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Zaktan, leader of the Piraka, paused on the top step of the stone staircase. If the information he had been given was correct, there were a total of 777 of these steps, all leading down to a vast chamber. Inside that chamber was the fabled Mask of Life, an artifact so powerful even the mighty Brotherhood of Makuta had never dared try to seize it for themselves.

Of course, if all it took to get it was walking down a staircase, any Matoran villager could have gotten his hands on it years ago. No, the stairs were guarded, the chamber was guarded, and no doubt the mask was guarded as well.

Is there anything in this miserable universe that isn’t guarded? Zaktan wondered.

Despite the dangers, the Piraka would make the journey and do their best to obtain the mask, through fair means or foul. It was what they did, after all.

Toa perform senseless acts of ‘heroism’ that benefit them not in the slightest, Zaktan said to himself. Matoran labor ceaselessly until they drop dead with an idiotic smile of satisfaction on their lips. And Piraka steal things other beings want.

It was a good existence, if a dangerous one. There were plenty of opportunities to increase one’s personal wealth while engaging in random acts of destruction. And never underestimate the fun of exploiting lesser species, sparking environmental disasters, or ending the existence of the occasional Toa, all in the name of profit.

Not that everything was cracked Kanohi and wailing Matoran, he had to admit that. The Piraka had once been members of the secretive and extremely vicious organization known as the Dark Hunters. After centuries of stealing, burning, kidnapping, and other activities on behalf of the group and its leader, the Shadowed One, the Piraka had decided to strike out on their own. This guaranteed a death sentence from their former employer.

But when we get the Mask of Life, Zaktan thought, we will see about that sentence – and just who will live and who will die.

The idea sparked memories of the days that he and the other Piraka had spent as Dark Hunters. It was a period of time he tried not to think about, for personal – and painful – reasons. After all, when he first joined the Shadowed One’s service, he had been a whole being. Now he was a mass of squirming, buzzing, microscopic protodites, a monster in the eyes of even his fellow Piraka.

Against his will, his thoughts flew back to the past, his own and that of the other Piraka. Some of the memories were of things he himself had lived, others based on tales told by Hakann, Vezok, and the rest. Together, they formed a dark tapestry, a legacy of evil, that had now brought the six Piraka to the very brink of total victory.

Zaktan continued down the massive stairway, and remembered…

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