100,000 years ago…
Two cloaked figures walked silently through a vast underground chamber. They had traveled far to reach this spot, starting from a place whose forges burned hotter than the stars themselves. They had traversed the domains of Artakha and Karzahni, crossed vast wastelands that would someday teem with life, until finally they reached their intended destination. All along the way they were watchful, for the path was dangerous and the cargo they carried priceless.
Their journey had brought them to the center of a large continent. All around them, the biomechanical beings they had named Matoran were hard at work at an assortment of tasks. They took no notice of the newcomers, for that is how the two travelers wished it.
“Is this wise?” one asked the other.
“Wise, and something even rarer than that,” came the answer. “It is practical.”
The smaller of the two figures raised his weapon and blasted a hole in the ground. Again, the Matoran took no notice. He fired again, creating the beginnings of a tunnel in the earth. As he did so, his partner stood to the side, holding the golden shell in which their treasure resided.
The work of blasting and tunneling went on for some hours, with hours more spent carving a great staircase that traveled the length of the tunnel. At the bottom of the stairs, the grim figure increased the power of his weapon and blasted a huge chamber into existence.
“Is this far enough down?” he asked.
The second figure nodded. “We want it to take them time to reach the bottom, but not all of their days.”
Both figures shed their cloaks. The new chamber was ringed by canals of molten lava and the heat was stifling. The golden shell was placed on the ground, gently, as the two set to work building a pedestal for it out of a piece of stone. When they were done, the taller figure opened the shell slowly and hesitantly as if its contents might explode.
“Be careful!” said the other. “You remember what happened the last time someone touched it.”
“I do indeed. It was a useful lesson in the need to respect objects of power. Now keep quiet a moment, or we will get a second lesson courtesy of our creation.”
Unlimbering special tools, the figure pried apart the shell to reveal a Kanohi mask inside. On the surface, it seemed not so very much different from dozens of other Masks of Power. But where other masks might be useful tools or powerful weapons, this one had the power to give life to a universe… or to obliterate it.
Steeling himself for what was to come next, he grasped the mask with the ends of the two tools. Energy flowed up the shafts and into the figure, sending intense pain through his form. But he did not scream. He would not, he decided, give something he had made the satisfaction of knowing it had hurt him.
Ignoring the agony, he used the tools to lift the mask into the air and deposit it on the pedestal. Then he quickly withdrew his hold of the object. The mask rested in its appointed place now, where it was destined to remain until needed.
“It’s not enough,” said the smaller figure. “We can bury it deep, even provide Umbra as a protector for it. But can we be sure it is safe here?”
“We will do what we must,” his partner replied. “Mata Nui will one day face challenges we cannot even imagine, in places we can only dream of. If one of those challenges proves to be too great even for his power, this Mask of Life may be all that can save him.”
“All the more reason to guard –”
“The mask will make its own guardians, as it needs them. You know that. Be assured, the Mask of Life will never leave this chamber until the destined time.”
“Then it’s time for us to leave,” said the smaller figure, putting his weapon away. “I prefer not to be so close to it.”
“Afraid of something you made yourself?”
“I’ve seen what the mask can do… how far it will go to protect itself. I am still not convinced that we can prevent anyone from taking it before its time – but I pity anyone who tries.”
With a final look at the Mask of Life, the two figures departed the chamber and started the long climb back to the surface. This would be their last visit to the continent, and though their passage went unnoticed, they and their kind were not unknown. In centuries to come, Matoran would speak in wonder of the Great Beings who brought Mata Nui into existence and charged him to watch over the universe.
And the Mask of Life? It would be taken from its chamber only once in 100 millennia. When it was seen what the mask could do, it was swiftly returned with a mixture of gratitude and horror. There it remained, until one demented, doomed being dared to attempt its theft – and paid for it. Now mask and mad being lurk down below, waiting for the day someone else will attempt to summon the energies of the Mask of Life.
Waiting until now…