Toa Lesovikk, Sarda and Idris swam slowly through the Pit, keeping an eye out for predators. They had been following the wounded Karzahni for the better part of a day, and had seen him finally take refuge in a sea cave. Lesovikk was fairly certain Karzahni had not spotted them, but he wasn’t going to take any chances.
“This is what we’re going to do,” he said to the two Matoran. “I spotted some equipment in a Barraki weapons cache. We’re going to make a trap, and then lure Karzahni into it. And then we can –”
Lesovikk abruptly stopped speaking. The world around him had changed. He wasn’t underwater anymore, side by side with two mutated Matoran in pursuit of a mad being. No, he was with his old Toa team – his long dead Toa team – and they were battling for their lives against a massive cloud of acid. Two dozen Rahi and a handful of Matoran had already died on this island, turned to ashes by tendrils of the gaseous menace. Now it was bearing down on the eight Toa who dared to stand against it.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Lesovikk knew this had happened before. He had hesitated for the briefest of moments and the cloud had destroyed his teammates. But here he was, and here they were, and maybe he had a second chance. He summoned his elemental power and sent a cyclone at the cloud, tearing apart its substance and scattering it to the winds.
And just like that… it was over. His fellow Toa were smiling and bumping fists with him, already talking about the next adventure they would have. Grateful Matoran were pouring out of their homes to thank the heroes who had saved them all. He had done it! He had defeated the creature and his team was together and alive!
“Lesovikk?” said Toa Nikila. She was a Toa of Lightning and his closest friend on the team. “Are you all right? You seem so far away.”
“All right?” he responded. “Yes… no… it’s just… this doesn’t feel right somehow. Like it wasn’t supposed to happen this way.”
“Don’t be silly,” she laughed. “Of course it was – we won, didn’t we, thanks to you. We’re Toa. Don’t we always win in the end? So stop frowning and come on, the Matoran are putting on a celebration for us.”
Lesovikk followed along, but his thoughts were still elsewhere. He couldn’t escape the feeling that he wasn’t supposed to be here, that there was something else he should be doing right now. But for the life of him, he couldn’t think of what it was. And he wasn’t sure that he wanted to… because one thing he did know was that right now, this moment, he felt the happiest he had in a long, long time.
He was with his team, and that was where he intended to stay. No one and nothing would take him away from them, ever again.
Sarda and Idris stared with increasing concern at Lesovikk. He seemed to be in a trance of some kind and nothing they had done had been able to rouse him. It was Sarda who put their fears into words.
“Lesovikk said Karzahni can show you alternate events – usually horrifying ones, intended to terrify you. But, Idris… what if he showed you a future – or a past – that you wished for? And what if you wanted it so much… that you stayed trapped in that vision forever?”
If Makuta was at all rattled by his fierce battle with Karzahni, he didn’t show it. Nor had he displayed any particular emotion when he and Matoro had met with Makuta Icarax, who had brought the Staff of Artakha to the waters above the Pit. He had simply taken the object from his fellow Brotherhood member and dismissed Icarax with a nod.
Now he and Matoro stood over the shattered remains of Toa Tuyet’s armor. A single fragment of the Nui Stone gleamed in the darkness.
“That is all the Staff needs,” said Makuta quietly. “One piece, and its power will recreate the stone as it once was.”
“And what good will that do you?” asked Matoro. “What do you plan to do with it?”
“Very well, my curious little Toa,” Makuta replied. “Think on this: Tuyet, and later Nidhiki, were not the only Toa to ever turn bad. And if the next one should happen to fall under my sway, well… what better than to use the Nui Stone to increase his power a hundredfold, a thousandfold? Imagine an all-powerful Toa at my command, wiping your kind from the face of this planet.”
Makuta aimed the Staff of Artakha at the Nui Stone fragment and triggered its power. Slowly, the pieces of the stone began to float through the water, drifting toward each other, joining together for the first time in a thousand years.
“I can’t let you do this!” yelled Matoro, charging forward.
Makuta waved his hand and a stasis field froze the Toa of Ice. “And I can’t let you stop me,” said Makuta. “No one can stop me now.”
A blast of sheer raw power struck the Master of Shadows squarely in the back. Makuta staggered, dropping the Staff. “Who dares –?” he snarled.
“In my time, I’ve dared lots of things. Maybe too many things,” came the reply. “I fell a long way from the light and I can never find my way back.”
Makuta whirled. Hovering in the water was Brutaka, former guardian of the Mask of Life, now mutated prisoner of the Pit. Wisps of energy were still drifting from his open hand. His body had changed, twisted spikes now jutting out of his armor and what looked like a long dorsal fin running down his back. Brutaka stood, ready for battle.
“But the darkness is not so complete that I can’t recognize a monster when I see one.”
Makuta hurled a blast of shadow energy at Brutaka. The warrior sidestepped and dove past Makuta, snatching up the Staff of Artakha, even as he shouted “Botar!”
Events happened quickly then. The Order of Mata Nui agent known as Botar appeared suddenly in the midst of battle, taking the Staff from Brutaka. He spared a moment for a nod of thanks to his former teammate, before vanishing once more.
“It’s gone,” Brutaka said to Makuta. “The Staff is gone where you cannot reach it. You’ve lost.”
“If I have lost the Staff, you are about to lose everything,” said Makuta.
Brutaka did not tremble at the threat or back away. Instead, he just laughed. A long hard laugh, with a little trace of madness in it. “You seem to have me mistaken,” he said, “for someone who has anything at all left to lose.”
“This is crazy!” whispered Idris, swimming fast to keep up with Sarda. “Would you just hold up for a second and listen?”
Sarda shook his head. “You saw what happened outside. Karzahni did… something to Lesovikk, I know he did. That leaves only us to fight him, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The two villagers swam deeper into the sea cave. Lurking somewhere inside was the maddened Karzahni, a figure of fear for every villager. Was it bravery that drove the two Matoran to dare challenge him, or insanity? Even Sarda couldn’t say for sure.
“Now, remember the plan,” said Sarda. “I was able to find the material Lesovikk mentioned and rig a makeshift trap. We get him to chase us, he trips the trap, and wham!”
“I just hope it’s wham for him,” said Idris, “not wham for us.”
Outside the cave, Toa Lesovikk remained trapped in a vision of what might have been. His Toa team, which in reality had died thousands of years before, lived again in his Karzahni-created hallucination. There they were – Toa of Fire, Lightning, Sonics, Iron, Stone, Gravity, and Water, banded together in the first ever Toa team.
In his mind, millennia had passed, filled with hard-fought battles and great victories. Most recently, they had saved a band of Toa besieged by Frostelus on a remote island. A novice Toa, Lhikan, had shown such bravery in the fight that Lesovikk was considering recruiting him. As he looked around the battlefield, Lesovikk knew that all was right in his world.
“That was fun,” said Toa Nikila, smiling. “I never get tired of bashing a few heads together. Hey, some of the guys were suggesting we patrol that Zyglak hunting ground next week – what do you think?”
“Sure, I –” Lesovikk began, and then stopped. Something she had said had suddenly triggered a flash of memory. In it, Nikila and the others were dead, killed by the acid cloud they had defeated so long ago… but wait, that wasn’t right. They weren’t dead, they were alive… weren’t they? And they weren’t killed by an acid cloud…
“Zyglak,” the Toa of Air said abruptly. “You were killed by Zyglak.”
“What?” asked Nikila. “Those losers kill me? Not on their best day.”
But Lesovikk could see it all now, as clearly as he saw Nikila’s armor, her trident, and her Mask of Possibilities. They had been in a battle, long ago, but not with an acid cloud, with a horde of Zyglak. He had seen them coming, but hadn’t acted fast enough, and… and…
And his teammates died. They all died.
He looked at Nikila. She was fading, breaking apart, like the trick of the mind she had been all along. She pleaded with him to help her, but he forced himself to close his eyes and turn away. He had lost his chance to help her, or any of the others, long ago.
When he opened his eyes again, he was back in the Pit. His friends were gone; his future was gone; and all that was left him was revenge.
“Get out of here, now!” Brutaka shouted to Matoro. “Get back to the other Toa – I’ll handle Makuta!”
“As you handled the Toa Nuva and the Toa Inika?” sneered Makuta. “Are you fool enough to think you can trust him, Matoro?”
Toa Matoro weighed his choice. Brutaka had once been a member of the Order of Mata Nui, before he had turned bad – but Makuta? His spirit had been black from the day he had been created.
There was no choice at all. He swam away as fast as he could, heading for a rendezvous with his teammates.
“You cost me the Nui Stone,” growled Makuta, hurling a burst of shadow energy at Brutaka. “You have become… an annoyance.”
But the shadow bolt never reached its target. Triggering the power of his Kanohi mask, Brutaka opened a dimensional portal and shunted the energy into the Zone of Darkness, where it could harm nothing.
“Then let’s see if I can move up to an irritation,” said Brutaka, firing his own blast of energy from his sword. The blast knocked Makuta’s weapon from his hand. “You know, Makuta, we can do this all day, but it won’t get you what you want.”
“And that is?” asked Makuta, even as he used his control over gravity to slam Brutaka into a nearby mountain.
“Ow,” said Brutaka. “Well, you don’t want the Mask of Life. If you did, you would never have hired those bumbling Piraka to get it for you. But you do want to be there when it’s found, pulling everyone’s strings. You want to decide who has it, how they use it, and when. Am I getting warm?”
“A little too warm for comfort,” answered Makuta, throwing a stasis field around Brutaka. But the former Order of Mata Nui member demolished the field with one swipe of his blade.
“Please,” said Brutaka, “I was getting out of stasis fields when you were still on Destral raising Archives Moles.”
“What is it you want, Brutaka?”
“Once I would have said I wanted the mask myself,” Brutaka replied. “Once I would have seen myself ruling a universe with it. Now I guess you could say my vision’s improved – and I just want to see you sweat.” Brutaka smiled. “Oh, and by the way: Nocturn had the mask last I saw, but Hydraxon was about to take it away from him. And who knows what that lunatic will do with it. So maybe you better go see.”
Makuta’s instinct was to continue the battle, but Brutaka was right – he couldn’t afford to lose control of events, not at this late stage. “This isn’t over,” warned the Master of Shadows.
Brutaka ran a finger along the razor-sharp edge of his sword. “Oh, Makuta… I’m counting on that!”
Toa Lesovikk was about to charge into Karzahni’s cave when he saw red and blue streaks heading out of it. They turned out to be Sarda and Idris, with Karzahni in maddened pursuit behind them.
Lesovikk glanced around. The crude trap was already in place. As Sarda and Idris emerged from the cave, he grabbed them and threw them roughly to the side. Unable to halt his lunge, Karzahni struck the trap, which promptly slammed shut around him.
The Toa of Air had waited a long time for this moment. Now Karzahni would pay for his crimes against the Matoran. But as Lesovikk looked at what remained of the once fearsome ruler – now a maddened, pathetic shell, thanks to his previous battle – the Toa turned away, sickened. There was nothing more he could do to Karzahni than had already been done… and leaving him alive was a worse punishment than killing him.
“That Toa who told me about this place… Krakua, I think his name was… he said if Karzahni was captured, someone would come to take him away,” Lesovikk muttered.
“Wherever they take him, I hope they have strong chains,” said Sarda. “But… now what? Idris and I have become water-breathers – we can’t live in our own village anymore! What’s going to become of us?”
Lesovikk turned away in time to see a strange figure disappearing with Karzahni. (This was Botar from the Order of Mata Nui, still a stranger to Lesovikk.) “Follow me,” said the Toa. He led the two Matoran to a small cave in which were scattered fragments of equipment.
“I think this used to be some kind of breathing system,” said the Toa. “I found it when I was scouting around. It won’t work for breathing air, but I might be able to repair it for water-breathing. Only thing is, there’s only enough equipment here for one unit.”
Idris looked at Sarda, then back at Lesovikk. “You take it, Toa. The world needs you. Two Matoran more or less won’t matter.”
“I don’t know that there’s any place left for me in the world I’ve known,” Lesovikk replied. “Maybe there is in this one. Anyway, I am in no hurry to leave.”
“Then neither am I,” said Sarda. Before Idris could object, he cut her off. “You take it, Idris. Go back to Mahri Nui. Tell them… tell them I wanted a new adventure.”
Idris wanted to argue, but the look in Sarda’s eyes told her it would do no good. After many hours of work, Lesovikk had fashioned a crude helmet that would allow Idris to breathe seawater that would be held inside the device. Sarda kept his goodbye to her short, but Lesovikk could see how hard it was for both of them.
“Where will you go now?” the Toa asked.
“With you,” Sarda replied. “I don’t know everything you’ve been through, but I think maybe you could use a friend.”
Lesovikk thought for a long time, and then slowly nodded. “And a reminder of what I once was… and maybe could be again.”
Together, Toa and Matoran swam off into the depths of the ocean, both being careful to look only ahead, never back.
Makuta, in the body of Maxilos, swam rapidly through the dark waters of the Pit. As he did so, his mind drifted back to the past, and the journey that had brought him to this place and time. Had it really only been some hundred thousand years ago that he first saw the light of day, along with his fellow Makuta? Chirox, Antroz, Vamprah, Mutran, and the others?
They had been selected by the Great Spirit Mata Nui for a special purpose: It would be their job to bring into being the plants and animals needed to keep the universe running smoothly. Over time, their role expanded. The Brotherhood of Makuta became responsible for watching over the lands and seas of the Matoran universe. Internal threats to the power of Mata Nui were crushed by armies led by Makuta.
While the Great Spirit focused on matters of cosmic importance, the day-to-day safety and security of the world fell on the shoulders of the Makuta. Oh, there were Toa of course, blundering about and noisily dealing with what they laughingly referred to as menaces, but the true power to create and destroy rested with the Brotherhood.
Logic dictated that the Matoran would come to realize how much their puny lives depended on the Makuta, and would behave accordingly. But no, when they held their Naming Day festivals, they did it in honor of Mata Nui. When they finished a day’s work, they thanked Mata Nui for the successful completion of their labors. Mata Nui, who was so far above them they might as well have been fireflyers scurrying about his feet.
So many millenia of being passed over led to jealousy, and jealousy to resentment, and resentment to hatred – until just beneath the surface of every Makuta burned a desire to see the Great Spirit humbled.
But it was not until the failed rebellion of the Barraki that the Makuta of Metru Nui began to think maybe, just maybe, something could be done. But his plan extended beyond just Mata Nui’s defeat – no, it was a labyrinthian scheme, a plot that drew into its web multiple teams of Toa, Dark Hunters, Bohrok, Visorak, and more. And yet despite all its twists and turns, the plan was also breathtaking in its simplicity.
“There is a small Rahi, called a water wraith,” he explained to the rest of the Brotherhood, some eighty thousand years ago. “So small, so insignificant is it, that larger fish do not even consider it a worthy meal. But every now and then, a bold water wraith will attack a creature much larger and more powerful than it. It is a one-sided battle, of course, that ends with the poor water wraith in the mouth of its foe. Of course, what the larger fish quickly discovers is that the outer shell of a water wraith is coated with deadly poison. The larger fish dies instantly, and the water wraith escapes – to feast for months on its very foolish, and very dead opponent.
“Sometimes, my brothers,” he had said, seating himself on his obsidian throne, “the best way, the only way, to win… is by losing.”
* * *
I sprang from the telescope and started running across the sands of Mata Nui. I had to track down the other Toa Nuva and let them know what I had seen. I was so intent on my course that when Botar suddenly appeared before me, I almost collided with him.
“You are needed,” said the Order of Mata Nui member. The next instant, he reached out to take my hand and my surroundings disappeared. When I could see clearly again, it was obvious I was no longer on the island of Mata Nui.
I found myself standing in a vast, spherical chamber, alongside Botar and the other Toa Nuva. The place seemed familiar to me somehow, but I couldn’t place it. Then the shadows in the chamber seemed to grow deeper and a female voice filled the room.
“You have done well, Toa,” said the voice. “You have justified the Order of Mata Nui’s faith in you. That is why we have brought you here, to Daxia, to see the fruits of your labors.”
A light shone down from above on what looked like a power cradle of some kind. A massive warrior, easily two bio in height, walked up to it carrying the Staff of Artakha. That alone was a surprise, since I and the others thought the Brotherhood of Makuta had the staff. Even more shocking was what happened next – the warrior placed the staff in a niche on the cradle, and the artifact began to glow and hum.
“Mata Nui suffered much due to the Makuta’s treacherous attack,” said the voice. “Now it is time to ease that suffering and prepare the way for his return.”
The hum grew louder, and the glow brighter. Finally, Tahu had had enough. “What’s going on here?”
“What you see is but a fraction of the power of the staff,” the voice replied. “Even now, its energies are reaching out from Metru Nui to the southern islands, undoing the damage that was done by Mata Nui’s fall. Chasms are sealed; buildings restored to glory; mountains rise, and rivers flow once more. And when your fellow heroes sever the cord that binds Voya Nui to Mahri Nui, it too will be restored to where it belongs and the hole it made sealed behind it.”
“That one stick can do all that?” asked Pohatu.
“And more,” said the voice. “Its only limitation is that it cannot reach into the universe core and heal the damage there, for the walls of that place are too well-shielded. But what it can do, it will do.”
I had a thought. “What about the island of Mata Nui? Will it repair what the Bohrok did there?”
The voice laughed. “No, the Bohrok did what they were meant to do, even as you have done. And now, Toa Nuva, you have one more task to perform… the most dangerous of them all.”