Kopaka waited anxiously for his mysterious guest to appear. There had been no sign who this guest was, only that he was coming. The Toa of Ice began pacing again under the cool arch in New Atero again, watching as the Matoran and Agori stared back. This being must appear soon, Kopaka thought to himself, or he’ll find he’s been given the cold shoulder.
Suddenly, the white Toa caught movement in his eyepiece. The laser sight zoomed in and focused on a cloaked figure with two blue eyes peeking out. The being was tall, and obviously biomechanical from the way they walked. A Vortixx, perhaps, or some other titan. The cloaked figure swept into the arch, gesturing towards a door. Kopaka had no choice but to follow.
Surprisingly, the being spoke first, identifying himself as a male, but nothing further. “I need to tell you something, something that has never been told to anyone else but those it concerns.”
Kopaka’s usual silence was broken as he had to ask a single word: “Why?”
The cloak almost seemed to be grinning as he said “Why you? Why here, why now? Believe me; all your questions will be answered by the end. This is a peaceful meeting, I promise.”
“There is no promise you can make that I can trust. I don’t even know who you are.”
“Wait, let me explain my story. You see, tens of thousands of years ago, many of the islands were ruled by six warlords, the Barraki, each given their own region. Pridak, the unofficial leader, ruled the Northeast, Kalmah, the Northwest, Ehlek, the West, Takadox, the Southwest, Carapar, the South, and Mantax, the Center. They ruled in peace and prosperity, conquering and adding to their alliance, or so we thought…”
“My story tells the story of Kalmah, the Northwestern ruler. He was always a proud ruler, tough, but he was fair. With a kingdom as large as his, he couldn’t allow any weakness, or he could be overthrown. Even those chosen by the Great Spirit can be overthrown. His brothers were forming an alliance, the League of Kingdoms, but Kalmah’s pride wouldn’t allow him to join. Takadox wouldn’t allow that, so he decided to arrange a little ‘meeting.’”
-------------“The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened of late, Kalmah,” The tall, blue titan slunk out of the shadows of the palace. Kalmah was just beginning to ascend the massive stairs up to his huge tower. His foot stopped above the fifth as he turned to face his fellow warlord.
“Evening, Takadox, shouldn’t you be minding your manor?” Kalmah’s mouth twitched up into a quick semblance of a smile, but Takadox retained his blank scowl. “What is it? Tax payments going down, rampant Rahi? You can tell me, brother.”
When the blue titan finally spoke, it was with enough poison to kill Kalmah then and there. “You, brother. You have not joined our League, despite all the benefits! Your power is greatly needed, and it would be a shame if Pridak and I had to divide up your conquests. All that tabletwork simply makes me sick, and it would take a lifetime to reorder new maps! Not to mention the…”
Takadox’s words finally sank in, and Kalmah had to interrupt. “Pridak is in on this as well? He said he would never give in. You’re lying!”
“What would I have to gain by deceit, Kalmah, when you are the one with the choice? I’m simply letting my plans out before you, showing the logic. You are too late, there are no other options. Pridak and I have our armies waiting at your borders anxiously in preparation for the signal to attack. They cannot wait forever, and all we need is your agreement.”
Kalmah became aware he was staring into Takadox’s hypnotic eyes. Anything would sound good by now. He blinked and looked out over the wall into the Silver Sea. “Beautiful night, isn’t it, Takadox? The Silver Sea is so…peaceful and calm. It’s a rare time.”
The blue titan looked stunned. “How can you be talking about the scenery at a time like this? You’re kingdom is about to be taken apart, brick by brick, and delegated to Pridak and me! Shame, my argument sounded so convincing.”
Kalmah almost felt guilty, and he found Takadox’s eyes again, and once the red king had locked on, Takadox unleashed his full fury in a mental burst. “You will join us, or die now, at my feet, by my blades!” Kalmah could only watch and scream as his hypnotic brother walked closer and closer, drawing his toothed blades.
“Fine, I…I’ll do it…Just…just stop!” The alien presence left Kalmah’s mind, and he was once again at peace, alone.
“Hmm, I thought it would be harder than that. Pridak was so much harder to force. It took a few nights of the most merciless pain and torture the mind can conjure up, but I guess you were always the weak one.” Kalmah tried to draw his broadsword to skewer the nonchalant con artist, but Takadox was ready, and he quickly struck Kalmah’s hand with a quick swipe of the toothed blades, ending any thoughts of rebellion.
“Tut, tut, my brother. I seem to have struck a nerve there. You better keep an eye on that temper of yours if you’re going to share in our kingdoms.” Without another word, Kalmah was left on his stairs, alone in the night.
------------------“You see, Kopaka, Takadox has been a thorn in everyone’s side since he was put down by Mata-Nui. All he wants is more power, and he will use any means necessary to get it. Unfortunately, he was also the one gifted with hypnotic powers to get things done. His armies were immensely loyal, and if he commanded any one of them to go on a suicide mission for entertainment, they would do it. But this wasn’t the last incident…”
------------------All around was dark stone, worn down into a tunnel by clawed hands. The scars from years ago still showed beneath newer ones, and in the distance, Kalmah could hear the continued progress of the tunnel. The branches didn’t seem to be random at all, nor the shape, because at times, the tunnel could easily cover an army of Exo-Toa, and others, with only enough room for a crawlspace. He had tried mapping these strange tunnels, but every time he turned around, another tunnel was being dug, and it never came together enough. There were four large, curved lines, with branches expanding into each other, and then three smaller groups in the center, and all the time, they were still expanding. They wouldn’t make any sense to a strategist, only to an artist. Unfortunately, Kalmah was the first. Adding another dark line into his tablet, Kalmah followed the retreating sound of the Blade Burrower up ahead.
Mapping these Blade Burrower caverns were mostly a pet project of Kalmah once he discovered that they lead right under his passage into Mantax’s realm, but it had quickly escalated into an obsession. They were building something, what it was, Kalmah couldn’t guess. It could be an army-deployment tunnel for Carapar. He had always been good with those animals smarter than him. It could also be a network set to collapse at a certain time, destroying major key points in each empire. No matter what, he couldn’t imagine it was for a peaceful purpose. The only way to prepare was to map it out.
Suddenly, an intersection appeared that wasn’t there before. The map showed the tunnel continuing here, but it was also inaccurate enough that Kalmah might chose the wrong path. The Blade Burrowers were still expanding the left one, so Kalmah started off for the right when footsteps came from the center. A large, dark being emerged slowly into the radius covered by the lightstone in Kalmah’s upraised hand, and seemed to shy away a little. A shining blue reflected the dim light back, and the red Barraki signed in relief.
“What are you doing here, Takadox? I’ve done everything you’ve asked, what more could you possibly ask for?”
“Nothing, nothing. I simply want to talk.”
“With your power, nothing is simply ‘a talk.’ What is it?” The long broadsword was slowly sliding out of its sheath.
“No need for that, brother. I’ll come clean. I know you’ve been loyal all these years…”
“Loyal? Your leechcraft has me crawling on all fours like a Rahi!”
Takadox ignored the interruption, and continued on. “I know you’ve been loyal all these years, and you deserve to be rewarded. So, here’s my plan. There is really only one place that we haven’t taken in conquest yet, and I want it to belong to you.”
“Metru-Nui? But we have had peaceful negotiations with it all these years, why would we want to…”
“No, not Metru-Nui! Why take that old junk heap when we can take the entire known universe in a single sweep?”
“I’m listening.” The sword dropped with a clang back into the sheath.
“Good, no more interruptions. Now, the only way to take the universe is by taking the current ruler.”
“But we are the current rulers!”
Takadox sighed. “Kalmah, use your head for something other than scaring small Matoran for once. I’m talking about Mata-Nui.”
Kalmah jumped up at that. “No! That’s the Great Spirit! Even we are loyal to him!”
“Exactly. We have been loyal for too long. It is time that Mata-Nui learns what it’s like to be cast down like a stone into the mud! It is our turn to rule, isn’t it?”
“Yes, you’re absolutely right. We have worked hard to keep order, while all he has done is…” Takadox’s eyes were hypnotizing again, and Kalmah quickly broke his eye contact. “I mean, no. This is too risky. He has the Brotherhood under him, and some say the Brotherhood know everything. Their duty is to Mata-Nui.”
“And our duty is to conquer! How can we do this when Mata-Nui is always in our way? The time of the Great Spirit was yesterday. Now, it is our turn to rule! Our turn to conquer! Stand by me brother, as we go for Mata-Nui!”
By now, Kalmah was hooked. Takadox gave a gruesome smile, knowing he had won. “So, what are you going to do now, Kalmah?”
“Prepare my armies, and go to defeat Mata-Nui!”
-----------------“Hypnosis wasn’t Takadox’s most vile trait, however. He was a traitor, seeking for his own gain, trying to force others to do his bidding. His armies are by far the most loyal, not because of his love and good strategy, but because of his mind, and his powers. They couldn’t stand against him, or even desert, because he had such a powerful grip on their minds. Now, Kalmah was trapped in the same grip, and there was nothing he could do. If only he could, because Takadox was scheming up another plan…”
----------------Like a Fireflyer to a Rock Lion, Takadox tried to ease his way to the large, draconic being on the throne. Makuta Miserix was not only fiery in color, but temper as well, and even a small mistake could easily anger him. With this flaming tyrant entitled “Leader of the Brotherhood of Makuta” and “Great Protector of Mata-Nui,” angering him would not do, especially for this business.
“Your Excellency, I have a matter of urgent business for your consideration.”
“What is it now, Takadox?”
“What? Is Pridak defecting to Xia? Spit it out already!”
Takadox sighed. “A plot has been hatched by the other Barraki to overthrow Mata-Nui.”
Miserix fell back into his throne in shock. “But…no one’s ever…it isn’t even…no.” Out of every time Takadox had seen power, they had never been at a loss for words like this. The Great Makuta seemed feeble and prone for just a moment as he took it all in, then he roared, “I’ll kill them! I’ll kill them all! None can challenge Mata-Nui and the Brotherhood and survive! I’ll kill them! Where are they, Takadox?”
With a bow nearly to the point of licking the marbled protodermis floor, he said “They attack in one week’s time. Prepare for them, and perhaps…you could spare my armies?”
The Makuta sat silent in rage, and the wise warlord knew it was time to leave, promise or not. He crept out the large iron doors, expecting an explosion to rock them any second.
--------------“None of the other Barraki saw each other again until the meeting with the Brotherhood, and as you could probably tell, it did not go well. We were locked in a room with a double agent, a traitor to the Brotherhood, a large, shapeshifting draconic Makuta with a short temper, and a bunch more warlords and Makuta, none of which like each other. The alliance was out of necessity, not friendship, and the Makuta were close to erupting. Perhaps, I should just go on.”
Kopaka nodded his agreement, motioning for the cloaked being to continue, and the tale continued to flow…
--------------“We need more Rahi,” Pridak calmly pointed out as implied leader, and the room exploded into chaos. Makuta raised their metallic voices, shouting their disagreements, and the Barraki shouting their retorts.
“I have sent Rahi, and many of them,” countered Icarax.
“Yes, but they often die as quick as the delivery!” Kalmah fought back.
“What can I say; your kingdom is a scum heap! You can’t blame me for their death!”
“Scum heap you say, you insolent little Lohrak?” roared Mantax
“Calm yourselves, Barraki. Negotiations cannot continue with this clamor!” commanded Pridak, but by now the small chamber was at war, and Kalmah and Mantax had to be held back from the opposing side, weapons drawn.
Finally, Makuta Miserix bellowed “SILENCE!!” Ehlek stopped in mid-grapple with Chirox, and had a chance to replace his breathing unit. “All of you be silent. All of you are acting like Bog Snakes fighting over a Fikou Nest! Think for a moment, and then decide, does this help anyone? We need to hear their arguments.”
“As long as we get more Rahi for future conquests, our demands are met.” Pridak countered.
“Insolent gnats!” Miserix was starting to show his temperament, rather than the leadership of but a few moments ago. “The Makuta serve only Mata Nui. We do not put our secret knowledge to work for every being with a strong arm and legions of…rabble behind him!”
Pridak coolly smiled at the anger and stuttering of the Leader of the Brotherhood. The room began to clear towards the walls as a confrontation was formed, and Pridak noticed this in a nonchalant glance over of the room, and then leaned forwards, his points firmly printed in his mind. “That ‘rabble’ is prepared to march on Destral on my orders. Before your Toa and Rahkshi can even marshal their forces, we will have taken your fortress…and claimed your precious ‘secrets.’ You would do well to remember that, while you serve Mata Nui, we are his chosen rulers in this universe.”
The crowd around the periphery of the light began to murmur against Miserix, so the tyrant needed to regain some ground. Icarax provided a vital foothold at the end of his rope by mumbling “Then perhaps… the Great Spirit is not as smart as we have been led to believe.”
Takadox seemed to take pride at that moment, prepared to announce his plans, but all that got out was a quick noise, then he silenced himself. The noise still drew the attention of the whole room, both factions with pride and questioning in their eyes about having him on their side. His original outburst was completely lost, and he dropped his shoulders and backed to the wall, hoping no one would notice his treachery.
The other Barraki stepped forwards to join Pridak’s winning moment, and his words flowed out of his mouth smooth as silk, charisma spreading into the further reaches of the room. “You have a choice, Makuta,” he said, his tone changing to more menace as he captivated the audience. “Cooperation, or conquest. I trust you will choose wisely.”
Makuta Chirox broke the spell with a sudden “What about the places not on your map? Artakha…Metru Nui…the unknown lands to the south…” A look from Ehlek quickly quieted him, as he had not forgotten the skirmish between them earlier.
Kalmah tried to enthrall everyone again, but the words stumbled out, not as smooth as his leader’s. “We’re in…uh…discussions…with Metru Nui. As for Artakha,” His sentences began to embolden and his posture straighten, “let the old fool putter among his creations. And the southern lands are fit only for Stone Rats and Lohrak!”
A mutter in the corner from Mutran interrupted the warlord, “This lot should fit right in.” The red titan turned and, with a piercing stare, quieted all the area of the room, no one daring to speak another word.
Suddenly, Pridak concluded “This meeting is over. We will expect fresh war beasts as requested. If you choose to obstruct the designs of the Great Spirit, then your fate will be on your own heads.” And without any further interruption, the great conqueror swept out of the room, cold as his element, as the others began to slowly follow.
A quick glance back from Kalmah, and he knew that had not gone well. Miserix leaned to his lieutenant, Teridax, speaking few words, and Teridax suddenly disappeared into shadow. The plan was doomed, faded into blackness like that antidermis in armor.
-------------The cloaked being’s shoulders moved up and down as he sighed. He obviously found it harder to continue. “You see, Kopaka, those few words…ruined the League. They also lead to Mata Nui’s ruin. All Miserix had asked was for Teridax to ‘keep an eye on the Barraki.’ He had no idea that they would destroy his rule, kill Mata Nui, and result in his ‘loyal’ lieutenant taking over the Brotherhood and all of Aqua Magna. It resulted in war…”
------------Mantax and Ehlek looked worriedly at each other at the sounds of combat ahead. Pridak simply turned colder, and Takadox could barely contain a small amount of joy as the six warlords rode into the desolate canyon on the Northern Continent. As they covered the ridge on their Kikanalo, the sounds of heavy combat broke over them, and a scene of destruction unfolded itself. An army of Exo-Toa, Rahkshi, and Toa had fallen upon the Barraki’s armies, and standing in the middle, a pile of bodies building around him, stood Lieutenant Teridax, smashing and stabbing with his staff.
“No, this is all wrong! How in the name of Mata Nui did this happen?” yelled Pridak.
“Easy, brother, Metru-Nui is still in sight,” reassured Kalmah. “The Great Spirit will fall.”
“Come then, brothers. Why wait here when we can join our armies in defeating this foe, and proclaiming ourselves true leaders? On to battle!” Carapar charged in, waving his club and shouting. The others had no choice but to follow him to their doom.
“Ah, Carapar, ever the brightest of us all,” Takadox complained. “We’re more likely to die, and with us goes the dreams of freedom.”
“Then let’s die a glorious death in battle, so all the world may remember our legacy, and someday, someone will rise up again! On to battle, for legacy!” Pridak’s scimitar raised, and he began to cut through the armies, leaving a swath for the others to follow in.
It wasn’t until they were almost halfway to Teridax that Kalmah was knocked off his steed. An Exo-Toa noticed the charge and quickly fired a shot. The red Barraki was launched from the Kikanalo into a crowd of Toa. Elemental powers shot all around, and Kalmah’s blade flashed as it cut into armor. With their precious Toa Code, the Toa couldn’t kill, so Kalmah used that to his advantage. He burst through contiguous walls of fire and stone, yelling as his sword sliced through the army, rage in his eyes as he made his way to Teridax. The lieutenant acknowledged his attack, and ordered several Exo-Toa to detain him. Without hope for the others to rescue him, the only thing the warlord could do was fight his way out.
With a quick slice at vital joints, the armored mechs easily collapsed, firing rockets and scraping claws at the sky. Unfortunately, the Makuta’s army was large, and for every one enemy defeated, two more rise up in their place. Kalmah quickly became cornered, and could not stand for much longer. A rocket found its mark, and the Barraki went flying through the line, caught by mechanical arms. In that brief hiatus between the Exo-Toa, he noticed a look of fear on Takadox’s face, not too far away. It was not the fear of death, but rather the fear of a carefully orchestrated plan blowing up in his face. He was just as surrounded by Rahkshi, who were using their abilities to keep him detained.
Kalmah put the clues together, and realized it was all Takadox this whole time; he created this plan, using it to gain power over Mata-Nui. But that wasn’t enough for him, he would have to share it with the other Barraki, so he betrayed the warlords to the Brotherhood, intending for them to die in the battle so he could finish the scheme and be the new Great Spirit.
By the time this thought process had connected, Kalmah was trapped in protosteel claws being dragged away to his doom. In a rage, his sword severed the fingers and he charged to his traitorous brother.
“Takadox! You filthy traitorous parasite! You planned this, didn’t you?” The Rahkshi fell from this unexpected assault, regrouping and preparing to charge. Suddenly, the metallic bodies stopped stiff, building a ring around the two Barraki. Kalmah’s Exo-Toa formed a second ring, their arms interlocking above to prevent any escape, plunging the circle into near darkness.
In his fury, Kalmah didn’t even notice as he grabbed Takadox by the throat and lifted him up, preparing to slice with his sword. His brother squirmed, bringing up his toothed blades, ready to counter. “I know you planned this. Why, brother? Was Mata-Nui’s might not enough for you? Was limitless power impossible to share?”
“Yes, brother. To share power is not power at all, it is simply weakness to not be able to vanquish your friends. I’ll admit that, because you will not live to tell the others!” The twin blades struck as Kalmah began to raise his sword, but not quickly enough. Takadox stalked through the kicked up dust towards the fallen warlord. The battle became illuminated in red as Teridax’s eyes emerged to watch the scene.
“You could have everything you wanted if you stayed with us! Why, brother, would you refuse?” A sudden strike by the downed Kalmah knocked the blue Barraki off balance, and the struggle became much more serious, as blow after blow was countered and returned, the duo dancing a duel to the death. Sparks flashed as the toothed blades hit the firm broadsword, then a clang as the sword gave a glancing blow to blue armor. The eyes of the opponents illuminated only hate and fury as swings strengthened into strikes as each fought for revenge and power.
Takadox gained the upper hand as one blade caught the sword, flinging it into an inactive Rahkshi, and the other struck from above, knocking his opponent to the ground. Kalmah groped in the darkness for his lost weapon, and Takadox kicked him into the fine dust.
“Look how pathetic you are, playing in the sand. Now, you will pay for having defied me. I can’t have you killed, as the others might wonder. I can’t have you escape, as you will tell the others of my treachery. I guess you’ll simply have to be…persuaded to forget.”
The red warlord was defeated. What little strength left in him from the furious duel tried to push his body upwards, but Takadox kicked him back down. “No…you can’t…do…this. I…will tell…the others.”
“Ah, brother, you obviously have not learned your lesson from earlier encounters. You see, I can do whatever I want. You are not leaving this prison until you have forgotten what you have learned. Now, look into my eyes, and promise to me that you won’t speak a word.” When Kalmah didn’t look, Takadox wrenched his head to face upwards, his limp body collapsing on the ground. “Look at me when I’m talking to you, brother!”
“You…aren’t my brother…anymore. Go back to…the rock…you crawled from, Takadox.” Another bash from the hilt of a toothed blade silenced the red Barraki, and Kalmah felt himself drifting from consciousness.
“You will forget, brother. Forgetfulness, such a simple idea, all you need to do is look at me.” Takadox’s eyes drilled into Kalmah’s weakened mind, shredding apart any thought of his treachery. Kalmah only writhed on the ground, head locked to face Takadox as his mind was slowly erased, thoughts falling apart, ideas disappearing, leaving nothing left of the last day. Finally, Kalmah was allowed to collapse into a deep sleep.
“Sleep now, brother, for when you awake, I will be the Great Spirit!” His laughter mingled with Teridax’s as Kalmah’s vision slowly faded into darkness.
---------------When he awoke, Kalmah’s face was pressed deep down into the sand. He began to sit up, only to find that every movement was agony.
“Brother, you’re awake. Those Exo-Toa must have given you a serious beating.”
With a jolt of pain, Kalmah managed to turn his head to face Ehlek, who was also battered and bruised. Observing his surroundings, he found that he was in a small cave on the side of a valley on the Northern Continent.
“Oh, what happened?” His speech was dry, and it took a lot of effort to even get out those words.
“You must have had it really bad. We marched on Metru-Nui to take the Great Spirit, but the Brotherhood had somehow found out about us, and they were ready. Our armies are crushed, and the few left have already deserted and are long gone. Don’t expect any rescue any time soon.”
Suddenly, Takadox spoke up, revealing the presence of at least him as well. “No, my armies will come for us, they wouldn’t just…”
“Quiet, Takadox, your army is long gone,” said a bleak Mantax. “There is no hope.”
“From what I hear,” said Carapar, “we are to be executed! Our plans have failed.”
A curtain over the mouth of the cave flew open, spreading dust all around, choking the bound Barraki. Through the haze and the bright light suddenly let in, a grisly scene of carnage could be seen outside. Most of the dead were of the Barraki’s armies, and Exo-Toa stalked through the canyon making sure all was quiet. Lieutenant Teridax walked in through the opening, and the scene was cut off. By his malicious look, Kalmah could tell that Carapar was right. The Makuta’s Shadow Staff flashed in the dusty light.
“Are you ready, Barraki, to be executed for your crimes? No? Good. Of course, I would be obliged to ask if there are any last words, so I might as well get pleasantries out of the way. Any questions before your heads roll?”
“So, are we allowed to make last words now, then?” joked Takadox. It would have almost brought a smile to Kalmah’s face if he wasn’t in so much pain.
“Sure, joke around, everyone laugh, but remember, Barraki, every moment you live from now is by my mercy, and I could end it now.”
“I bet you can talk as tough as that being second in command, can’t you?”
“What? Miserix is an old artifact left from the beginning of time. I am in command!”
“Oh, I wasn’t referring to Miserix. You have all this power, and yet you still stand underneath Mata-Nui’s large shadow. Do you even see him anymore? See his power? His reign has come to an end, and I’m sure we could arrange an agreement to get you in charge.”
“Stop your slippery words, Takadox. I can kill you right now! I am incorruptible, a servant of the Great Spirit!”
“Then why don’t you kill us now? We would be out of your way, and you could skip on your merry way back to second place.”
“Takadox…” Kalmah tried to say. “Don’t…anger him.”
But Takadox didn’t regard his weak brother, and barreled on. “I know. I can see it in your eyes. You are tired of second place, and this actually appeals to you. Not so incorruptible, are you, Makuta?”
Finally, Teridax snapped, the mere suggestion of what Takadox had said infuriating him. The Shadow Staff flew downwards towards the smiling blue face, when suddenly, and explosion of light sent him sprawling across the cave.
A large, golden being stepped out of the formed portal, bending down under the ceiling and radiating power. His claws gleamed in the light, and his teeth shaped into a grimace as he looked at the heaped Makuta.
When he spoke, his voice carried his authority. “Makuta, do not heed these Barraki. What you protect will be destroyed by your own hands if you follow this course.”
Teridax tried to pick himself up and bring up some semblance of self-respect. “What are you?”
“I am Botar, the enforcer of Mata-Nui. He has decreed these traitors be brought to the Pit, and I follow his orders. Take no thought to this, I have warned you.” And with those simple words, he scooped up the six warlords, and disappeared in another flash of light, leaving behind only an infuriated Brotherhood lieutenant to simmer in the dust.
---------------For the second time that day, Kalmah found himself waking up in torture. Now, he was in a dark cell, the sounds of creaking and bubbling coming from high above. He could only be in one place, the Pit.
The Pit is a huge cavern underneath the deepest parts of the island known as Voya-Nui, known to house only the most vile and violent criminals in the Matoran Universe. It was cold, and dark, water dripping from all over, and the worst part, there was no way out. A sentence here was a life sentence for crimes against Mata-Nui himself.
Suddenly, Kalmah remembered the other Barraki, and why he was there. The giant Botar had brought them in a flash of light, leaving them unconscious in this Kinlokahole.
He had to know if he was alone, because if so, this was going to be a very long life sentence. “Pridak? Mantax? Anyone there?”
“Kalmah, you’re here too?” A deceptive voice spoke from the shadows, the voice of Takadox.
It was going to be a very, very long life sentence.
---------------“I’m going to assume that you’ve heard of the Great Cataclysm, Toa?” Kopaka nodded quietly to the cloaked being. “Good, because that’s where this story goes next. Thousands of years had passed, but still, the supposed ‘life sentence’ was cut short for the Barraki, as their world came crashing down…”
---------------The rumbling had started small, but had quickly escalated to a roar that seem like it would bring down the ceiling, and then, it did. Protodermis came falling from the ceiling, and a different kind of sound poured down the halls. Rushing water raced towards the deeper levels, its dark surface putting out all light. Kalmah’s cell cracked, and through some of the higher fractures, murky water forced its way through, knifing at his skin.
Takadox called out “What’s wrong?” as the water lapped around their ankles, rising at a bio for every five minutes. It would not take long for it to fill the cell, drowning the occupants.
A strange, prickling sensation spread up Kalmah’s legs, rising only slightly faster than the water now around his knees. Through the distortion caused by the rippling surface, his body began rippling as well, rebuilding itself into a smaller form, a water-breathing form.
“Takadox! Don’t touch the water!”
“A bit late for that, brother! What’s happening to us?”
“The water must be filled with mutagen! Just get ready to bolt; there isn’t much we can do!”
The dark tide washed against the door of the cell, which began creaking and groaning. The hardened Protosteel couldn’t withstand the enormous weight of water pressure, and it collapsed, flooding mutagen and Kalmah into the wet hall. The Barraki smashed against walls, getting pushed ever downwards, uncontrollably crashing everywhere, until he finally caught onto a railing.
“Takadox!” He gurgled, as his grip slipped, and he plunged into the pitch black abyss.
-------------Even before the thought of “I’m alive,” his first thought was, “I’m underwater.” The flood had finally stopped, but not before the entire Pit was inundated with mutagen. All around were cries of freedom, the rush of currents as many beings swam towards a distant surface.
As his vision cleared, Kalmah knew he shouldn’t be alive. He was at the bottom of the ocean with no air to be found, and yet he could breathe. That wasn’t the only new thing about his body. He noticed two new sensations almost simultaneously. The first was an array of tentacles acting like antennae in the back of his head. They weaved through the water, sensing temperature, current, and any possible threat. He could feel the struggle of many prisoners swimming upwards, even through walls. Their outlines were as clear in his mind as if he were seeing them.
The second new feature was very disorienting: a third eye. His enhanced vision was almost too much for his brain to accept, giving him a bad headache. That would take some getting used to.
A slimy orange tentacle waved in his vision, and Kalmah suddenly backed away. The tentacle followed, and Kalmah followed it down right into his own wrist.
“What happened to me?”
“Oh, I’m sure you can find that out later, brother.” The smiling Takadox swam nearer. His new form made him seem even creepier. His new body was slim and insect-like, with gills lining his head and silver mandibles grasping floating plant life. He had found his weapons somewhere, and was now holding them like a Metru Mantis, completing the parasitic look. “But right now, you have some friends to meet.”
“The others? You found them? They survived?”
“Yes; Pridak insisted on having a little reunion. After all, we have been through a lot together.”
---------------The two found the rest of the Barraki waiting for them. All the other sane criminals had fled from the might of someone called Hydraxon, the jailer of the Pit, but the Barraki had been kept up for too long in small places they were not used to. They suddenly found themselves in a new place in new bodies, and they wanted answers. They were not sane anymore.
“Kalmah, come join the party. We’ve just been waiting for you!” The Takea-like being before him could only be Pridak. His savagery still reflected in those dark eyes, but now only hid behind sharp teeth and agile fins.
“Yeah, we may have found the ticket out of here.” Carapar had changed into an armored hulk with a bronze shell and large arms. His mind didn’t seem to have changed much, if anything, he had gotten dumber.
“Or, you could always try swimming to the surface again, Carapar. I’m sure after drowning again you might find the way out.” Mantax seemed much more reserved, but had also gained a hard shell. Kalmah noticed with humor that he also had a tentacle array, as well as a tail. The sharp end warned everyone not to touch.
“Quiet, everyone, let’s tell our brother what we saw.” Ehlek hadn’t changed as much, considering he usually lived underwater. He almost seemed calmer now that he didn’t need his breathing helmet, but he also had become a fearsome foe with neon spikes that were lancing electricity.
“See that light over there, Kalmah?” Pridak pointed to a dim illumination that Kalmah had only just noticed. “We watched it fall from Voya-Nui over there. After some debate, we decided it could only be one thing: the Mask of Life.”
“With the power in that mask,” Ehlek interrupted, “we can change ourselves back and reclaim our empire. There is also word among the convicts that Mata-Nui is dying, and if he dies, a power vacuum will form, leaving the universe’s previous rulers to rise again!”
When Kalmah thought about it, there had been a dark feeling during the quake. It could only mean that Mata-Nui had been usurped. “You mean, someone finished our mission, after all these years?”
A rumble of rocks shifting behind them made the Barraki turn. A silver face looked up, and as blades followed, they decided that this being wasn’t friendly. Takadox, instead of the fear in everyone else, suddenly got angry.
“Hydraxon! You have kept us jailed too long, and I am not going back into that cell!” He struck with his blades before any of the other Barraki could react, and quickly killed the now ex-jailer.
“Any objections? No, then let’s find that mask.”
---------------“And by now, I’m sure that you know what happened after that. The Toa Mahri should have told you by now.” Kopaka nodded, lost in thought. “Matoro took the mask, one of your own villagers, and saved us all, with his fellow Toa left to give him just enough time to escape.”
“But, why me?”
“I knew only you could listen with an unbiased perspective, could judge for yourself if what I said was true. Only you had no contact with the Barraki before, and would acknowledge this story without any memories of them attacking in a fury to get the Mask of Life. I must go now, and you should too. Tell the others; make sure they know the truth.”
“But wait, who are you?”
“Let’s just say I was a part of their armies.” And suddenly, without another word, the cloak whipped around, and the being was out the door. Kopaka peered around the corner, watching a flash of red appear under the robe, and recognized the story teller. He leaned back in understanding and thought.
“You know, you really shouldn’t be in there. That’s Gekara’s storage room, and she doesn’t like anyone inside.” Kopaka took one look at the angry Agori, and then walked off. The Turaga would have competition for stories tonight…
Frodo: There is no promise you can make that I can trust.
Théoden: Your leechcraft would have had me crawling on all fours like a beast!
Gandalf: The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened of late, Théoden.
Credit to Mutran Chronicles, Chapter 2 for the meeting with the Brotherhood Scene.