Karzahni yanked hard on his burning chain, tearing the black fire sword from the grasp of the Maxilos robot. With a second strike, he shattered the Toa of Water who swam behind the robot into pieces.
He had been heading for the Matoran settlement when he spotted Maxilos, the now destroyed Toa, and a Toa of Ice swimming in the opposite direction. His keen hearing picked up the robot saying something about a “Staff of Artakha.” Karzahni knew Artakha well… and hated him… and if something of his was down in this Pit, it had to be seized or destroyed.
The Toa of Ice turned as if to attack. Karzahni hit him with a nightmarish vision of failure, so horrible it would have driven anyone other than a Toa into gibbering insanity. That left only the robot to deal with.
“Speak, machine,” said Karzahni. “I know you have a voice. I am Karzahni, and I would know – what is this Staff of Artakha, and where can I find it? Or do I need to dismantle you and tear the information out of your mechanical mind?”
The robot said something in reply, but so softly even Karzahni couldn’t hear it. He swam closer to Maxilos, then closer still. The robot was, after all, unarmed.
“Interesting,” said Karzahni. “Even if the design was not familiar, you have the stink of Artakha about you. Reason enough to turn you to scrap. Speak up, you miserable machine, I cannot hear your words!”
The right arm of Maxilos lashed out faster than anything Karzahni had ever seen. The robot’s hand gripped Karzahni around the throat and squeezed.
“I said, so this is Karzahni,” came the reply. “Karzahni, the jailer of Matoran… Karzahni, the would-be avatar of evil… Karzahni, the fool… and soon to be a dead fool.”
“Who are you –?” Karzahni demanded.
“I am Makuta,” the robot replied. “I am power. You have broken my Toa and delayed my passage…”
Makuta, in the Maxilos robot, hurled Karzahni down toward the sea floor. He plowed through a rock ledge and landed hard, half-buried in the mud. With Karzahni’s concentration shattered, Matoro shook himself free of the illusion that had paralyzed him.
“And I hate to be late,” Makuta finished.
Karzahni forced himself to his feet, forcing a twisted arm back into place. “Yes. I’ve heard of you, Makuta – a tin-covered tyrant who wishes to be lord of the Matoran… as if being worshipped by insects had some meaning. I do not know where you were going… but your journey is about to end.”
Matoro felt a great disturbance in the water. He turned to look for its source and then gasped at the sight. It was Manas crabs – hundreds of them – huge and hungry, and all with only one thought in their bestial minds:
Kill the enemies of Karzahni.
The Toa of Ice’s heart froze as the Manas moved in. He hurled his ice power at them, but they shrugged it off. Once it had taken six Toa to stop only a pair of Manas, and now he and Makuta faced hundreds.
Strangely, the Master of Shadows did nothing. He didn’t hurl shadow bolts or chain lightning. He just waited and watched until the crabs were well within striking distance. Then he reached out with his mind, his most powerful weapon. Using his power to control beasts of land, sea and air, he seized control of half the Manas and turned them against the others.
It was a horrible sight as the huge savage Manas tore at each other. Karzahni looked on in shock as his army disintegrated before his eyes. Matoro looked away. Makuta simply laughed.
“Pests,” said the Master of Shadows. “They do make such a mess. Perhaps, Karzahni, I should set the survivors on you.”
Now it was Karzahni’s turn to smile. He had powers of his own, powers Makuta could not hope to cope with, he was sure. Triggering his ability, he thrust a vision into Makuta’s mind.
Now Makuta saw, as surely as if it were really happening, the future day when the Toa Nuva would awaken the Great Spirit Mata Nui. He saw Mata Nui rise, whole for the first time in a thousand years. And then he saw the Great Spirit’s power surge through the universe, seeking out those who would dare to rebel against him. He saw the terrible vengeance of Mata Nui, and knew the final punishment that waited for him. And Makuta screamed.
Makuta’s scream slowly died away into silence. Matoro wondered what had happened – had Karzahni’s power broken the villain, driven him mad… even killed him?
But a glance at the Maxilos robot Makuta possessed gave the answer. The eyes were fixed on Karzahni with a gaze that was made all the more frightening by the complete lack of emotion in it. After a long moment, Makuta spoke.
“You… made a… mistake, Karzahni,” he said. “You see, I don’t get nightmares…”
With one backhanded sweep of an armored fist, Makuta sent Karzahni sprawling. “I give them.”
Standing over his fallen foe, Makuta whispered, “Your shadow plays are impressive, tyrant – but never forget who is the true master of shadows.”
With that, Makuta plunged telepathically into the mind of Karzahni. It was a complex parchment of mad dreams, burning ambitions, twisted memories, and long-buried fears. Makuta considered all the subtle ways he could attack, and rejected them all. Karzahni had hurt him. Karzahni must pay in full.
Grasping Karzahni’s mind with his own, Makuta tore it to shreds. Then, with the merest sample of his magnetic power, he sent the dictator hurtling through the ocean until he was lost from sight.
Toa Lesovikk had watched the battle with Sarda and Idris. They had discovered the Ga-Matoran, mutated by the waters as Sarda had been, and recruited her in their task. Now both Matoran wondered if their quest was even necessary anymore.
“Karzahni doesn’t seem like he would still be a threat,” said Sarda. “Not after what Maxilos just did to him.”
“I’m not sure who this Maxilos is or what his powers are,” said Lesovikk. “But I once ran into a rock lion, half-dead from injuries received in battle, mad with pain. I thought it would be easy to end it and put the poor thing out of its misery.” He paused, then said, “That fight lasted three days… and the rock lion won. Don’t underestimate a wounded foe.”
Lesovikk began to swim in the direction Karzahni had traveled. “If anything, our enemy may be more dangerous now than ever before.”
* * *
After all that, we had failed. Makuta Icarax had escaped with the Staff of Artakha and all we had to show for it was a flooded and destroyed realm of Karzahni.
Tahu insisted that we had to go on, regardless, and carry out the other tasks on the list. We decided to split up. Tahu and Kopaka traveled to an island chain far to the south of the universe to quell a series of active volcanoes. Pohatu and Onua journeyed south as well, seeking out an artifact known as the “Heart of the Visorak.” I was assigned to return to the surface of the island of Mata Nui, while Lewa… Lewa simply vanished. I assumed Tahu had given him orders in secret, and only later found out that was not the case.
Mata Nui was much changed from when I had seen it last. The Bohrok had done their work well, scouring it of all trees, rocks, rivers and streams. Their job had not been an easy one, as evidenced by the number of shattered Bohrok scattered about and the badly wounded Rahi dragon that lay in their midst. The beast had evidently interfered with their mission and paid the price for it.
I did what I could to ease its suffering then began my task. Very few geologic features remained on Mata Nui, but to my surprise, the cliffside and its telescope remained (just as the parchment had assured that they would). As instructed, I focused the telescope on the red star far above. I made careful note of the location of the star in space, its angle to the planet, its brightness and whether it seemed to be moving away from the island, toward it, or remaining parallel to it.
Something – I don’t know what – suddenly prompted me to combine the power of my Mask of X-Ray Vision with the telescope’s ability. I focused on the red star… and stumbled back, shocked. For I had seen inside the star, and where I expected there to be a fiery heart of energy, I instead saw… I can hardly even carve the words on this stone…
There was something alive inside the star!