Kalmah moved slowly through the water, his two good eyes searching the dark brown sands for any sign of life. He had no doubt the being he sought was hidden somewhere beneath the soil, but just where was a mystery. Caution was essential, too, for the appetite of his target was legendary and anything passing overhead was fair game.
He paused. Was that a pair of gems glittering in the seabed? And were those the bones of some long-dead creature sticking out of the sand nearby? No, he realized. Those were the eyes and head spikes of Mantax as he waited, buried in the earth, for his next meal to pass by.
Kalmah decided the indirect approach was best. He had no desire to wind up with some part of his anatomy trapped in Mantax’s pincer. He sent his long tentacle snaking into the sand until it was close to his fellow Barraki. Then Kalmah swiftly wrapped it around Mantax’s waist and yanked the surprised creature out of his hiding place.
“What are you doing?” Mantax demanded, clearly uncomfortable with being exposed. “There might have been food coming!”
“All right. I’ll just tell Pridak that you are too busy dining to join us,” Kalmah answered. “Maybe he will send Carapar to come get you.”
Mantax stiffened. He was more than willing to challenge Pridak or anything else under the sea, but his occasional clashes with Carapar had not ended well. Carapar had two pincers to his one, and a longer reach on top of that.
“Very well,” Mantax grumbled. “The first time I followed Pridak, I got condemned to the Pit. The second time, my dwelling got crushed by a Matoran city. How will he destroy my life this time, I wonder?”
“Not destroy,” Kalmah said, gesturing with his tentacle toward the sea caves beyond. “Far from it, in fact. Look.”
Mantax wrestled free of Kalmah’s grip and focused his attention on the caves. A lone Po-Matoran was swimming toward one of the natural shelters, a Kanohi mask in his hands. Intrigued, the two Barraki took off in pursuit.
Dekar had a plan. First, he would get this mask as far from the city as he safely could, so that there was no chance another Matoran would stumble on him and take it. Once he was in one of the caves, he would smash the mask to pieces. Mahri Nui would be better off without something so dangerous and unpredictable.
He looked over his shoulder to see if any of the other Matoran had followed him. That was when he spotted Mantax and Kalmah closing in. They obviously weren’t swimming over to ask directions. Dekar began kicking furiously in an effort to put some distance between him and the sea creatures.
He had managed to gain perhaps a yard or two on them when his lungs began to burn. His air bubble was dangerously thin and about to be extinguished, and he was way too far from the nearest field of airweed to take refuge there. Dekar figured he would be able to hold his breath for two or three minutes, and then it would be over.
Then his eyes alighted on something very curious. A small air bubble was emerging from a crack in the Kanohi mask he held. It drifted toward Dekar and merged with his bubble. Another and another followed, slowly but surely strengthening the cone of air around the Matoran. If he’d had the time, Dekar would have pondered just how miraculous an event this was – a mask that could create air! – but the strange sea creatures were drawing closer again.
Dekar ducked into a cave. He had perhaps a few seconds before his pursuers found him. The air from the mask had bought him time and made him realize how valuable the Kanohi could be to his people. But he was also smart enough to know he would never be able to keep it from the monsters that were chasing him. Even if he hid it, they would find it. And if it could create air, what else might it do? What would it do in the wrong hands?
No, Dekar thought, I have to stand firm. I have to destroy it before it’s too late.
He put the Kanohi mask down on the cave floor, picked up a rock, and prepared to strike. With luck, one, maybe two, solid blows would be enough to shatter it. After all, it’s cracked already, he reasoned.
Outside, Mantax and Kalmah reached the cave mouth. They spotted Dekar’s arm falling as it brought a rock down toward the mask. It was too late to stop the Matoran – even Kalmah’s tentacle would not reach that far.
But what all present had forgotten, or did not know, was that this was no ordinary Kanohi mask. This was the Mask of Life. Forged over 100,000 years ago by the Great Beings who created the universe, it was set apart from every mask that had been or ever would be crafted. It could think, it could feel… and as both Matoran and Barraki learned to their shock, when threatened, it could strike back.
As Toa Lesovikk began to share his tale with Sarda, neither was aware they were being watched with eyes that gleamed with madness…
The being known as Karzahni had journeyed far to reach the watery depths of the Pit. His travels had begun in his own isolated, forbidding realm. There he had encountered six wandering Matoran and attempted to imprison them as he had so many others over the millennia. But these Matoran escaped him, though not before he learned from them about beings much more powerful than he – the Great Spirit Mata Nui and the evil Makuta.
Mata Nui was asleep, he learned, and Makuta was presumed dead. That meant there was an opportunity for a brilliant, ruthless leader to seize power. He trailed the Matoran to an island named Voya Nui and watched them transform into more powerful figures called Toa. He witnessed their battles with thieves called Piraka over possession of the powerful Mask of Life. When the Toa journeyed down into the depths of the ocean, Karzahni followed, staying far enough behind that he was not noticed.
Reaching the Pit, he had become disoriented as the black waters mutated him. He lost track of the Toa and wandered for some time before chancing on this strange Toa speaking with a Matoran. He didn’t know who this “Lesovikk” was, or why he was here – perhaps searching for the Mask of Life as well? But he had learned enough about Toa in the last few days to know they could be powerful enemies.
Unlimbering one of his chains, he willed it to burst into flame. Whirling it above his head, he let it fly. It wrapped itself around the startled Lesovikk, who yelled in shock and pain. Karzahni yanked him off his feet even as the Ta-Matoran nearby charged.
“Stop! Leave him alone!” yelled Sarda.
“Nonsense,” said Karzahni. “There is a war to be fought in this place, and a universe to win. But first… I need to sharpen my claws in combat. When I am done with the two of you, I will be ready at last… ready to conquer!”