Ekimu shielded his eyes from a blinding flash of white light. When the light cleared, Ekimu was given only a brief final glimpse of the six Toa before their physical forms dissipated before his him. His eyes widened as they transformed into six beams of elemental energy. The spirits of the Toa rapidly ascended into the heavens above. After soaring through Okoto’s atmosphere, the spirits of the six Toa settled into six stars in the sky above.Ekimu felt a strange mix of emotions following the sacrifice of his allies, the Toa. He felt relieved that his brother, Makuta, had been defeated at last. The Toa Seal that had been created would ensure that Makuta would be trapped in the Shadow Realm forever. When Ekimu had donned the Mask of Time a millennia before, he had seen what could transpire. He had told the Toa what they had needed to do based on what the Mask of Time had revealed to him. And yet, he knew in his heart that destiny was not written in stone, it determined by individuals. The Toa had chosen to give their lives to defeat Makuta, but only because Ekimu had told them what his own Prophecy said.The Mask Maker had a heavy feeling in his chest. He suddenly felt a chill despite the desert heat of the Region of Stone, the region where the Black Crater was located. Deep down, Ekimu came to the realization that he was directly responsible for losing not only his brother but also his friends, the Toa. Even before the Great Cataclysm, Ekimu had come to suspect the envy his brother had for him. But instead of trying to help his brother with these feelings, Ekimu shut Makuta out, allowing his brother’s anger to further develop. Despite their differences, Ekimu loved Makuta, and Ekimu now realized that had he only extended his brotherly love when Makuta needed it the most, perhaps none of this would have happened. Makuta would have never forged the Mask of Ultimate Power, and the Great Cataclysm would never have happened. The hundreds of Okotans who were trapped in the Shadow Realm during the cataclysm, who were now trapped there for all eternity thanks to the Toa Seal, would have been able to live the rest of their lives to the fullest with their friends and families. There would have been no reason for the Toa to have been pulled from their own universe to that of Okoto and ultimately give their lives for a land that wasn’t even theirs. If Ekimu had only tried to help Makuta, many lives would not have been ruined.Ekimu was exhausted and weak after reverting back to his original form. He needed to find shelter for the night so that he could rest and process his ordeal. The Mask Maker climbed out of the crater and began to make his way across the desert of the Region of Stone. The desert was bare and empty, and seemingly stretched on forever. As he crossed the region, Ekimu saw heard the howling of some wolves in the distance. The wolves were native to the Region of Stone, and Ekimu remembered Pohatu mentioning his fondness for the creatures. Perhaps, Ekimu thought, the wolves were howling at the star where Pohatu’s spirit was now located. Perhaps this was their way of mourning the death of the Toa of Stone’s. Ekimu just needed to make it to the next village, where he knew he could find someone that would allow him to spend the night. Eventually, Ekimu noticed a campfire in the distance. He began to approach the light, and was noticed by Nilkuu, the current Protector of Stone.“Master Ekimu!” Nilkuu called. “I could see the flash of light from my village! What happened? Has Umarak been defeated? Where are the Toa?”“It’s a long story,” Ekimu said with a sigh. “If you’ll kindly allow me into your home, I shall tell it to you.”––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––“So…you mean to say Pohatu and the others are dead?” Nilkuu nervously asked after Ekimu had finished his account of the night’s events.“They have sacrificed their bodies and their spirits were sent to the stars. For all intents and purposes, I’m afraid they are,” Ekimu replied solemnly. “But it could have all been avoided had I only tried to reason with Makuta.”“But the Toa had a duty to Okoto- you said it was their destiny to give their lives to save us!” The Protector of Stone said.“But you forget, the Toa were not born on Okoto. We pulled them here, from their own time and universe, and we were the ones to give them that duty. Perhaps the Toa had friends of their own in their world: friends who wonder what has become of them and will never learn of their whereabouts.”“You talk in theoretics, Ekimu. What if you had been able to help Makuta a millennia ago? What if you had found some alternative to the sacrifice of the Toa? If Makuta had never started any of this, it is impossible to predict what our world would be like right now. There were plenty of other evil forces at work. Perhaps Kulta or Umarak the Hunter could have been the one to try to conquer Okoto the same way Makuta did. With all the evil in our world, it was only a matter of time before things went bad. We do not have time to dwell on such things. Even now, the Elemental Creatures are hunting down the last of the Shadow Horde and Skull Spiders. Once the last traces of the Shadow have been destroyed, we will need to build a future, and need you to lead us into that future. In fact, it is your duty to lead us. Stop looking into the past and instead into the future!”“The future…” Ekimu pondered. “I only knew what was to be described in the Prophecy of Heroes by looking into the Mask of Time. Perhaps if I look again answers with be revealed,”“Go to the Temple of Time and see what the Mask reveals to you. But if I may make a suggestion, perhaps it is best you first inform Okoto what has happened to the Toa.”“You are right,” Ekimu said. “The Okotans must know of the Toa’s heroics and Makuta’s defeat. Tomorrow, contact the other Protectors. Tell them to inform their tribes that they should gather at the City of the Mask Makers for a memorial service. After we commemorate the Toa properly, I’ll journey to the Region of Jungle to visit the Temple of Time. ”––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For the first time in a over millennia, Okoto was to celebrate the Festival of Masks. In the time before Makuta’s betrayal, the festival celebrated the ancient Protectors and the masks worn by all Okotoans. Instead of commemorating the Protectors, this Festival honored the Toa and displayed their Elemental Masks that they were wearing when they first arrived. These Masks had been discarded once the Golden Masks of Power were claimed by their respective wearers. Following Ekimu’s awakening, the original Elemental Masks had been left in Ekimu’s care. Ekimu had never seen the Toa wearing these Masks, and had never taken a good look at them before. But as Ekimu gathered the Mask to be put on display, he noticed something very strange about them. It was common knowledge that all Masks on Okoto were powered by the Elemental Crystals. And yet, these masks did not contain elemental crystals at all, and were powered by some other means. Whatever these Masks were made of, they were nothing like the ones made by Ekimu. From his many centuries of experience with Mask-making, Ekimu had grown used to the feeling of elemental energy radiating from masks. But these Toa masks felt different. It was almost as if there was more than just elemental power coming from the Masks. Perhaps, Ekimu speculated, that the Masks the Toa had arrived in had other abilities they had only forgotten to use.Each Mask was displayed on a pedestal in the center of the ancient city. Thousands of Okotans gathered around the Masks, staring at them in awe. Since the Toa had only been on Okoto for a few short weeks, many of the Okotans had never seen the Toa and relied only upon the stories and rumors surrounding their activities. Seeing these foreign masks once worn by the Toa seemed to validate their existence to the gathered masses.Ekimu noticed the six Elemental Creatures watching the celebration. The Creatures had defeated the rest of the Shadow Horde, and had been hunting down the last of the Skull Spiders. With the death of Umarak, the Creatures no longer had to hide, and could live among the Okotans in peace. However, with the destruction of the Golden Masks of Unity in the sacrifice of the Toa, it would be impossible to communicate with the creatures. Ekimu stood before the gathered islanders to speak.“Gathered friends,” Ekimu began. “I have news for you all. The evil Makuta has been defeated at last! The remnants of his forces have been hunted down and destroyed by the Elemental Creatures and the Protectors. But our ultimate victory came with a great cost. Our beloved Toa gave their lives to defeat Makuta once and for all. I have called this special Festival of Masks in their memory. May all Okoto forever remember their heroism.”The Okotans were silent, digesting this news. They were surprised by how abruptly the battle against Makuta had ended, and that the Toa they had heard talk of were gone forever.“The Toa have brought peace to Okoto. But perhaps more importantly, they have inspired us to maintain that peace. During the final confrontation with the Shadow Horde, many Okotans rose to the challenge of joining the Elemental Creatures in battle and helped to defeat them. Should evil rise again in the future, I have faith that the people of Okoto will follow the example of the Toa and rise to that challenge. But now is not that time; now is the time for peace. Please, enjoy the festival and remember the Toa!”There was a polite but rather unenthusiastic round of applause. The Okotans were understandably distressed and conflicted over the whole ordeal. However, for the first time in a millennia, they were hopeful for the future. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––The next day, Ekimu flew his newly-rebuilt airship. Since his awakening, Ekimu had not had much time to re-explore Okoto’s regions. After the Okotans had fled the City of the Mask Makers following the Cataclysm, many villages had been arisen in the individual Regions. Many of them had been burned to the ground by Umarak the Destroyer. The Region of Jungle was quite desolate at this point, with many of its villages destroyed. The Temples that housed Uxar, the Creature of Jungle, and the one housing the Golden Mask of Jungle had now been abandoned. But Ekimu did not have time to focus on that now; his attention was instead towards his destination: the Temple of Time.Ekimu entered the Temple and removed the Mask of Time from its vault. It had once given him the answers he needed, and perhaps in his confusion it would do so again. The Mask Maker hesitated for a moment before donning it. Even if the Mask of Time revealed the answers he sought, perhaps he would not like them. But Ekimu knew he had to try and obtain closure for his whole ordeal, and pressed onward, taking his own Mask of Creation off and replacing it with the Mask of Time.––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––Almost instantaneously, an image began to form before Ekimu’s eyes. It was soon recognizable as a workshop, not unlike Ekimu’s own. However, this was not a place Ekimu was familiar with. Six lifeless figures were strewn across six individual tables. As Ekimu stared intently at the figures he felt a sense of familiarity towards the figures. Suddenly, it hit him: these were the six Toa! All six were far smaller in stature and wore more simplistic armor than when they had arrived on Okoto, but were still recognizable as Tahu, Gali, Onua, Lewa, Kopaka, and Pohatu.Ekimu reasoned he must be witnessing the birth of the Toa, and that this was the universe from which they were originally from. But because this was the place the Toa were constructed, their creator was presumably not far away. Ekimu looked around the workshop and saw another figure, one that made him gasp in awe. The figure was massive, at about ten feet tall. His armor was gray-green and carried a massive hammer. But the most surprising thing about the figure was his mask- he was wearing the Mask of Creation, identical to the Mask Ekimu now owned. Ekimu did not know what to make of this, he had never known where his Mask came from but he never would have imagined it was from another universe entirely. Back when Ekimu had originally learned of the existence of the Toa through the Mask of Time a millennia ago, the Mask had also revealed their names to him. Similarly, Ekimu could now sense the figure’s name: Artakha.Before Ekimu could process this any further, the vision shifted to more rapid flashes. He saw elemental heroes similar to the Toa he knew, however these were not the same beings. He was able to sense that these six collectively had a specific name: Metru. These “Toa Metru” had gathered six disks, each with a color corresponding to one of the six elements. The Toa Metru of Fire, who Ekimu could sense was named “Vakama,” began to craft what Ekimu knew was the mysterious lower half of the Mask of Time. This part of the vision was actually somewhat familiar to Ekimu during a previous experience wearing the Mask of Time, he had witnessed this lower half being forged. This is why he had known about the existence of the lower half and the mask’s name: “Vahi.” He then saw Toa Vakama using the Vahi to fight a massive, shadowy figure. Ekimu was startled by the larger figure’s resemblance to his brother, Makuta. He was even more startled by the name of the figure as revealed to him by the Mask: “Makuta Teridax.” Ekimu could tell his was not the same entity as his brother. However, he still sensed a connection between the two.Suddenly, the scene changed again. Ekimu was back in Artakha’s workshop. Artakha was hard at work crafting a Mask, and muttering to himself as he did so. “How could I have been so foolish…it’s my Great Disks! They’re the key to making the Mask of Time. Vakama only managed to create a Mask that allowed control over time, but there’s so much more potential to be found…”Artakha raised up his creation: it was the upper half of the Vahi, the Mask Ekimu now wore. “This Mask will allow me to see into the past and future…and if my theory is correct, it can be combined with the Vahi Toa Vakama crafted. The combination of the two will allow for complete control over time, even travel through space and time itself!”Ekimu realized that this must have been how the Toa traveled between universes. The Upper Half of the Vahi was on Okoto, and the Lower in the universe of the Toa. The two fragments had created a bridge between universes that allowed the Toa to travel between them.In Ekimu’s next vision, he saw Tahu, still in his original form, put on the lower half of the Mask of Time. Before him were six monstrous creatures, each holding a square object with a distinctive symbol inscribed into them. Ekimu immediately recognized them as the symbols of the Toa, which had been previously revealed to him by the Mask of Time and had since gone down in Okotan legend as such. In fact, Ekimu when built new armor for the Toa he had inscribed these symbols into their chestpieces. Tahu used the Vahi to slow down the six creatures, but the Toa of Fire struggled to control its power. His hold over the power of Time were clearly very unstable.Back in Artakha’s workshop, the instability of the Vahi’s lower half was affecting its upper half. Artakha watched in horror as the upper half of the Vahi began to tremble, and energy began to radiate from it. Suddenly, a vortex of golden energy appeared, sucking the upper half of the Mask of Time away.Instead of an individual location, Ekimu then saw the entire solar system of the Toa, consisting of three planets. Energy enveloped the entire solar system, a blast of the Mask of Time’s golden light blinded Ekimu. When his vision cleared, he saw the result: two different timelines. The universe of the Toa remained unchanged, but he saw a second one he found very familiar. It was his own. Ekimu realized he had just witnessed the creation of his own universe. The connection between Ekimu’s universe and that of the Toa was clear to Ekimu now- he lived in a universe directly parallel to that of that of the Toa. The three planets in Ekimu’s universe were alternate versions of the three world’s of the universe of the Toa, with the world where Okoto was located an alternate version of the world of the Toa. Ekimu had once described the Mask of Time’s upper half as “older than the world and the stars.” Without any shadow of a doubt, he now knew that to be true.The upper half of the Mask of Time drifted through this recently created universe. Eventually, it punctured the atmosphere of Ekimu’s world and crash-landed in what would eventually be known as Okoto’s Region of Jungle. Immediately after Okoto came into existence, elemental energy erupted from the ground of each of Okoto’s elemental regions. Okoto’s elemental Creatures formed from these beams of energy to serve as guardians of the Island. Ikir was formed from the Region of Fire, Akida from the Region of Water, Terak from Earth, Ketar from Stone, Uxar from Jungle, and Melum from Ice. In the center of the Island, two other beings were formed. A magnificent hawk was formed from Okoto’s light. Ekimu recognized this hawk as Agil, the Creature of Light. The other being was sentient, unlike the other Creatures, but still bore similar animalistic features. This was Umarak, the Shadow Hunter. Scattered across the island, Ekimu saw the the very first Okotans. Ekimu reasoned that these were original Okotans were alternate versions of the original universe’s inhabitants.What Ekimu saw next was perhaps the most jarring to him. He saw himself, as well as his brother, Makuta, waking up for the first time. This had been Ekimu’s earliest memory, and now he was seeing it from a new perspective. Even back many millennia ago, Ekimu and Makuta had come into existence wearing their respective Masks of Creation and Control. Perhaps, Ekimu speculated, he was this universe’s alternative form to Artakha, with his brother the alternate form of the original universe’s “Makuta Teridax.”The following events were of no surprise to Ekimu: he had lived them. Ekimu and Makuta crafted the first elemental Masks for the first Protectors. He saw flashes of the settling of Okoto’s Regions, construction of the Island’s Temple’s, attacks by the Skull Raiders…everything up to and including Makuta’s betrayal. Finally, he saw the rise of the Skull Spiders and the gathering of the Protectors in the Temple of Time to summon the Toa.The vision changed drastically once more; Ekimu saw the universe of the Toa once more. The three worlds that made up their solar system collided and became one. Ekimu’s final vision took place on this reformed world. He saw the six Toa as well as Artakha, and another figure that seemed to be an older, weaker form of Vakama.“Brave Toa,” Vakama exclaimed. “I thank you for recovering my Kanohi Vahi from Voporak. However, Artakha has a bit of distressing news regarding the Mask of Time,”“Our pleasure, Turaga,” Onua responded.“Artakha, what is it?” Gali inquired.“A millennia ago, Vakama forged the Kanohi Vahi that he holds right now from the Great Disks. That mask allows the user to slow down or speed up time. However, it was only part of the Mask’s full potential. I created another Mask of Time that would allow for Clairvoyance. Theoretically, the two Masks of Time could be combined into a complete Vahi, that would allow travel between time and space,” Artakha replied. “That’s remarkable,” said Lewa. “Where is this upper half?”“That’s the issue,” responded Vakama. “Back when Vakama used the Vahi to slow down the Bohrok-Kal, time in our universe was briefly very unstable. This instability caused the Mask of Time’s upper half to be sucked out of our universe,”“It is my belief that when the Vahi’s upper half was lost, an entirely separate timeline was created, which runs parallel to ours. My telepathic abilities have given me glimpses into this alternate timeline and it is very similar to our own. The Matoran of this alternate universe live on an island called Okoto. They are currently besieged by their own version of none other than Makuta Teridax,” Artakha continued.“I did this?” Tahu asked in shock. “Because of me, an entire universe came into existence and the Makuta continues to exist?”“I’m afraid so,” Vakama responded somberly.“The elders of this Okoto are in desperate need of assistance against Makuta’s forces. In their culture, it is you six that they foresee will help them.They have activated their half of the Mask of Time, in hopes that you six will come and save them,” Artakha explained.“By the Great Beings,” Pohatu exclaimed. “What are we to do?”“I do not know what to tell you, Toa," Vakama replied. “You have brought peace and freedom to Spherus Magna, and I cannot ask anything further of you. If you desire to go to this 'Okoto' then I can activate our half and send you there. Even if I do, there’s no guarantee you’ll arrive unscathed. The choice is yours to make.” “I’ll go,” Tahu said firmly. “It’s my fault Okoto came into existence and that there’s another Makuta out there. I have a responsibility to put this right, a duty to this island. I don’t expect any of you to come with me.”“Don’t be a fool, brother,” Kopaka quickly interjected. “If there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that our strength comes from our unity. Perhaps Okoto is your responsibility, but if saving it is your destiny, it’s mine as well.”“As is mine,” continued Onua.“Mine too,” said Pohatu.“Count me in,” said Lewa.“We’re all with you, brother,” concluded Gali.“Very well then,” said Vakama somewhat somberly. “I’ll use the Vahi’s power to complete the connection to send you there.”“The adaptive armor I built for you should conform to Okoto’s environment. Assuming you should make it there, you will gain new forms that will allow you to live among the Okotans,” Artakha explained. “But even then, Okoto is filled with monstrous creatures. It will be extremely dangerous. There’s no guarantee you’ll come back.”“Are you sure you want to go through with this?” Vakama asked.“Absolutely,” Tahu responded. “It’s about time for a new adventure.”“Then I wish you luck,” Vakama said. “May the Great Spirit watch over you.” Vakama removed his own Mask and placed the Vahi over his face. The Mask began to tingle, and as the connection to Okoto was created a vortex opened. Vakama and Artakha watched as the six Toa stepped into the vortex, leaving their world forever.––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––That was enough for Ekimu. He removed the Mask of Time from his face and replaced it with the Mask of Creation. The Mask had given Ekimu more answers than he had expected, but he did not want to see any more. Perhaps he could gotten clarity over what really happened to the spirits of the Toa following the final battle with Makuta, but not knowing that was for the best. The Toa had changed Okoto, and their spirits would forever be kept alive by its people.Ekimu stared at the setting sun from the Temple of Time. This was a strange sort of sunset, the end of a very long story. The Mask Maker had feared he had “stolen” the lives of the Toa, but now he knew that the Toa had freely chosen to come to Okoto. Guided by unity, their duty was to come to Okoto and meet their ultimate destiny. That destiny had not been written in stone, but was a responsibility that was found and chosen by them, not Ekimu. Perhaps that was what it meant to be a hero. Whether or not the Toa lived among them, their legacy would survive forever and inspire all Okotans to be heroes, even Ekimu. It was time for the heroes of tomorrow to go and and make new legends. For that is the way of the BIONICLE. Never…The End.