80,000 years ago…
Pridak stood on the tower of his island fortress, looking down at his assembled army. His troops came from an endless number of places. Some were Matoran criminals, others violent brutes looking for the chance to fight, and by far the majority were simply beings who were no longer welcome in their homelands. They were thieves, murderers, traitors, and liars, and easily the most beautiful sight he had ever seen.
He shifted his gaze to the west. There, Takadox’s and Mantax’s armies had set up camp. To the east, the legions of Kalmah and Ehlek were preparing for battle. Carapar’s army was the last to arrive and they had immediately begun skirmishing with some of the others. No effort had been made to stop them. It was best they keep their weapons and their battle instincts sharp for what was to come.
Pridak took a deep breath. The air smelled sweet. He wanted to savor these last few moments of his old life. Soon, he would no longer be just the ruler of a small realm, one almost beneath the notice of the Great Spirit Mata Nui. Before this day was through, he would be the undisputed king of one-sixth of the known universe.
If it were possible for a biomechanical being to be a perfect physical specimen, Pridak was it. Even if his armor and weapons had been taken away, he would still have radiated power. It was hard for him to comprehend how some beings, even entire intelligent species, could live out their lives with monstrous appearances. He imagined they must just be dead inside and so didn’t notice the horror they inspired.
A strong wind set the island’s trees to swaying. The scent of campfires, unwashed Matoran, and Rahi mounts combined into a musty, foul aroma. The smell triggered memories of past conquests. They had been hard-fought battles, and well worth winning, but they could not compare with what he and his allies were about to undertake.
One of his battle leaders approached. “Sir, all is ready. We await your order to strike.”
Pridak nodded, his keen eyes trained on his legions below. “Indeed. Three members of a Matoran rear guard unit have propped their weapons against rocks and are having a conversation among themselves. Why?”
The battle leader turned to look. Then, flustered, he answered. “I… have no explanation, sir. They will be disciplined at once.”
A tight smile appeared on Pridak’s face. “Three ignore their orders while their fifty companions stand at attention and do nothing about it. Not at all satisfactory.”
He turned to the battle leader. “Pass the word among my legions. That unit is to be attacked and completely destroyed, immediately… along with you.”
“What? Sir, I… I…”
Pridak’s hand flashed out and grabbed the battle leader by the throat. He took two quick strides and thrust the unfortunate being over the edge of the tower. His captive’s legs dangled in space.
“Am I speaking some unknown Matoran dialect?” Pridak whispered. “Do you require a translator? I want you to go down there and order your own destruction. I want you to do it now.”
Pridak leaned in close, his fetid breath washing over his frightened subordinate. “Be assured my legions will be far swifter and more merciful in carrying out their task than I would be.”
With that, Pridak idly tossed the battle leader back onto the stone floor of the tower. The panicked being scrambled to his feet and raced down the stairs to carry out his orders. When he reached the bottom, he would command the legions to immediately wipe out the offending unit and then himself. He would do this because he knew Pridak was right. Death at their hands would be far preferable to the same fate in the clutches of his ruler.
The other five Barraki were waiting in the fortress’s central chamber, studying maps carved into stone tablets. They had been given their name centuries ago by the subjects of their realms. It was an old Matoran word, rarely ever heard, which roughly translated to “warlord”. Each was powerful, well armored, and veteran of many a raid. Those who saw them said they made Toa look like some kind of Rahi that crawled out from under a rock. They saw themselves as a higher level of being, preordained to rule by virtue of their superior strength and intellect.
The charts they looked over were rough, but they were good enough for the Barraki’s purposes. One set of tablets showed key points on the central continent. The other covered the sea approaches to the city of Metru Nui.
“Guarded here, here, here,” said Ehlek. His nerves were obvious. Although he reigned on land, Ehlek’s species was native to a watery realm. He was able to function on the surface only through a complicated apparatus that enabled him to breathe air. That made him vulnerable and he knew it.
“We’ll surround and crush them,” Kalmah said, impatient to get started.
Takadox shook his head. “No. We let them see an advance scouting party, then lure them into a trap.”
Carapar and Mantax said nothing, one because he had nothing useful to add and the other because he did not want his allies to know his strategies.
“Toa,” said Kalmah, as dismissively as if he were discussing the weather. “They are a moment’s annoyance, at best.”
“Easy for you to say,” Takadox shot back. “I was there when they ‘annoyed’ a Kanohi Dragon into submission. For what is at stake, they will fight, and to the death.”
Pridak’s voice was a sharpened sword wrapped in soft reeds. “Yes. Remember what is at stake, all of you. This is not some petty raid on another realm. These are the sites of true power. When they fall, Mata Nui himself falls… and the universe will answer to us.”
Further conversation was interrupted by the sounds of screaming and yelling from outside the fortress, punctuated by the harsh noises of weapon striking weapon. Carapar rushed to the window. He took a quick glance at the scene below and said: “I think the answer came early.”
Pridak and the others joined him to view a shocking scene. A massive army had suddenly appeared from the north and slammed into the legions. The attackers were Toa, Exo-Toa machines, Rahkshi, and Rahi beasts, an invading force tens of thousands strong. Unprepared to mount a defense, the Barraki’s legions were falling like stone walls before a Kikanalo stampede. But that wasn’t what filled the Barraki with a sense of dread. No, that came from the sight of the banner the invaders carried overhead.
It was the symbol of the Brotherhood of Makuta.
There was no time to wonder how the Brotherhood had learned of their plans, or why those defenders of Mata Nui and the Matoran had chosen to leave their bases and attack. The Barraki rushed out to take command of their legions and try to organize some kind of defense. Each knew that those captured by the Brotherhood, especially in an act of open rebellion against the Great Spirit, could expect no mercy. Death in battle was by far the better alternative.
The battle was over by nightfall. The Barraki’s troops were tough, good fighters, but they weren’t as well disciplined as the Brotherhood’s army. Taken by surprise and outmaneuvered, large numbers of them deserted or surrendered. But the leader of the victorious force did not care about them. He wanted their leaders.
The Barraki fought to the last but were finally overpowered. They were brought in chains to the front of their ranks. Then, for the first time, they saw their conqueror. It was the Makuta who guarded Metru Nui and its surrounding area. His power and genius were known throughout the universe. A lesser being would never have been placed in charge of so vital a region.
Makuta looked at the Barraki with cold, crimson eyes, as if they were insects he was looking forward to crushing. They, in turn, looked right back at him, even Ehlek. After all, they were not some petty criminals who quaked at the sight of a Toa or even a Brotherhood member. They were rulers. They were warriors. And they were Barraki.
“Your rebellion is over,” Makuta said. “Your misguided attempt to overthrow the Great Spirit is now history… as are you.”
Makuta walked down the line of prisoners and stopped at Pridak. “These others I am not familiar with, but you… you I know. Why?”
“I served the Brotherhood in days long past,” Pridak answered, not at all intimidated by Makuta’s presence. “In fact, it was the Brotherhood who gave me my first command. Oh, it was a small territory, barely worth controlling. But I have since moved on to bigger things.”
“So I see,” Makuta murmured under his breath.
“What will happen to us now?” asked Takadox. “You know, our armies could be of use to you, great Makuta. Combined with the might of yours, Mata Nui could not hope to –”
Makuta took two steps forward and struck Takadox, hard, with an armored hand. The Barraki went sprawling in the dirt. “Your every word condemns you,” said Makuta, rage contorting his features. “There is only one possible fate for such traitors.”
The automated Exo-Toa armored suits took aim with their weapons. Those few Toa who were nearby raised their voices in protest. Makuta ignored them. But before he could give the order to fire, a new element entered the picture.
A lone figure was approaching, tall, powerful, with a face so hideous it would give nightmares to a Visorak. Even Makuta seemed taken aback by the newcomer.
“I am Botar,” the figure said. “The Pit calls, and I have come.”
“What?” asked Makuta. “Who summoned you? What business do you have here?”
“The business of punishment,” Botar replied, “although to call it an art would not be far wrong.”
“You have no rights here,” Makuta snarled. “Begone.”
Botar smiled, a monstrous grin. “Where there are wrongs, Makuta… I have rights. Stand aside.”
“I will not! These are my prisoners.”
Botar continued to smile, but his voice grew dark and filled with menace. “Stand aside or share their fate.”
The nightmarish figure gestured toward the Barraki. A ring of energy appeared around them, tendrils of power connecting to Botar. Before Makuta could act, all seven – the six Barraki and Botar – had faded away. All that was left behind was the echo of the Barraki’s screams.
In the months to come, the Barraki’s legions and their empires were broken up. Some of their troops were sent back to their home islands for imprisonment, others were taken by the Brotherhood as slave laborers. The Barraki’s fortresses were torn down and the stones ground to powder. The names of the warlords were expunged from every chronicle, with the exception of the Brotherhood’s roll of victory.
The fate of the six traitors remained a mystery, even to Makuta. Sometimes, in the dark night, he would remember the look in Pridak’s cold, dead eyes, and some part of him would hope the Barraki were dead. Along with that wish would come other thoughts, ones that would occupy his mind more and more as time passed.
The Barraki believed Mata Nui could be overthrown and replaced. Of course, it could never be done by the likes of them, Makuta said to himself. But who is to say it could never be done at all?
And somewhere in the endless darkness of the Pit, the Barraki waited, and brooded, and longed for the day they would take revenge…