From the pages of Takanuva’s journal

My name is Takanuva, Toa of Light. For the past – day? month? year? – I have been traveling through other dimensions trying to find my way to Karda Nui. I was sent on my journey by the Order of Mata Nui, who gave me vital information I must share with the Toa Nuva. Unfortunately, the mask whose power hurled me into the space between dimensions was damaged, so the trip has been a rough one. Hopefully, my next stop will be my own universe.

I see a point of light in the distance. After three wrong destinations, I can only wish that this is Karda Nui. Fighting the currents of interdimensional space, I make for the spot. It is a portal opening to another reality. Desperately, I dive for it. On the other side, I land hard on a small island of mud. All around me is murky water and weird plant life. Have I found Karda Nui, the core of the universe, or simply another strange world not my own?

* * *

It had been two hours since Takanuva, Toa of Light, stumbled through a hole in space and fell face-first into the mud. His journey had begun in the city of Metru Nui, courtesy of a Great Mask worn by a being named Brutaka. His mission was to travel to Karda Nui and bring vital information to the Toa Nuva.

Since his arrival, he had been flying east, looking for some sign of the Toa Nuva. He had spotted figures flitting through the sky and what might have been battles, but he was too far away to make out clearly who they were or what was going on.

That was about to change. He spotted Gali Nuva on a spit of mud, being menaced by what looked like a giant insect with an attitude. Takanuva hesitated for just a moment – he had all too painfully learned the dangers of judging by appearance in recent adventures – but he couldn’t escape the fact that Gali was lying on the ground and that thing was closing in on her.

Takanuva fired a warning blast of light in front of the insectoid’s path. The being turned his head to look at the Toa, and Takanuva would forever remember the expression on his face. It wasn’t fear or anger – more like sadness, as if the bone-white creature had finally accepted his fate.

The Toa of Light braced for an attack. Instead, the insectoid being turned ghostly and vanished into the ground. Gali got to her feet as Takanuva joined her. The two spoke at the same time.

“How did you get here –?”

“Are you all right –?”

“It’s a long story,” said Takanuva. “Where are the others? I have news you need to hear.”

Gali glanced down at the spot of ground into which Krika had disappeared. “They’re back that way. Karda Nui is under attack by the Makuta, and –” She glanced up at Takanuva, eyes wide. “What happened to you? Your armor… your mask… and is it me, or are you bigger?”

“I don’t know about the last,” Takanuva said grimly. “But as for the rest – I’ll tell you while we travel.” He reached behind and took something off his back. Gali recognized it as a smaller version of the sundial Lewa had retrieved from the island of Mata Nui.

“What are you going to do with that?” she asked.

Takanuva put the sundial on the ground and then shot a beam of light at it from his left hand. The arrow on the sundial cast a shadow that pointed to the east. Takanuva had no way of knowing it, but it was pointing right toward the Codrex.

“Okay,” he said softly. “So I still go that way.”

Gali looked at him, thoroughly confused.

“I was told Lewa Nuva retrieved this from the island of Mata Nui not too long ago,” the Toa of Light hurriedly explained. “It was shrunk down and given to me for my journey here. When I focus light upon it, the sundial points toward the spot from which the Great Spirit can be awakened.”

Gali was going to ask more questions, but she was distracted by the arrival of Pohatu and Photok, who came to a landing in front of the two Toa. Pohatu looked Takanuva up and down for a few moments, finally saying, “Hmm. Can’t say I think much of the color change.”

“You should talk,” Takanuva muttered. “You’re orange!”

“Yeah,” Pohatu smiled. “But I wear it well.”

* * *

From the pages of Takanuva’s journal

I am in a swamp, surrounded by mist. Now and then, I spot a fin or a tentacle break the surface of the muddy water, but I don’t see many other Rahi around. Am I where I am supposed to be? Using my new power of flight, I rise into the air. That’s when I spot her – a Toa of Water, being menaced by a pale-white, skeletal monstrosity. I don’t know if that’s Gali or not, but I know a Toa in danger when I see one. Let’s see if I can shed a little light on this with my power lance!

A burst of light made the creature menacing my fellow Toa stop and take notice. I expected it to attack, or scream out its rage, or do something else I wouldn’t enjoy at all. Instead, the look on its face was almost one of… sadness and resignation. Almost as if it knew that I, or someone like me, was coming, but had hoped against hope I wouldn’t show up. Then it drifted down through the mud like a spirit and vanished. Wherever I am… this is a very strange place.

Using my newfound ability to fly (the result of a Makuta virus I was exposed to in an alternate universe), I traveled to where the Toa was just getting to her feet. As I got closer, I realized that despite the differences in her appearance, it was Gali. And despite how I looked, she recognized me. “What are you doing here?” she asked, even as I said “Are you all right?” I told her it was a long, long story, and there wasn’t time to tell it. We had to find the others – they had to know how much danger they were in!

Gali looked at me as if she were just seeing me for the first time. “What happened to you?” she asked. “Your armor… your mask… and is it me, or have you grown bigger?” The darkening of my armor and mask I already knew about. It was a side-effect of the shadow leech attack on Metru Nui. But I had grown in size? Yes, I guess I had, though I had no idea why. What did it mean? Would it stop, or would I keep growing larger? A Turaga might know the answers, but there were none around. Like far too many situations I had been in lately, I would have to learn as I went.

Gali was ready to head off in search of the other Toa Nuva, but I had something I felt I had to do first. I umlimbered the sundial I carried with me and placed it on the muddy ground. I shone a beam of light on its face and the shadow that resulted pointed to the east. “Okay, so I keep going that way,” I said. Gali looked at me, confused. “Is that the sundial Lewa retrieved from the island of Mata Nui? How did it get so small? And what are you using it for?” Those, at least, were questions I could answer.

“You know of the Order of Mata Nui,” I said to Gali. “They told me you did. They shrunk the sundial down and gave it to me. When I shine light upon it, it points toward the spot from which the Great Spirit can be awakened.” Gali looked at me as if I had grown two more heads… which, the way things were going, I would have believed. She was about to ask me if I was quite sure I was okay when we both spotted a gleam of orange off to the east. It was closing on us rapidly, and the dark side of me urged me to prepare to attack. It was getting harder and harder to resist those impulses – and maybe in this case they were right. After all, I didn’t know any orange Toa…

I was ready for anything as the orange figure approached, flying at impossibly high speed. Gali, though, look undisturbed by the new arrival. She placed a hand on my arm, a signal that all was well. And it turned out the new arrival was Pohatu, though he did not look much like the Toa of Stone I remembered.

He looked me up and down for a moment, before saying, “I can’t say I think much of the color change.”

“You should talk,” I replied. “You’re orange.”

“Yeah, but I wear it well,” said Pohatu, with a grin.

* * *

Makuta Mutran was extremely unhappy. The Toa Nuva had succeeded in destroying his original hive along with the vats he used to create shadow leeches. He had been forced to relocate his operations to an island in the swamp, using whatever extra equipment he’d had stored outside the hive. The situation was neither efficient nor ideal, especially to an “artist” like Mutran.

“Impossible,” he growled. “I can’t work in this mud pit! I can’t create under these conditions!”

His Matoran assistant, Vican, stayed far away, knowing better than to even speak when Mutran was like this. Since the day he had been turned into a shadow Matoran and then mutated by his master, Vican had lived a life that could be compared to tiptoeing through a nest of sleeping doom vipers. He never knew what might inspire Mutran to toss him into a vat and see what new changes could be made.

Still, Vican couldn’t help but be curious about today’s project. Mutran was making some kind of winged, insectoid Rahi beast, but it wasn’t at Antroz’s request. And when Mutran did things on his own, the results were unpredictable.

Summoning his courage, Vican edged a little closer. “Um… great Mutran… what might that be?”

Mutran turned, surprised that Vican had dared to interrupt, but eager to show off his work. “That is a klakk. I made several very, very long ago – nasty little things, but excellent sentries. Since our new location is more exposed than the hive, I felt it might be of use. It should be ready to emerge from the vat soon.”

Vican eyed the creature. It didn’t look like it was going to follow Mutran’s schedule. It was ramming against the side of the vat and cracks were starting to appear in the crystal. Mutran noticed and plunged his spear into the tank, trying to drive the Rahi back, but all that did was irritate the klakk. With a final thrust, it shattered the vat and burst free.

Mutran made a grab for it, but the klakk was too fast. It shot on a straight line for Vican, a horrible shriek coming from its mouth. The sound was so loud and sharp it felt like a physical blow. Vican was knocked off his feet and, for a few moments, the world went black.

The next thing he knew, Mutran was hauling him out of the mud. He felt strange and sick, but he wasn’t going to show any sign of weakness to his master. His… master? Somehow, that didn’t sound at all right.

“It flew off,” snarled Mutran. “Go and bring it back!”

Vican could see the klakk, already well away from the island. He could see something else too. There were three Toa, one of whom he didn’t recognize, flying in the same general direction. The sight made Vican hesitate.

There are a thousand other places these Toa could be right now, safe places, far away from this, he thought. But they come here and risk their lives for Matoran they don’t even know. And what have I done? Everything I could – no, everything I was told to do – to stop them.

Vican took flight, moving more slowly than he normally would have. Something was happening inside him. He had never had any regrets about his actions, not since the day Mutran’s shadow leech drained the light from him. Things like conscience and regret went with it, leaving just darkness behind. So why did he suddenly care about this place, these Toa and Matoran, now?

Troubled, he winged away, his mind full of questions.

* * *

From the pages of Takanuva’s journal

Pohatu, Gali and I flew to the east, toward where my two friends said the other Toa Nuva could be found. Along the way, they brought me up to date on what had been happening – their arrival in Karda Nui, the discovery of the Makuta here, and the revelation that they had been turning Matoran of Light into shadow Matoran. That last sickened me. I knew now that I must have been a Matoran of Light in the past, though those memories were blocked. I probably worked alongside some of the Matoran the Makuta had corrupted. They might have even been good friends. Right then and there, I swore that no matter what – even if it meant Mata Nui stayed asleep, even at the cost of my own life – I would see to it that the shadow Matoran were cured.

We had only been flying a few minutes when Gali spotted something down below. A moment later, so did I – half a dozen insectoids, each about one and a half bio high, flying close to the surface of the swamp. Each had four arms with nasty stingers on the ends. “What are they?” I asked.

“I heard they’re called Niazesk,” answered Pohatu. “Some little pets of the Makuta who got transformed somehow into the big pests you see. Better off staying away from them, they’re –”

An angry buzz interrupted him. The Niazesk spotted us and were coming in our direction!

“We don’t have time for this,” growled Pohatu. He used his power to hurl stone blocks down at the approaching Niazesk. But they were good flyers and evaded his attack. Gali took down one with a water burst, but they were closing fast. I didn’t need to be told that a sting from one of them could do more than itch. I started to lower my staff to use a light blast against them… but then I thought, what if it isn’t powerful enough? What if one or two get through and Pohatu or Gali gets harmed? I made my decision… I raised my right arm to call upon the power of shadow.

I unleashed a blast of pure darkness at the oncoming Niazesk. It struck them like a solid wall. They spun, reeled, and then plunged down into the swamp. I turned to Pohatu and Gali, expecting to get congratulations for winning the fight. Instead, what I saw in their eyes was fear.

“What… was… that?” asked Pohatu. And he was actually aiming his weapon at me as he said it!

“There have been some… changes,” I answered.

“So I see,” said Pohatu. “I wondered whether the Makuta of Metru Nui was still alive, and if so, where he had got to – I guess I know now, don’t I?”

“Are you crazy?” I said, staring at Pohatu. “You think I’m a Makuta?”

“Well, you don’t look much like a Toa of Light,” the Toa of Stone replied, his weapon still aimed at me. “And we’ve all been fooled by Makuta before.”

Gali looked from Pohatu to me. Even she was showing some doubt now – and who could blame her? I had grown in size and my armor color had changed from white and gold to white and grey. Frankly, if I had been a Makuta trying to impersonate a Toa of Light, I’d be doing a really lousy job.

I wracked my brain trying to come up with some way to prove I was me (try it sometime, it’s not easy). I could use my light powers, but Pohatu might think that just a Makuta illusion. I could use my mask power to promote trust in him, but I had a feeling the second he felt a shift in mood, he would blast away.

“If you’re really Takanuva, then I’m sorry,” said Pohatu. “But if you’re not, all of our lives aren’t worth a widget. So I’m giving you to the count of 10 to tell me why I shouldn’t skyblast you out of existence. 1… 2… 3…”

“6… 7… 8… 9…”

“What’s a Toa?” I suddenly shouted.

Pohatu paused in his countdown and looked at me, puzzled. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“The first time you woke up on Daxia,” I said, the words tumbling out of my mouth in my haste. “You were told you were a Toa, and your response was, ‘What’s a Toa?’ There were no Makuta there, so how could one know about that?”

“There’s only one problem,” said Pohatu. “You weren’t there either.”

“But I saw it,” I insisted. “I saw your creation, your training, I saw the team fighting avohkah here, and I saw the storm… that’s why I’m here.”

An idea struck me. I turned to Gali. “Remember, last year, when I was still Takua the Chronicler? You forged a mental link with me so I could see what you saw when you fought Makuta. Do you think you can do it again?”

“I… I don’t know,” said Gali.

“Don’t do it,” said Pohatu. “Makuta would just love to get inside your head.”

“She has to,” I said. “It’s the only way. She has to look inside my mind, and if she doesn’t like what she sees… you can kill me dead, right here.”

Toa Gali shut her eyes. After a few moments, I felt the unique sensation of her mind reaching into mine. For an instant, I could see myself through her eyes (which was pretty disturbing – even I hadn’t realized how much I had changed). Then I felt the link snap as she pulled away. Pohatu reached out and grabbed her to keep her from falling.

“Amazing,” she said softly. “A place where Mata Nui died… another where the Toa rule as dictators… your journey here was… eventful, Takanuva.”

“Then he is –?” asked Pohatu.

“He is,” confirmed Gali. “Darker, perhaps, and not quite the innocent Takua or the eager hero we remember… but he is our friend.”

“What’s the situation here?” I asked.

Pohatu pointed towards the east. “The Makuta are putting up a good fight, but we’re holding our own. We’ll have Mata Nui awake again before you know it!”

“That,” I said, taking to the sky, “is what I am afraid of.”

Pohatu had just brought up the fact that even he didn’t recall the story I had told of his early adventures when we arrived in the midst of a full-scale battle. The Toa Nuva were fighting a group of Makuta I had never seen before. Pohatu and Gali split off to attack from the flanks, while I rammed right up the middle. If my appearance took the Nuva by surprise, it seemed to do even more than that to the Makuta. My light powers tipped the balance and the masters of shadow retreated to the east.

Tahu wasted no time on welcoming me. He produced six fragments of stone and asked us all to read them. They contained, he said, the secret to awakening the Great Spirit. I really wished I could share in the moment… so close to achieving their destiny… but the time had come to tell what I knew.

* * *

The appearance of Takanuva was a surprise for both the other Toa Nuva and the Makuta. With his light power added to the battle, the Toa earned a victory, though at best a temporary one. The Makuta retreated toward the Codrex.

Tahu wasn’t going to waste this time. He collected all six keystones that the Toa had collected and fitted them together. As the Matoran had told them, the inscriptions on the stone told how the Toa could awaken the Great Spirit Mata Nui.

Tahu read them over carefully, then had the others do the same. The process would be a long and complicated one, but not impossible. If they could hold the Makuta off long enough, they could awaken the Great Spirit and end the Brotherhood’s dreams of conquest.

“We have to get into the Codrex,” he said. “We have the keystone. Now we just have to get past the Makuta. Once we do that, we can start the awakening.”

“Wait. You… must… wait.”

The voice was harsh and raspy, as if the speaker had not used it in ages. The truth was Toa Ignika, who now hovered above the Toa, had never spoken aloud in all of his short existence in this form.

“What is it?” asked Onua. “What do you know?”

In halting, uncertain speech, Ignika told the Toa what Icarax had told him. “I hadn’t realized before, but… it has changed color,” Kopaka said. “Remember? When we talked with Axonn on the island of Voya Nui, he described it as a ‘golden mask.’”

“Since when do Makuta tell the truth about anything?” asked Pohatu.

“Do you want to be the one who risks all on the notion they might be lying?” Kopaka replied.

“Then we move fast,” said Tahu.

Gali read over the keystones again. “Tahu, we don’t have any way of knowing how long we have before this… countdown… reaches its end. What if we can’t complete this process in time?”

Now it was Takanuva’s turn to speak up. “We have another problem. If we succeed in waking up the Great Spirit, all of this place is going to be hit with an energy storm so big it will kill everything in Karda Nui. If we don’t get ourselves and the Matoran out of here in time…” There was no need to finish the statement.

“So if we fail, everyone quick-dies. And if we succeed, everyone quick-dies,” said Lewa Nuva. “Oh, those Great Beings and their whacky sense of humor.”

* * *

From the pages of Takanuva’s journal

I was about to speak up when someone new arrived – yet another Toa, though the others seemed a little wary of him. When he spoke, it sounded like he had just learned to use his voice. He related a stunning story. Apparently, he wasn’t just wearing the Mask of Life – he was the Mask of Life. Worse, he was a Mask of Life on a countdown to the annihilation of every living being in the universe… something about things being out of balance and this the only way to make things right.

I gave the others a moment to absorb the news. Then it was my turn to add a little more cheer to the gathering. “We have another problem,” I said. “If we succeed in waking up the Great Spirit, this place is going to be hit with an energy storm that will destroy everything in Karda Nui!”

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