Later, Lewa Nuva would remember that sound.
It was a high-pitched, keening wail that threatened to split his head open. Pohatu, their strange new ally, and the Matoran heard it, too. The two Av-Matoran dropped like stones. The Toa remained standing long enough to see their attackers, three Makuta. Then they, too, succumbed to the pain and passed out.
When they awoke, it was to find themselves chained to a wall in the hive. Chirox and Vamprah were gone, leaving Mutran and Antroz to greet them.
“The challenge of being a Makuta is choosing which power to use to eliminate your enemies,” said Antroz. “It gets so boring using the same ones all the time. Variety is the spice of destruction, after all.”
Lewa yanked on the chains. They were made of protosteel, one of the hardest substances in the universe, and so thick even Pohatu would have a hard time breaking free by sheer strength alone. Of course, a quick use of their elemental powers could get them loose, and the Makuta had to know that.
“If you are thinking of escape, don’t,” said Antroz, as if he were reading Lewa’s mind – which he might well be, thought the Toa of Air. “You will notice your Matoran friends are conspicuous by their absence. They are with Vamprah and Chirox, having a… discussion. Attempt to break free or attack us and a telepathic flash will alert my two allies, who will immediately kill Photok, Solek, and Tanma. Is that understood?”
Lewa glanced at Pohatu and Kopaka to his right, and their new companion, still unconscious, to his left. No one answered. Antroz nodded at Mutran, who walked toward the opposite wall. For the first time, Lewa noticed that it was lined with bubbling vats.
“Little tricks of the mind,” Mutran chuckled. “You saw my precious toys as a blank wall as you flew by… and then your ally as a monster to be destroyed.”
“You are expecting to die, of course,” Antroz said to the imprisoned Toa. “We will question you about how you got here, how many other Toa might be on their way, and you will bravely refuse to answer. You will stay true to your heritage and never break, until we are forced to kill you. And then four more names will be added to the roster of dead fools.”
Mutran reached into the tank and fished out a large, squirming shadow leech.
“But, you see, you’re not going to get off so easily,” Antroz continued, his sightless eyes darting along the wall where his prisoners were chained. “You will get no chance to be heroes. No Chronicler will remember you with honor. Instead, you will be branded as traitors and your names will be cursed by all free Matoran… for the short time they have left.”
Mutran walked to Lewa, holding out the shadow leech, still dripping liquid protodermis. It hissed as it drew close to the Toa’s Kanohi mask.
“You came here looking for the shadow leeches,” Mutran said, smiling. “Isn’t it time you met them face-to-face?”
Elsewhere, Vican was about to have a meeting of his own. If it wasn’t quite as frightening and final as an encounter with a shadow leech, it was just as much to be dreaded.
He had been expecting a much longer journey to reach the bleak and barren island of Destral. Surprisingly, he had arrived there in less than half an hour. Had Vican thought about it, he wouldn’t have been so shocked. Destral had been known to teleport through space, appearing wherever its occupants chose. Once the location of Karda Nui was discovered, some member of the Brotherhood of Makuta had moved their base as close as possible to one of the entrances.
The island itself was little more than a jagged rock in the silver sea, dominated by the massive Brotherhood fortress. Down below, a huge number of Visorak, Rahkshi, and mechanized Exo-Toa battlesuits could be seen on patrol. The only area that seemed relatively clear was the rocky shoreline, most likely because it was lined with traps for any unwary visitors. Anyone who attempted to land on Destral would be captured within moments and hauled to the fortress for interrogation… or worse.
As for the fortress itself, it was bigger than Vican’s entire home island. It took up the entire land mass of the island, with the exception of a small portion at the southern tip. Constructed entirely of stone and metal, it looked like some obscene growth that had erupted from the core of the island. A blisteringly hot wind rustled the Brotherhood banners that hung from the parapets. Vican wondered for how many beings this fortress had been the last sight ever seen.
He reached into his pack and fingered the Brotherhood tablet of transit, just to reassure himself it was still there. With this hand-sized piece of stone, he would be allowed to enter the fortress and carry out his mission. Without it, he would be seen as an intruder, tossed in a cell (if he was lucky), and never heard from again.
Vican guided his flying mount to a landing before the massive gates. As soon as he touched down, a half dozen Visorak and a silver Rahkshi converged on him. He scrambled to take out the tablet of transit and then held it before him, as if it were a talisman to ward off evil. The Rahkshi stopped in its tracks at the sight. The Visorak kept coming, pulling him from atop the Rahi and herding him toward the gate.
The huge portal opened at his approach. Hesitantly, he stepped inside. When the doors slammed shut behind him, he jumped half a foot. The corridor in which Vican found himself was dark and cold, with a ceiling at least five hundred feet high. Mounted on the walls were trophies of past Brotherhood conquests – Toa masks and weapons, Rahi heads, and a few things so grotesque even Vican looked away with a shudder.
Antroz had given him precise instructions for where to look for Icarax. Turned out they weren’t necessary, because that Makuta was not making himself hard to find. Instead, the powerful, black-armored warrior was sitting on the ebony throne normally reserved for Teridax, the Makuta of Metru Nui – and he was wearing Teridax’s Mask of Shadows!
Vican felt like his heartlight was in his throat. What was going on here? Had Icarax staged a one-Makuta revolution in the absence of the other members and taken over Destral? If so, how would he react to Antroz’s summons? Right now, Vican wished he was anyplace else. A nice, long spell in a Rahi creation vat even seemed like an appealing alternative.
He stood in the doorway of the central chamber, too scared to move or speak. Icarax was busy sharpening his twin-bladed, rotating sword. Then his eyes flicked up, and he caught sight of Vican.
“You tempt fate, approaching without announcing your presence. I might have killed you,” Icarax said, his voice like distant thunder. He leaned forward, eyes locked on Vican’s. “I still might.”
The mutated Matoran somehow managed to find the will to move. He held up the tablet of transit. It did not seem to impress Icarax, but the Makuta made no move to spring on his visitor and rend him to bits. Vican took that as an encouraging sign.
“Um… forgive me… um,” he stammered. “I… I…”
A wisp of shadow energy drifted from lcarax’s spiked claw. It wrapped itself around Vican and began to squeeze.
“You have thirty seconds in which to be extremely amusing,” said Icarax. “After that…”
Vican could feel the breath being forced out of his lungs. His arms were already close to snapping from the pressure. He struggled to speak. Icarax rose, walked over to him, and held his sword to the Matoran’s throat.
“Short,” said the Makuta. He glanced down at the blade, then back at Vican. “Or to the point.”
“Antroz sent me,” Vican gasped. “He wants you in Karda Nui. He said… he said immediately.”
Icarax frowned and withdrew his sword. The shadow chain around Vican dissipated. The Matoran inhaled a big breath of air.
“Antroz,” Icarax said, so quietly Vican could barely hear it. “I journeyed to Metru Nui, to the very home of the Toa of Light, to retrieve the Mask of Shadows lost there by Teridax. I returned and claimed this throne. And I arrive to find Antroz presumes to give me orders.”
“He – all of us – we’re just following the directives of Makuta Teridax,” Vican said. He knew it was a mistake as soon as the words left his mouth.
Icarax yanked hard on a chain hanging from the ceiling. A section of the floor slid away, revealing a pool of energized protodermis far below. The Makuta grabbed the Matoran and held him by his ankle over the pool.
“What do you think? Will that liquid transform you, or destroy you?” said Icarax, his manner deadly calm. “A gamble, you see – Teridax has always been fond of gambles. His entire plan is a colossal wager against destiny. If all do their part, then perhaps, maybe, ultimate power will be ours, he pledges.”
The Makuta hurled Vican to the floor. “I believe in certainties. The strength of my limbs, the power of my mask, the sharp edges of my blades – that is what I build my plans around. Trickery, deception, complex strategies, they are for the weak! If you want power, and another has it, you get it not by outwitting him – you get it by stepping over his corpse.”
Icarax kicked Vican toward the door. “Run back to your master. Tell him Icarax comes. If he is wise, he will tremble.”
Vican got to his feet and fled out of the chamber, down the corridor, and beyond the gates. He slammed into a Visorak so hard he knocked it off its feet, then scrambled atop his flying Rahi. An instant later, he was on his way back to Karda Nui to deliver his message. After that, he decided, it might be wise to dig a hole, climb in, and pull the stones down on top of him. He didn’t think he wanted to see what was soon to happen.
Pohatu Nuva was certain that at some point in his storied career, he had escaped from a tougher trap. He just wished he could remember when.
Not that he had much time for recollection – Lewa Nuva was about two seconds from being introduced to a shadow leech. Once that happened, the light would be drained out of him and he would become a dark Toa. The other Toa Nuva, if they survived, would have to fight him, just as the Karda Nui Matoran were battling their former friends every day.
Pohatu racked his brain. If he used a mask power or his power over stone in any obvious way, their three Matoran allies were dead. But what if I do it in a way that isn’t easy to spot? he thought. What if I can take them by surprise?
Everyone knew what a Toa of Stone could do – create rock, shape it, make it strike at his command. It was a good power, but it wasn’t the whole story. What a Toa can create, he can also destroy, thought Pohatu. And I just love to break things.
He closed his eyes, hoping the Makuta would just think he was afraid to watch Lewa’s fate. Then Pohatu used his power over stone in a way he hadn’t in ages – to weaken the rock in the floor of the hive. It was a delicate procedure – fractures had to be created with pinpoint precision – and Toa of Stone weren’t known for being delicate. But done wrong, Mutran would spot signs of it too early, and Tanma and his group were as good as dead.
The shadow leech had made contact with Lewa’s mask. The Toa of Air screamed. There was no more time to wait.
Pohatu Nuva gave a mental yank on the section of stone he had weakened. The floor beneath Antroz’s and Mutran’s feet gave way, throwing them off balance for one crucial instant.
As soon as he saw them start to fall, Pohatu triggered his Kanohi Mask of Speed. By vibrating his body’s molecules at high speed, he was able to pass his wrists through the chains and free himself. Increasing his vibration, he rocketed forward, using his hand to slice through the chains that bound the other three Toa. Then he was gone, headed for the chamber where the Matoran were being held.
By now, Mutran and Antroz had regained their footing. Lewa and Kopaka had retrieved their weapons and, along with a newly revived Toa Ignika, were ready for them.
“The doom vipers,” said Kopaka. “Back when we first got back to Metru Nui.”
“Gotcha,” said Lewa. “What about our silent friend?”
“He’ll figure it out,” said the Toa of Ice.
Pohatu suddenly reappeared, the three Matoran in tow. “Whatever we’re doing, we better do. The other Makuta are right behind me.”
“Doom vipers in Ga-Metru,” Kopaka replied.
Pohatu smiled. “Oh, yeah. Good choice.”
One of the things that made Kanohi Nuva masks unique was the ability of the user to share their power with whomever happened to be close by. In this case, it was Pohatu conferring the power of super speed on the other three Toa and the Matoran. Before Mutran’s eyes, all six seemed to vanish.
“Move, you fool!” Antroz snarled. “I can hear them. They are headed for the vats!”
It was already too late. The speeding heroes smashed the vats to shards, sending half-formed shadow leeches tumbling out onto the cave floor.
Chirox and Vamprah arrived just at that moment. “Stay there!” Mutran yelled. “Block the exit!”
Pohatu wanted to stay and fight. Racing at top speed had been enough to confuse and defeat a half dozen deadly doom vipers, after all, so it might work as well on Makuta. Speed was one of the few powers Makuta didn’t have. But a tap on his shoulder by Kopaka signaled that retreat was the better option.
Concentrating, he used the mask to set all six bodies to vibrate at just the right frequency. Then the party shot forward, actually vibrating right through the bodies of Chirox and Vamprah. Unwilling to leave without a parting shot, Pohatu slowed everyone down just enough that their passage disrupted the Makuta’s substance. The two cried out in excruciating pain.
Then Pohatu and his team were out of the hive mouth and into the sky.
“Let’s bring it down,” said Kopaka, pointing to the hive.
Lewa, Pohatu, and Kopaka combined their powers, striking at the relatively slender stone cord that held the hive suspended. But it remained intact, the damage they did being healed almost as quickly as they made it.
“That’s not normal stone,” said Pohatu. “It looks almost organic.”
Toa Ignika suddenly pushed forward, shouldering the other Toa aside. Before they could react, he had triggered his own unique power, weakening the living stone. It snapped in two, sending the hive plunging toward the swamp below. The Toa Nuva could see the Makuta and Matoran fleeing from it as it fell.
“What just happened?” asked Lewa Nuva, giving Toa Ignika a long look.
“We won!” shouted Solek.
Kopaka shook his head. “We survived. And we made them angry.”
“Is that a good thing?” asked Photok.
“Mad-angry types get stupid,” said Lewa, tearing his attention away from their silent ally. “A stupid fighter beats himself.”
“With a little help from us,” added Pohatu, smiling.