Four Thousand Years Ago…

“Everyone who thinks this is a bad idea,” grumbled Reidak, “scream at the top of your lungs.”

“Shut up and steer,” said Vezok. “Do you want all of Metru Nui to hear us coming?”

The two Dark Hunters, along with a third, Avak, were in a small skiff sailing through the sea gate toward the island city of Metru Nui. It was a risky trip. Turaga Dume, the city’s leader, had forbidden Dark Hunters to enter the area years before. His stated reasons were that they brought lawlessness and violence with them, but the truth was that he knew the Shadowed One had his eyes on Metru Nui. He was not going to allow them to get a foothold on the island and then attempt to overthrow him.

His problem was enforcing this law. Metru Nui had no Toa. It was one of the safest places in the universe, because everyone knew how vital the city was to the well-being of so many other lands. The goods it traded were desperately needed elsewhere and the energy produced by the power plants was so great it could be funneled to other cities at no cost to Metru Nui. Destroying the island and its inhabitants would be an act of madness. Therefore there had never been a need for the Toa to maintain a presence in the city.

However, no one had considered the possibility of attempting to conquer the city. Until now.

“Are we there yet?” asked Avak. He was in the center of the boat, rowing lazily. Every now and again, he would amuse himself by mentally creating a prison around some sea bird and watching it flutter about, trying to escape.

“If our information is right, the sea cave should be just below,” Vezok replied. He looked around at where their journey had brought them. Metru Nui was surrounded by a huge silver sea, bounded on all four sides by massive rock walls. Portals were carved in some of these walls to allow for boats to pass through on their way to and from the city.

Reidak peered over the side of the boat at the silvery water. Large aquatic Rahi could dimly be seen swimming far below. Somehow, he doubted they were all vegetarians. “So who’s going down there?” he asked.

“I thought we all would,” Vezok answered. “It may take three of us to –”

“Someone has to guard the boat, and I volunteer,” Avak broke in, talking so fast one word blurred into the next.

“I volunteer to guard Avak guarding the boat and make sure he doesn’t leave without us,” Reidak offered.

Vezok frowned. “You heard the Shadowed One. You know what’s supposed to be down there. If I go down alone, I’ll end up a light snack. So who’s going to help me?”

Avak looked at Reidak and said, “I’ll flip you for it.” When Reidak nodded agreement, Avak lunged forward, grabbed him, and flipped him over the side of the boat and into the water. “Looks like I win.”

Reidak’s response was a string of curses that could have seared the scales off a stone serpent. Vezok chuckled and plunged into the water as well. “Stay with the boat,” he said to Avak. Then he added, “And the boat stays here.”

Vezok and Reidak dove beneath the surface. The water was icy cold, worse than the snowcapped peaks of the Dark Hunter island. Their armor made it difficult to maneuver underwater, but if they had to rely on their agility, they were doomed anyway. Strength would be the difference down here.

Reidak’s eyes flared red. His infrared vision pierced the dark water, but revealed only the heat of passing Rahi fish. He would have to do this the hard way, by searching and hoping the Shadowed One’s information was accurate. Both he and Vezok knew there was no time to waste – even their oversize lungs could hold only so much air.

When they were close to the sea bottom, Reidak stopped and pointed. Vezok saw a massive boulder ringed with ice, apparently serving to block the entrance of a sea cave. The two Dark Hunters struck as one, smashing the rock to rubble. Beyond it was a solid block of ice at least a hundred feet thick.

Vezok nodded. The legend was accurate, then. He wished that Hakann was with them to use his heat vision on the ice. Then he realized that “I wish Hakann was here” were words he had never expected to say, and would probably never say again.

Reidak started to pound on the ice. Vezok blasted the block with his impact vision. Periodically, they had to surface to get some air. Then they would dive down again and resume their work.

After more than two hours, the last fragment of ice fell away to reveal the “treasure” inside. Vezok saw a great red eye flicker open, followed by another. The temperature of the water suddenly shot up, almost to the boiling point. A low rumble in the water grew into a great bellow. Inside the cave, something began to crawl toward freedom.

Eyes wide with panic, Vezok gestured upward. Reidak got the idea and the two of them shot for the surface. They scrambled aboard the boat even as Avak said, “What? What is it? What did you see?”

“Row! Row!” Vezok yelled. “Get us out of here!”

Avak complied, but not before he turned to see if he could spot the source of their disturbance. Something was moving underwater, getting closer, closing in fast. Suddenly it burst up from below, capsizing the boat and sending all three Dark Hunters into the water. Then it dove beneath the waves again.

What was that?” Avak shouted.

“A little present,” Vezok answered. “From the Shadowed One to Metru Nui, with best wishes.”

The great beast swam free for the first time in thousands of years. It had only dim memories of its past, but what had gone before didn’t matter to it at the moment. The only thing the Kanohi Dragon cared about was that it was very, very hungry.

Sensing a tremendous source of heat on the island up ahead, it moved in that direction. Heat meant life, and life meant food, and today he would at last eat well.

“So we found him,” said Reidak. The three were back in their boat again. “Now do we go home?”

“No,” said Vezok. “Now we wait.”

“For what?”

“For what’s bound to happen.”

The Kanohi Dragon’s massive tail slashed through the water. It was closer to the heat, but there was still a great distance to cover. Now it remembered this place and the little ones who lived in it. The dragon had been here before, long before so many buildings had crowded together on the island. It had come to feed then, too, but the inhabitants had caused it pain. Flying over the city would just invite them to do it again.

Then it would not fly, it decided. Although the cold water was uncomfortable and swimming not its favored means of transport, it would stay under the water. It would find a way to the heat without the little ones noticing. Then, when its strength had returned, old scores would be settled.

“They don’t stand a chance,” said Avak. “The city will be a ruin by tomorrow.”

“No, it won’t,” Reidak answered, smiling. “Because we’re going to save it, aren’t we, Vezok?”

Vezok decided he had better rethink just how smart Reidak actually was. The Shadowed One had shared the complete plan only with him, but Reidak had managed to figure it all out. I will have to watch him, thought Vezok. He’s not what he seems.

“A few hours with the Kanohi Dragon on a rampage should convince Turaga Dume that his city needs protection,” Vezok said. “With no Toa in sight, the Dark Hunters will generously agree to ‘protect’ it in return for locating a base here. It’s a good plan.”

“Sure,” Avak said, nodding. “Only how are we supposed to stop that thing, if they agree?”

Vezok started rowing toward the city. “I said it was a good plan. I didn’t say it was a perfect plan.”

The Kanohi Dragon smashed through an intricate series of suboceanic chutes, then battered its way through the thick walls of the Metru Nui Archives. Matoran scrambled down to investigate the source of the terrible crash and flooding. As soon as they saw the monstrous Rahi that had broken in, they scrambled back up again as fast as their legs could carry them.

The dragon didn’t care anything about them, not yet. Its goal was the source of heat, which was still some distance away. Rather than go aboveground, it made its way through the lowest levels of the Archives.

A daring Onu-Matoran archivist named Mavrah took a chance and followed. The creature’s path was littered with smashed cylinders, crushed artifacts, and sundered walls. More than a few living “exhibits” had been freed, forcing Mavrah to move with caution in case any of them were hungry. It rapidly became clear that the monster was not moving at random, but rather in a straight line toward Ta-Metru.

Mavrah would have pursued the dragon all the way to the Great Furnace if his friend Whenua had not caught up to him and made him stop. He was followed closely by the Chief Archivist, whose mask concealed the grief he felt at the sight of such destruction.

“Turaga Dume has called out the Vahki,” Whenua said, referring to the mechanized security forces of Metru Nui. “But I’m not sure even they can handle this.”

“It’s… amazing,” Mavrah whispered in awe. “I’ve never seen a Rahi like it. Why is it here? What does it want? There’s so much we could learn!”

“You can study its corpse,” the Chief Archivist snapped. “Now come away from here. We must return to the upper levels.”

The three Matoran turned away, trying to ignore the sounds of battle already filling the Archives.

Vezok, Reidak, and Avak landed the boat on a secluded part of the Le-Metru coastline. Vezok pointed to the squads of Vahki soaring toward Ta-Metru. “I guess they figured out something’s wrong. Well, we’ll wait until dark. Let them sweat a little.”

Avak was looking around for some way to amuse himself until nightfall when he spotted a dozen Vahki heading in their direction. He was bracing for battle when they flew by overhead, traveling out over the ocean and away from the city.

Now where are they going? he wondered.

The Vahki proved to be no more than an annoyance for the Kanohi Dragon. The heat generated by the now fully thawed creature melted most of the city’s guardians. The rest fell to its claws and teeth. It moved unopposed to the area just below Ta-Metru. Once it was beneath the source of greatest heat, it smashed its way through the ceiling.

The dragon found itself in the heart of the Great Furnace. Matoran scattered in panic as it plunged into the flames.

As darkness fell on Metru Nui, it was a city in fear. Fires had spread out of control in Ta-Metru. The streets were littered with pieces of the mechanical Vahki. Matoran were gathering weapons and preparing to make a futile attack on the dragon.

Turaga Dume sat in his chamber in the Coliseum, brooding on the fate of his city. A slight shift in the atmosphere of the room told him he was no longer alone.

“Having a bad day?” asked Vezok.

Dume looked up at the three Dark Hunters who had invaded his sanctum. A lesser being would have fled at the sight. But Dume had been a Toa and later a Turaga for centuries. His heart knew no fear.

“I should have guessed,” he said, rising. “The Kanohi Dragon is the weapon, but the hand that wields it belongs to the Shadowed One.”

“It’s a real shame what’s happening out there,” said Reidak. “It sure would be awful if the Kanohi Dragon trashed Ta-Metru. Would be even worse if something like this happened every week.”

“It should be obvious the Vahki can’t protect you,” Vezok added. “Work with us, and you won’t have to worry about this sort of thing anymore.”

A cold silence descended on the room. Dume turned his back on the Dark Hunters, deep in thought. The seconds dragged by. Then the leader of Metru Nui spoke once more.

“Get out.”

“You’re making a mistake,” Avak snarled. “A big mistake.”

Dume ignored him and locked eyes with Vezok. “I’ll see this city reduced to rubble… with not even two bricks still together… before I’ll let your kind take root here.”

“Now you’re not thinking about the best interests of your city,” Vezok replied. He raised his harpoon weapon and aimed it at Dume. “Maybe it’s time Metru Nui had new leadership.”

Vezok triggered his weapon even as a bolt of flame flew into the room. Fire met harpoon halfway across the chamber and melted the projectile. The Dark Hunters turned to see two Toa – one emerald in color, one red and gold – standing in the window. Nine other Toa hovered on Vahki in the night sky behind them.

“Toa Lhikan!” exclaimed Dume. “Toa Nidhiki!”

“You didn’t tell us you had Dark Hunters visiting,” said Nidhiki, Toa of Air. “Here I thought we would be fighting only higher forms of life.”

“We got your message,” said Toa Lhikan, master of fire. “Are these three responsible for the trouble here?”

Dume hesitated. He would have dearly loved to see these three Dark Hunters imprisoned, but doing so would just lead to more being sent to free them. Metru Nui would become a battleground. A more diplomatic solution was needed.

“They are couriers for a different message from me,” the Turaga replied. “They were just leaving to go back to their home.”

The look in Lhikan’s eyes told Dume the Toa understood exactly what was going on here. “Probably wise,” Lhikan said. Then, looking right at the Dark Hunters, he added, “It’s not safe here.”

Vezok got the hint. He and the others would take on two Toa and a Turaga any day. But eleven Toa was another matter entirely. There was nothing to be gained by such a fight, and way too much that could be lost.

“So it seems,” he said to Lhikan. “But it’s a beautiful city. Maybe, when things have calmed down, we’ll come back.”

“I’ll be happy to show you around,” said Toa Nidhiki, smiling. “You can get a great view of the whole place from atop the Knowledge Towers… as long as you don’t slip and fall off.”

Vezok returned the Toa’s smile, but both knew it was more a mutual challenge than anything else. Then he led Reidak and Avak out of the Coliseum. Once outside, Toa kept a watchful eye on them until they were in their boat and away.

“Well, that went well,” grumbled Reidak.

Vezok shrugged. “It’s not over. It may take a year, a century, or a few thousand years… but the Shadowed One gets what he wants.”

Lhikan, Nidhiki, and their team of Toa waged a month-long battle with the Kanohi Dragon. Scores of buildings were destroyed, entire sections of Ta-Metru were rendered uninhabitable, and far too many innocent Matoran met their deaths. When the beast was finally defeated (thanks in no small part to the combined efforts of four Toa of Ice), it was not a victory that filled the Toa’s hearts with pride, just relief.

While the fate of the dragon was being debated, Nidhiki took it upon himself to try and kill it. But the armored scales that had deflected so many blows during the fight prevented him from ending the creature’s life. It was finally decided to transport the dragon to another island whose rulers had agreed to give it refuge and keep it away from other lands. Lhikan and a half dozen of his team agreed to man the barge carrying the dragon, while Nidhiki and the rest stayed behind to secure the city.

“The Dark Hunters won’t take no for an answer,” Lhikan reminded Dume. “They’ll be back. So will we.”

It was a journey of many days to the Kanohi Dragon’s new home. Once there, the barge sailed up to a dock made of black, twisted metal. The look and feel of the island disturbed the Toa. Though parts seemed tropical and wild, much of the rest of it was covered with dull iron buildings that spewed foul smoke into the sky. One of the team insisted he had seen factory doors open and what looked like an array of war machines assembled inside.

A tall, ebon being approached the Toa. Dark eyes darted from the heroes to the Kanohi Dragon. A vicious mouth curved into a smile.

“This will do,” the figure hissed. “This will do very nicely.”

“I am Toa Lhikan. We sailed from Metru Nui to bring this creature here, but I must ask you: Are you sure you want such an evil, dangerous beast on your island?”

“Evil is all relative, Toa of Fire,” the smiling figure replied. “In your city, this is a monster. On my island, it is… an ill-tempered pet. So, the answer is yes. Speaking for my home, I, Roodaka, welcome the Kanohi Dragon to our shores.”

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