me it?” Makuta stopped a quarter of the way away from Artakha, waiting for a response. Artakha held his gaze, unwavering as he uttered his one syllable reply. “No.” Makuta shook his head and resumed walking “Really? Because I was hoping I could trade you for it. What would you say if I gave you a Hau, a Miru, a Kakama, a Pakari, an Akaku, and a Kaukau?” Artakha’s expression grew more urgent taking on almost an attribute of fear, Makuta continued “Ah yes, Helryx was most informative of your children hiding in the codex, eventually at least. I’m amazed that we never found them until now, but you probably had something to do with that didn’t you? Regardless, it doesn’t matter now, they are being killed as we speak. You see Artakha, there is no hope left, just give me the mask and surrender your puny life.” Whatever small amount of fear Artakha’s expressing held melted away and was replaced with anger. Makuta, now little more than arms reach from Artakha felt the pull as reality folded in on itself once more, and Artakha was gone.
A Squad of Skakdi and Rahkshi marched down the corridor, advancing into the large circular room where six toa could be seen floating in stasis. The vats that contained them were arranged in a circle in the center of the chamber, a red skinned Skakdi advanced to the first one and plunged a sword into it. The green toa inside gasped as the blade plunge into his midsection, the light fading from his wide eyes as death overtook him. The Skakdi laughed turning to one of his cohorts, “Hey Zaktan, this is a lot more fun when they don’t fight back!” The green skinned Skakdi glared at the imbecile, “Get back to work!” He sneered. The group fanned out proceeding to dispense with the other sleeping toa, the sick creatures savoring every moment before collecting the masks and armor, and moving to the next.
Circling the chamber, the group finally converged on the final toa, preparing to enjoy slaughtering yet another of their hated enemy. Suddenly reality around them shifted, and the deranged Skakdi were concussed backwards, finding a tall imposing figure standing before them. “Who are you?” exclaimed Hakann, staring at the impressively large and seemingly powerful being. Artakha didn’t even deign to answer him, with a wave of his hand a crystal serpent appeared on either side of him, immediately attacking the prone Skakdi, the Rahkshi now joining the engagement. Ignoring them all Artakha gazed at his only remaining son, suspended in stasis, waiting to be awakened. He glanced over the red protosteel armor worn by the toa, as perfect as the day he made it, he knew he must save this child, but he would not survive a moment in this world. Seeing his last hope before him he activated his mask. Like a river understanding flowed into him, he saw the mechanics of the toa pod, the crystal serpents he’d summoned to protect his child, and he knew what he must do.
As the sound of rushing feet approached, Artakha finished and stepped back to admire his work. Wires and mechanics came from all around the toa pod, all flowing to the top where they connected to a golden Olmak. It wasn’t pretty, but it should work. Artakha said his last goodbyes and then his the button to eject the toa pod. The stasis fluid drained out, the transparent walls became opaque, and then the toa pod flew out into the blackness of space, traveling a short ways before disappearing from this universe entirely. Artakha turned to see his crystal serpents destroyed and the forces of the Legion of Darkness advancing towards him, with nothing left to do reality shifted one last time, and he found himself on the sanctuary of his island.
Far away from it’s home, a toa pod comes into existence, shortly before crashing into the ashen ground. It’s precious cargo spilled out into an alien world, and for one toa, a great journey has begun.
“An Island in Peril”
“An Alien World”
Tahu awoke lying on the floor of a small domed hut. Slowly climbing to his feet, he examined his surroundings, it was a circular chamber, about twice as wide as he was tall, standing now, his head crested the apex of the domed ceiling. Where am I? Who am I? Tahu collapsed to his knees clutching his head, searing pain came over him like a knife being driven into his skull as his memories began to flow back.
He remembered it all, his creation, his brothers, his sister, their father Artakha. He remembered training with Hydraxon and protecting the Av-Matoran in Karda Nui and entering his toa pod with his siblings when they were no longer needed. Then memories that were not his own. Flashes of toa being chased and killed, matoran running in fear, Skakdi and Rahkshi patrolling the streets. He saw a dark being sitting on a throne at the end of a long table surrounded by a villainous host, the walls of the room decorated with trophies taken from the toa they’ve slaughtered. He remembers the dark being, begging him for something, and him denying it, he remembers seeing his siblings murdered, their bodies torn asunder while they slept, then looted for whatever treasures they might have. He remembers looking at himself, asleep in his toa pod, and then committing it to the darkness of space. Through all of it one name echoed in his mind, a name that he can only assume belongs to the dark being that has hunted his kind to extinction: Makuta. The pain slowly began to subside and Tahu rose to his feet, continuing to examine his surroundings, unsure of where he is.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” a small voice came from behind. Tahu spun around, fire coalescing in his hands. Behind him he saw a small being, only half his height, standing in the door. “Calm down, there is no need for that. No one here means you any harm, toa.” the small, now frighted, being said taking a few steps back. Tahu looked him over, and, seeing that he wasn’t a threat, released the flame that had been burning in his palms, “Where am I?” he asked, still confused by his current predicament. “You are in Viport, and I am Arjuna, the leader of the Viport district.” Arjuna replied. “Viport?” said Tahu, “Where is that?” “Viport is a small district on the outskirts of Pyra, one of the last remaining cities in the Region of Fire. It is a newer district, formed for me and my people after our village to the north was destroyed. There is safety in numbers…” Arjuna trailed off, his features sullen as he sadly looked off into space. After a moment, Arjuna regained focus and asked “So what is your name toa?” “I am Tahu, Toa of Fire.” came the response. Arjuna’s face grew dark and suspicious, “Tahu is dead, who are you really.” “What do you mean I’m dead? I am Tahu, Toa of Fire.” Tahu asserted, uncomfortable with being told he’s dead. “No, Tahu died, along with the other toa, you cannot be Tahu. Besides, you look vaguely like him at best.” Arjuna’s voice wavered with uncertainty. Tahu’s face flamed with anger “What do you know about the murder of my siblings?” he interrogated, grabbing Arjuna by the neck and lifting him off the ground. “They were killed, along with you, by Kulta, The Skull Grinder in the City of The Mask Makers.” Arjuna babled, is suspicion now once again replaced with fear. “What manner of being is this Kulta, who can kill six toa with ease?” Tahu continued, unsatisfied. “The like that was never meant to walk among the living. But it isn’t his power that you should be worried about, it’s his mask.” Arjuna’s voice was dark, and shaking with fear, as if the mere mention of Kulta would summon him to the room. “Mask? Why? What mask does he wear?” Tahu asked, lowering Arjuna to the ground, now more intrigued than angry. “Kulta wears the Mask of Creation.” Arjuna replied, glancing over his shoulder as if he expected some enemy to be there. “No, that is impossible. The Mask of Creation belongs to my father Artakha. No one can harm him on his island.” Tahu dismissed, now quite calm. “Artakha? Who is this Artakha? The Mask of Creation belonged to Ekimu, before he was betrayed by his brother Makuta. Now it belongs to The Skull Grinder.” Arjuna countered, now too scared to call Kulta by name. “No, Artakha has the Mask of Creation. He sent me here…” Tahu trailed off “Where did you find me?” he asked with urgency. Arjuna was confused by the sudden change of subject but happy to stop talking about The Skull Grinder “You’re pod crashed near one of our villagers gathering lava to light the new houses in the district. You were unconscious so they brought you here.” Arjuna explained. “So you’re saying I fell from the sky?” Tahu asked. “No, according to Kapono your pod appeared from nowhere just before crashing into the ground.” Arjuna continued. “Kapono is the villager that found me?” Tahu inquired. “Yes, why?” Arjuna replied. “Could he take me to the wreckage?” Tahu continued. “Of course, but why?” Arjuna asked. “I’m not sure, hopefully there will be answers there.” Tahu replied.
Kapono led them to the site of the wreckage, the once smooth cylindrical shape of the toa pod was now twisted and warped, pieces scattered across the ashen ground. Tahu began to pick over the wreckage, searching for signs of what had happened to him. Reaching inside he found his Fire Sword, “I was wondering where that went…” he muttered, and continued his search. Scattered around Tahu found bits of mechanics, pieces of the toa pod, random gears, and clockwork mechanisms, nothing to tell him what was going on.
“Wait, what’s this?” Arjuna called out from a short ways away. He held in his hand a golden mask angular in design, with two horn like protrusions starting around eye level and continuing to their conclusion below the chin. Tahu ran over and took the mask in hand, looking it over there was something familiar about it. And then it dawned on him, he’d seen the mask in his father’s workshop, labeled and categorized along with an assortment of other masks and artifacts. “This is a Kanohi Olmak.” Tahu spoke with reverence. Arjuna’s face once again filled with confusion “Kanohi?” he asked. “Yes, a Kanohi, you know, a mask of power, just like the one I’m wearing, and the one I’m assuming the other toa were wearing as well.” Tahu explained. “Oh, I see, what element is it?” Arjuna inquired. “Element? The Kanohi Olmak is the Mask of Dimensional Gates. It’s more than just an elemental mask!” Tahu exclaimed. “It all makes sense now, why everything here is different, why you don’t understand simple things like Kanohi, and why you think I’m dead. It all makes sense!” Tahu continued excitedly. “What? What is it?” Arjuna asked, becoming increasingly confused. “You must tell me everything about this island, and it’s history. Then maybe I can explain what is happening to you.” Tahu said, still obviously excited. And so Arjuna began to explain.
“This island is named Okoto, thousands of years ago, our people enjoyed peace under the rule of the Mask Makers: the brothers Ekimu and Makuta. They provided the villages with masks of elemental power to protect against the dangers of the island. Over the years Makuta became jealous of the prais Ekimu got for his masks and attempted to forge what he called the Mask of Ultimate Power using multiple elements. When he put it on, he lost control and began to rampage until Ekimu faced him and managed to pull the mask from his face. The island was cast into darkness and both fell into a deep sleep. Over the next thousand years, greater and greater threats have been crawling up from the deep, including the Skull Spiders, which proved too much for the protectors to handle on their own. They were forced to go to the Temple of Time and summon the toa. The toa arrived soon after and laid waste to the Skull Spiders, only to find a new threat lying in wait in the Ancient City. They managed to battle to the center of the city and awake Ekimu, but when they went to confront Kulta in the forge, He put on the Mask of Creation and destroyed them all. Since then Kulta’s army of skeletal warriors has plundered the the island, the protectors tried to take a stand at the temple of time, but they were all slaughtered, including my brother Narmoto. I now wear his mask of fire. Now The Skull Grinder has enslaved all of us villagers to help his army search the island for Makuta’s Mask of Ultimate Power, with the plan to use it to kill Makuta when he awakens as well. If we resist we are executed, and so everyday we go out in search of the mask.” Arjuna finished his tale with a tone of hopelessness, knowing there was nothing he could do to change it. “When Kapono brought you to me, I gained hope that you might help us defeat him, but what is one toa against The Skull Grinder?” Arjuna continued dismayed. “So what is your story toa?” he asked. Tahu turned and looked off into the distance, taking in the molten landscape. “I come from a world of darkness. In my world we lived under the protection of the Great Spirit Mata Nui, until he was also betrayed by his brother The Makuta. I have long slept, and in my absence the people I was supposed to protect have been terrorized. The Makuta has killed the Great Spirit, and taken his place, and ever since there has only been darkness. My race has been hunted to extinction, my father sent me away, far away, to protect me, in the hopes that one day I can return and free our people. You see, Arjuna, I come from a world far away from here, in another universe entirely. And compared to the darkness of The Makuta, this Skull Grinder is like a stone compared to a mountain.” Tahu turned to face Arjuna, “I may not yet have the power to free my people, but I promise I will free yours. I will face this Skull Grinder in battle, and I will render him to ash.” There was a darkness in Tahu’s eyes, a determination that Arjuna had only seen once before. It was the sort of determination that said that failure was not an option, he would not die trying, he would succeed. It was a determination born not of courage, or of necessity, but of rage. It was the same determination he’d seen in his brother’s eyes, right before he was crushed under the heel of The Skull Grinder. Arjuna steeled himself for his reply. “Fine, if you believe that you can defeat him than I thank you. But you will not face The Skull Grinder today, nor tomorrow. I have seen the results of battling him with anger, and it will only lead to your death. You must train, and meditate if you are to defeat The Skull Grinder, else you will perish like all of those who have tried before you.”
“So how is an old villager supposed to train a toa to fight?” Tahu asked skeptically. Arjuna turned back towards him as they walked the road back to Viport, “All of your questions will be answered in time, for now preparations must be made, we must first get out of the eyes of The Skull Grinder’s army. If they find you we will all face certain death.” he said grimly. “Now come, we must reach Viport before daybreak.”
The next morning Tahu awoke to find Arjuna preparing to leave, “Where are you going?” he asked. Arjuna turned from the bag he’d been packing, “As I said, every day The Skull Grinder’s army forces us to go out in search of Makuta’s Mask of Ultimate power, I will return at the end of the day. In the meantime, you must meditate. There is too much anger inside of you, you must surrender it if you are to defeat The Skull Grinder. Clear your mind, and let your element cleanse you of your anger. Whatever you do, do not leave the house, if you are seen we will both face execution.” As he finished his face had taken on a new level of intensity, the kind of intensity that can only be seen on the face of someone who is afraid for their life. “Don’t worry I won’t leave the house,” Tahu reassured him “but when do we start training? How am I going to defeat Kulta if I’m stuck here meditating all the time?” he asked, his frustration evident in his voice. “Like I said toa, preparations must be made. The only villager that isn’t watched is a dead one, if you want to stay alive long enough to defeat The Skull Grinder, I would advise that you stay here while I prepare for our departure. It is not easy to escape the ever present eyes of The Skull Grinder.” Arjuna replied stiffly. “I must go now, before they become suspicious. Heed my words toa, you must free yourself from your anger if you are to defeat The Skull Grinder.” He then quickly finished packing his bag and exited through the heavy cloth curtain that served as a door.
Tahu spent all that day trying to clear his mind, with little to no success. Every time he tried flashes of the horrific fate that had befallen his home would race through his mind. Memories of his toa siblings being murdered in their sleep crept to the surface, replaying themselves over and over again. Why me? Why did I have to survive? I was the leader, I was supposed to protect the team… Why couldn’t it have been Kopaka who had been saved? He was always better at working alone… Or Lewa, he was always confidant… Or Pohatu, or Gali, or Onua, Why ME? Tahu tortured himself with this question, constantly asking himself over and over as memories of his dark home washed over his mind like waves of the sea. His anger rose up from the depths of his soul, taking root in these memories and calling out for one thing: Vengeance.
Over the next few days the pattern continued, Arjuna would leave in the morning and return in the evening, whenever Tahu asked about training, Arjuna would reply that “Preparations are being made,” and would say no more on the subject. Tahu continued his attempts to meditate, and continued to be haunted by the memories Artakha had given him. Eventually he gave up on fighting them from coming, as he knew that they would, he instead slowly began to embrace them, accepting the tragedy that had befallen his world, he began to mine his anger, and store it, preparing for the day when he would finally be able to unleash it upon The Makuta. After almost two weeks of meditation, Arjuna returned one night with a grim smile, “The preparations are finished, we leave tonight.”
Arjuna pulled a long hooded robe from his bag, “Put this on, it won’t mask your height, but at least it will afford you some amount concealment.” he said. Tahu draped the dark red fabric over his shoulders, tugging his arms through the sleeves and pulling the hood over his head. As he did so, Arjuna crossed the room and began to move a large chest out of the way. Once he was satisfied with the chest’s new position he began to dig into the ashen dirt floor of the hut, a small ways down he seemed to find what he was looking for as he withdrew a long narrow bundle of cloth with as short rope tied to each end forming a hoop. He slung it over his shoulder and began kicking the dirt into the shallow hole and returning the chest to its original home. “Do you mind sharing the plan with me?” Tahu asked as Arjuna began to collect seemingly random objects he’d brought home over the last few days from around the hut. “All will make sense very soon, in the meantime, watch the door, Kapono should be here any moment…” Arjuna replied cryptically. Tahu peaked out the curtain, and sure enough, Kapono was walking toward the hut with a covered wheelbarrow. He was stopped a little ways out by two skeletal guards, who checked under the cloth cover and then waved for him to proceed on his way. “Ok, Kapono is coming, What’s the wheelbarrow for-- and what is that?” Tahu exclaimed as he turned back to see Arjuna constructing something from the objects he’d collected in the middle of the hut. Arjuna didn’t have time to answer as Kapono entered with his wheelbarrow. “Arjuna, I hope you’re right about this. It wasn’t easy getting this past the guards, and if anyone finds out I did this I’ll be executed for sure.” Kapono said uneasily. “Oh good, you made it.” Arjuna replied looking up from his contraption. “What is this?” Tahu asked, moving the cloth cover out of the way to find an assortment of tools. “Why do we need these?” he asked. “We don’t,” Arjuna replied, moving the tools out of the wheelbarrow revealing a second cloth cover, “We need this.” he said with a hint of sadness. Tahu moved the cloth out of the way, only to see the body of a villager, “Who is this?” he asked startled by what he saw. “This is Valter” Arjuna explained, “He was executed two days ago for not showing up to work.” “And why do we need his body?” Tahu asked suspiciously. “I told you, the only kind of villager that isn’t watched is a dead villager.” Arjuna gestured to his contraption on the floor, “That’s a bomb that’s going to destroy this hut. when the guards see the explosion they will look for a body. If they don’t find one, they will look for me.” As Arjuna finished explaining Tahu’s face took on a look of horrific understanding. “Is it the only way?” he asked. “Yes.” replied Arjuna. “Fine.” Tahu replied back “What’s next?”
Kapono steered the wheelbarrow back into the supply hut, honestly the things I do for Arjuna, they’re outrageous… he thought to himself as he purposefully knocked over a bucket of lava onto a pile of tools. “Help! Help! Lava spill in the supply hut!” he yelled as he ran out the door. Meanwhile, Tahu and Arjuna watched from their hut as the skeletal guards ran to deal with the problem. Arjuna lit the fuse on the bomb and ran and the two of them slipped out into the night. As they crested the hill, Arjuna spared a glance back toward his home, just in time to see it explode in a bright display of of red and orange flame, he then turned back, and continued leading Tahu north into the mountains.