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  1. Chapter 1 A howling roar tore through the ruins of the underground city for the dozenth time, it's echoing sound one of fury and desperation. The source, a being by the name of Kulta, took a moment before releasing another roar deep into the winding tunnels and dark caverns. Silence and more echoes were his only response, as it ever was. If he’d still possessed lungs, Kulta would’ve sighed as he laid his head back against the stone floor. The Skull Grinder rested on his stomach beneath a few tons of stone and debris, his entire lower half and most of his left torso buried and crushed beyond repair. Thankful once again that his dead-yet-not state left him immune to feelings such as pain and fatigue, Kulta closed his crimson eyes and remembered how he’d ended up trapped in the ruins of his former home. Following his defeat at the hands of the self-righteous Toa and their decrepit Mask Maker, Ekimu, Kulta had found himself in a empowered cell built to drain away his power and rage, rendering escape nearly impossible. Worse yet, the Toa had confiscated his Skull mask, taking an incredible amount of his necrotic power with it. Calling out to the shadows, his master had granted him mercy after his defeat. An arachnid creation of the master had returned his mask and with its power, he had freed himself and returned to the city beneath the earth as vengeance burned in the ribcage where his heart-light used to reside. Much to his shock and infuriated discovery, the Toa and Mask Maker had already arrived and were battling his Skull Raiders, an army of the pirates he’d once lead to the island of Okoto years ago, turned undead like himself by their master, the Dark Lord Makuta. Another defeat had driven them underground, and now here they stood, locked in battle with the revered “heroes” of Okoto. After the chaos of bone and elemental power reached its apex, Ekimu challenged Kulta to a duel, one on one, and the Grinder had gladly accepted. Kulta grit his teeth behind his mask at the treachery Ekimu had wielded against him, not just wielding the Earth beings weapon to bring his own city down upon him, but had broke his word at a fair fight. Even as a former scoundrel, honor was not completely lost, and the Mask Maker had broken it without hesitation. “And they call us the filth, Master… How comical,” Kulta said to the darkness surrounding him, voice dry and rough. Silence was his answer, as it had been for the weeks following his defeat. The Skull Grinder did not understand why his master did answer his howls for assistance, but a quickly sinking feeling told him this was to be his fate, to simply rot into oblivion in this make-shift tomb. He’d half-considered simply tearing himself free from the crushed components of his body and trying to crawl to freedom, but the city was nearly caved in. Even if he’d freed himself, he’d lack the strength to go very far, and his ruined body lacked the strength of will to create a skeletal minion to work on digging him free. No, Kulta was trapped with only his icy-cold rage and stinging defeat to keep him company. With a growl, the undead lord twisted around as much as he could and used his free arm to start clawing away at the smaller chunks of debris and rocks that held him in place. He was the Skull Grinder, the Lord of the undead armies upon Okoto, and he refused to accept this… He’d claw his way free, even if it took an eternity, smash Ekimu’s mask to scrap, and then melt the Mask Maker in his own forge… Yes, that thought would’ve spread a smile across the Grinder’s lips if he’d still had any. As his silver fingers pulled each stone aside, a wispy smoke bled from beneath a set of larger stones, moving like a cloud and finally settling next to Kulta’s iron-colored pauldron. The Grinder let out a breath of relief and rested back against his chest. Perhaps all he needed was to show a little initiative, life...or, rather, unlife was funny like that. “I don’t mean to be impatient, my Master, but you could’ve answered my calls a little sooner. A lot of our time has been wasted with my imprisonment here… Not that I’m arguing with your will, of course,” the Grinder corrected, quickly. Makuta did not take disobedience well, and he did not wish his lust for revenge to blind him into earning the Shadow Titan’s wrath. The smoke-like cloud settled and began to slowly take shape, earning a tilt of the head from Kulta. Makuta’s form never became any more corporeal than a cloud of malice and red eyes, yet this shape looked to be almost...recognizable? The shadow finally solidified and the short being tilted its head at Kulta, as if studying his trapped state. Its form was that of one of the Okotan villagers, but instead of the vibrant colors of the various elements, the beings armor was a solid black, and the muscles beneath that were a rippling yellow-green. Eyes of a poisonous, almost sickening, shade of green sizzled from beneath its usual Okotan mask, with a forehead that swept back in two arches over the brow and smooth cheeks. Kulta always considered the islanders to appear weak and innocent due to the cultural shape of their masks, but with those eyes… the little one almost appeared as sinister as some of his skull raiders. “When Makuta sent me to find you, I expected something...more.” The being said, voice smooth, though plenty unamused with Kulta’s pitiful state. . “Yes… and you are clearly not the Master. Who are you, tiny one?” The shadow tilted its head as he looked Kulta over, not responding immediately. The great Skull Grinder, reduced to half a pile of broken bones, armor, and rubble. At this moment, he was half the being’s size, and even then, was his superior in this situation. The thought was delightfully amusing. “My name is Ahkmou. Makuta has sent me to correct this mess, both figuratively and literally.” The being had a sense of humor. Kulta rolled his eyes for a moment, and pointed down at his pinned bones and shattered crimson-black armor. As he spoke, his voice did nothing to hide the irritation with the new servant’s arrival. “I believe the master may misunderstand the severity of the situation then. Even with my full army, it would take days to dig the city out… and most of them are shattered by the Mask Maker’s treachery,” Kulta finally turned and matched the shadow-beings burning gaze with his own, pointing a finger at the little form, voice as sharp,”so unless you brought the Master himself, you are of no-!” Ahkmou’s small hand suddenly snapped out and caught the Skull Grinder’s wrist, grip nearly breaking the bones from the force. Without warning, a black and emerald energy laced down the Grinder’s arm and tore into his being, forcing a cry from him that echoed through the caverns as his strength was sapped away by the shadow being. As Kulta’s roars of fury slowly began to whither and his attempts at freeing himself ceased, the shadow Okotan simply watched as the Grinder’s life was burned away. When the cries fell silent, and the Grinder ceased to move, Ahkmou simply released the now-dead arm and knelt down in front of the still-smoking former lord of the Skull Army. Makuta had been very clear about how he would become as powerful as the Toa, but first, a sacrifice had been needed. Who better than this failure? Now, only one step remained. Ahkmou ran his fingers across the Grinder’s skeletal mask, the sharp ridges still warm from the power he’d used to destroy its owner’s existence, and gripped the mask by it’s eyes, tearing the mask free with a solid pop. Well, that had been far easier than he’d expected. Kulta’s corpse had almost instantly drained of color, though Ahkmou’s eyes were on the mask. It was a grim visage, truly, but if it granted the power Makuta promised, he had no issues with that. Okoto had abandoned him and the others who’d been trapped in the Shadow Realm, it was only right that they knew the terror he had. No… they deserved so much more. Shadow, darkness, fear, everything his people had suffered until Makuta turned the city into a servant of his will. Even now, Ahkmou still remembered fear being replaced with tyranny. He closed his eyes and saw it as easily as he had the day darkness truly engulfed the Shadow Realm. Chapter 2 From the very first day of his rule, Makuta had treated the Okotan’s as simple slaves, living embodiments of his will, and nothing more. The Shadow Lord had commanded them to build statues, dig up bones of untold monsters for him to reanimate as servants, and other heinous acts that he’d blocked from his memory. Just exhaustion and resentment towards the Okotans who were still safe in their beautiful homes, living happy lives with friends and family. As some tried to rebel against Makuta and lost their free will as punishment, Ahkmou began accusing his neighbors and acquaintances as traitors, quickly gaining the Dark Lord’s favor for finding either those with rebellious thoughts or those with promising strengths to become favorable tools and drones. It was his latest achievement at bringing Makuta a particularly skilled Okotan painter accused of creating propaganda to fuel rebellion among the dark streets that Ahkmou had earned the Titan’s true favor. “Where did you find her, Ahkmou? She’s been eluding even the Skull Spiders for weeks…” Makuta had asked, sitting forward on his throne to peer down at the blue-armored, trembling villager of Water, her eyes wide with terror. He’d been different then, his armor still its original rust-brown and silver, though his mask had always been a deep midnight black, and he’d stood directly behind the painter, wielding the staff of Makuta’s authority he’d been gifted as a boon for his loyalty. The design was simple, yet ornate, featuring a golden carving of the Mask of Control resting upon a head of swirling Okoton runes and a pair of gold-forged horns curling back from the staff’s tip. “Center of the city, my lord, beneath the old library. There was a hidden passage behind a painting of your old self that lead into the structure’s foundation. I found multiple items of propaganda inciting rebellion against your glory, Lord Makuta. She is, without a doubt, guilty of these crimes.” Before Makuta could respond, the painter’s terror must’ve been boiled over into madness, Ahkmou remembered, and she’d turned, launching herself at him, fists risen and golden eyes blazing to an almost white fury. He’d been unprepared for such an outburst and he remembered simply standing there, watching her fist soar towards his mask. It never landed. A flash of crimson light ripped through the air from the throne and tore through the little Okotan’s form, her form going limp before it finished its step towards Ahkmou. She slumped forward and he caught her out of reflex, her head limp against his chest and body still smoking from the bolt of darkness. He remembered looking up, seeing the Makuta’s claws still glowing from the attack that’d destroyed the painter with such efficiency. As if he’d just swatted a Nui-rama from his face, Makuta sat back onto his throne, resting his chin on his palm. His tone was not excited or angry, simply casual, like taking a life was as simple as kicking a Kholi ball into the goal. “Well done. Hand her over to the Skull warriors, they’ll make use of her parts. Since you know the way, you personally will destroy the artwork and seal off the passage. We can’t have anyone else becoming a martyr from her, now can we?” He hadn’t answered, simply looking down at the mangled corpse of the once-beautifully skilled painter, her eyes dark and colors faded. He’d gone cold in that moment, right down to his organic bones and he was glad her body was mostly concealing his hands as they shook. He didn’t care about her life, wouldn’t grieve for even a moment, but it was the raw display of power that shook Ahkmou to his core. His Lord had snuffed out a life like he was simply crushing an insect in his palm, and had done so without a moment's hesitation. His own expendability was what had chilled him that day, how insignificant he was in comparison the tyrant lording over him and his people. He’d finally realized he was simply a tool, and one had falsified his latest success as well. The painter had not been promoting a rebellion, while she had been hiding her works, the beautiful landscapes she’d created were simply that; gorgeous recreations of Okoto’s landscapes, places he’d honestly forgotten after the years of imprisonment in the shadow realm. Raging storms over an ocean of vibrant blue, the lush and thriving jungles and his home in the deserts, sands blowing in the dry winds. All forms of expression and creativity that didn’t grace Makuta’s glory had been banned early into the city’s banishment, and this was a crime unto-itself, but accusing her of rebellion would’ve only made him look even greater in their Lord’s eyes. He expected her mind to be shackled or sentenced to physical labor… he didn’t believe Makuta would ever destroy one of his people, surely his ego wouldn't’ allow the loss of a worshipper. Apparently, Ahkmou had been wrong that day. Shortly after disposing of both the painter and her work, he’d been summoned back to the Throne room. Makuta explained how he was planning his escape from the Shadow realm soon, with the help of another servant by the name of Umarak. Ahkmou recognized the name, Umarak was a hunter from the rumors he’d heard drifting the streets and hunted the Elemental Creatures of Okoto, the beastial incarnations of the elements themselves. For what purpose, Makuta had not shared, as usual. He’d wondered how a hunter could assist in freeing them from eternal banishment, but of course he didn’t voice such questions. The Shadow Titan then explained how the Toa, the master’s of Okoto’s elements and living legends, would most likely stop his escape, as the prophecy foretold. He hadn’t had much faith in the Toa, even if Makuta seemed wary of them. If they were so powerful, why hadn’t they come and simply saved Ahkmou and the rest of the city from his monster? Just like the other Okotan’s, apparently, the Toa had better things to do then save a villager playing the role of a servant to avoid ending up food for the Skull Warriors. “My Lord, if you expect to be defeated by their combined power, why go through with this plan at all and waste the time? Surely your wisdom can create a scheme they don’t expect?” He’d said, leaning on his staff as he watched Makuta pace, claws folded behind his massive back. “Of course, and that is where you come in, my loyal servant.” “Pardon?” “My defeat will take everything from the Toa. They can not defeat me alone, and will sacrifice everything they are to make sure I remain banished. As foretold, they will most likely succeed despite my best efforts, and I will be returned to this wretched place...but you, Ahkmou, will escape while I hold the way open for you.” His staff had clattered to the floor in shock, earning a bemused smirk from Makuta over the Titan’s massive shoulder. Free? He’d...be free of this place? He could see his home again, lay in the warm sands and breathe without his Master’s presence looming over him. He smirked to himself there in the darkness of the ruins as he remembered how quickly he’d accepted the offer. He thought about it for a moment, temporarily ceasing the memory’s playback in his mind, and realized he probably didn’t have any choice to begin with. Makuta had not simply sent him into Okoto unprepared, for Ahkmou was now an extension of the Shadow Titan’s will, and thus had to be equipped as such. His gift was far more extreme and far less pleasant than he’d expected as Makuta had gripped the little Okotan by the throat and with a simple force of will, expelled a portion of his shadow essence into Ahkmou’s form. He’d shivered, cried out and shook as the power latched onto his being and soaked deep into his organic components, staining his armor black and tainting his warm-gold eyes to a toxic green.. Even now, he still felt a chill he couldn’t truly shake off. Instead, he’d simply adapted to the coldness at his core. On top of the shadow power now coursing through his veins and armor, Makuta had left him with a warning, voice low and grating like stone upon stone. “Now, little servant, remember… This power I have gifted you binds to you to my will. There is nowhere on Okoto, or the Shadow realm, where I can not find you and if you should try to simply escape with your freedom while I am trapped here…” He’d emphasized his point by squeezing Ahkmou’s throat tighter for a moment before releasing him and sending him crashing to the floor. He’d been unable to respond, simply coughing with a nod as his vision cleared slightly, though he still shook from the new power coursing through him. He’d been given little time to recover, as Umarak had prepared to open the portal a few simple hours later. The Shadow Titan had gone through first, as Ahkmou had been informed he would, and was only half-formed on Okoto before he heard a growl of confirmation to proceed through without delay. The portal was a rippling mass of violet and black in the center of the throne room, and he’d not entirely trusted such a violent look collection of energy, but another growl from Makuta said he had little time to argue. With a deep breath, he’d broke into a sprint and launched himself with his empowered legs into the swirling mass of power. He instantly felt his head spinning as his form was transported from one dimension to another, muscles tingling for a moment as he was turned from solid to incorporeal and back again. Then, with a thud, he felt stone beneath his fingers and felt the rush of wind from a storm overhead, the scent of fire, water, ice and lush jungle assaulting his senses after going so long without any form of weather. As he’d gathered himself, he saw the half-corporeal Makuta looming above him, silhouetting the little Okotan in his shadow as he directed a torrent of raw shadow at a team of figures at the other end of what appeared to be some large sinkhole rimmed with violet crystals. The tall figures fought back against his Master with a respective element, and their colors had led him to only one conclusion on their identity. So these were the Toa. As much as he’d wished to join his Master and crush them, that was not part of the prophecy. He remembered growling under his breath, and using his Master’s distraction, taking off into the shadows to spend the next few weeks hunting for the ruins of the Grinder’s city.. He’d spent so long lost in the memories leading him to this dark and ruined place, he realized the Grinder’s mask had gone cold in his hands, and his logical side told him he was simply delaying the next part of the plan. Makuta had told him to seek out the Skull Grinder and claim his mask, whether the failure was dead or alive. Fortunately, he’d been alive, and provided an impressive test for Ahkmou’s new power, so that was a surprise he was still thanking his lucky stars for. The shadow Okotan turned the mask over in his hands for another moment, before he reached up and plucked his own from his face, tossing it aside with a soft clank of metal against the carved-out floor. With a sigh, he reached up and snapped the mask into place over his dark face, eyes closed as he prepared himself. Ahkmou knew, masks were everything. They could assist a farmer with growing his crops that season, or grant Makuta the power to nearly end the island. Everything was relative to the power of the mask, and since Ahkmou had been told Kulta’s was a rare design from somewhere not native to Okoto, he really had no idea what to expect from its power. As soon as the skull-like mask rested into place, the Okotan’s body erupted into power and spasms that sent him to the ground, voice tearing out through the caverns in pained cries. He felt his muscles tear as the mask’s power flowed through his small body and extended his limbs to better suit the new energy. He’d hear tales of how the Toa had once been Okotan’s like himself and their original masks had helped them ascend to their almost legendary state of power, but this… this wasn’t power, it was torture. He felt his torso crack and tear as the toxic-green light burst from within and tore his rib-structure at the sides, earning another scream. As the pain began to subside and Ahkmou took the risk of raising his new limbs to look at his new form, another sudden eruption of power from his left shoulder forced him to roll onto his stomach as bone-spikes tore from his shoulder armor and protruded like a grotesque mantle. Ahkmou’s vision began to darken from the pain, the trauma having pushed his body beyond what his mind was willing to endure. With the soft clank of metal against stone, sweet darkness took him and he collapsed against the floor, eyes dark. Chapter 3 The soft feeling of a stone rat’s nose against his fingers brought Ahkmou from the blissful void of unconsciousness and returned him to the painful existence that was reality. He slowly opened his eyes, and flicked his hand out at the little creature, lips curling in both frustration from his still aching form, and disgust for the little rodent. As soon as his hand neared it, a bolt of emerald energy lept from his fingers and struck the little Rahi animal. It twitched and instantly dropped dead on the spot as Ahkmou felt the aching in his forearm slowly subside for a moment before returning. He tilted his head at that, forgetting his pain for a moment. He hadn’t even put any amount of will behind the movement, and his power simply leapt out and seemed to steal the life from the stone rat. Then, that life seemed to be converted back into an energy that dulled his pain, if only for a moment. Clearly, he had some things to explore with this new power. Pulling himself up to rest his back against the cave wall, Ahkmou looked himself over in the dim light. Thankfully, so long in the shadow realm had helped his eyesight be more sensitive in low-light scenarios and he saw his new, grotesque state in full clarity. He was significantly taller now, easily the height of the Toa he’d seen, though it was like the mask had not twisted him proportionately. His armor had not grown with him in all places, exposing his skeletal structure on his ribs and lower limbs. His feet had grown long claws, glowing a soft, sickening green in the cave and gently scratched against the floor as he drew his knees up to his chest, shaking from shock and the pain still aching deep into his body. Makuta had not mentioned how the power would twist him, how agonizing it would be to simply wield it, and what happened if he lost it somehow, the mask or power itself? Would he simply return to his old self, or would he… Ahkmou shook his head away from the other possibility and stood, growling at the ache in every joint and bone as he did so. This new height was going to take getting used to as he nearly stumbled and lost his balance, reaching out to brace himself against the rocks still burying the deceased Skull Grinder. Then, a thought crossed his mind, looking down at the pile of dead bones and armor. More specifically, the armor. Clearly Kulta would not be using it any longer, he thought, as he bent down and began tearing bits of armor from the former skull lord’s body. A few pieces of crimson armor from the beings arms that should work on his new limbs, and the ribcage-like torso armor would most likely work as a sufficient pauldron for his right shoulder. For a moment, he understood he was wearing a few body parts of another being, but considering he was going to most likely be fighting the entire island on his own, he needed this more than Kulta. With a few solid pops, the armor worked itself into place, and Ahkmou rolled his shoulders and stretched his still-aching form. The crimson armor wasn’t perfect, but his entire left arm and legs were now armored, so he considered that sufficient. Now, onto the next task at hand. Ahkmou focused and closed his eyes, hoping that when the mask had twisted him, it hadn’t robbed him of the shadow empowerment Makuta had bestowed upon him. His body ached even further from the exertion of effort, but after a moment, his power obeyed and his form dissipated into mist, sliding through the rocks blocking the tunnels and back into the winding caverns of Okoto’s underbelly. It didn’t take him long to find his way free of the caves and back out into the Region of Earth, his darkness form sweeping past a large open cave filled with jagged violet spikes and a handful of floating platforms leading towards a stone pedestal of some kind. As he passed through, Ahkmou wondered why there would be a such a display for nothing at all… Probably some random legend the Okotan’s had dreamt up in his time away. They had a habit of that, listening to Narmoto and his stories. He never understood the obsession the fire-spitters had with telling stories, but they surely never missed the chance. He wondered as he exited the caves and floated across Okoto’s surface, heading towards the coastal region of Ga-Koto, if they’d tell stories of him once he and Makuta conquered the island… That would be nice, let someone worship and chant his name for once. As he neared the sands of the water region, he let his power fade and became solid again, limbs still protesting with every movement as he did so. His claws sank into the shifting grains beneath him and a sudden crack of thunder overhead was the only warning he was given before water began to fall against his armor and mask. The rain was light at first, but quickly becoming a heavy downpour that matted the sands together beneath his feet. Ahkmou tilted his head back and closed his eyes, droplets occasionally slipping through the slits in his mask and pattering against his dark face. It had been so long since he’d smelled the scent of rain or felt the coolness against him, far too long. The former Po-Okotan nearly fell forward and sobbed, digging his fingers into the wet sands and try to let Okoto’s glorious, refreshing rain wash away everything Makuta had tainted him with. All the filth, the darkness… the evil. Instead, he simply stood there for a few minutes, letting the rain grow to a raging storm, the lightning occasionally illuminating the raging seas and dark grey clouds of the late evening. “Po-Okotan’s are supposed to hate water, yet here you are, soaking it up… and talking to yourself. Great, now you’re going crazy,” he said to himself after a soft chuckle and continued on his way towards the now furious waters. The storm had come on rather suddenly, and despite his welcome of the refreshing rain, it was a tad curious. It was almost as if the elements themselves were voicing their distaste for such a twisted being planning to enter their waters. Ahkmou understood, as he’d essentially become a monster thanks to Kulta’s mask, but he had no choice. Makuta still held the leash of his shadow infusion, and would most likely tug-or choke-him with with it should he try and escape. Besides, Gali wasn’t here to stop him, so the elements themselves would have to continue to rage on. As the winds began to throw the rain in sheets, Ahkmou arrived at the water’s edge and blew out a breath. As a Po-Okotan, he’d never been a great swimmer, and now, as his body was still recovering from its mutation, he wasn’t any more confident in his odds, but Makuta had been very clear. Arrive at the water’s edge, and wait for further commands. So he waited. He listened to the storm, felt the water lap at his feet and for the moment, enjoyed the silence as he waited for some sign. Instead, he was nearly scared out of his new armor when Makuta’s voice suddenly echoed through his mind, sounding no more pleasant than usual. “Good, Ahkmou, I see you’ve claimed Kulta’s power over the dead. You will need it. There are defeated Skull Spider’s littered about within these waters from Gali’s defense of her home. You must raise each of them from the dead until you find the one that knows where her original Mask of Water resides... “ “Dare I ask for what purpose, my Lord? Gali is dead, along with the other toa, as the prophecy you explained predicted.” Makuta’s response grated against his mind, and nearly drowned out even the booming thunder overhead with its intensity. “I only answer your narrow-minded question because it is required for your task…. I plan for you to corrupt that mask,” he explained, slowly, as if Ahkmou was having issues understanding, much to the servant’s annoyance,“Then, you will use your new power over resurrecting the dead and create a Shadow Toa through her corrupted mask and Skull Warrior remains. A simple shadow of the real thing, but ultimately loyal to me. You will do this for each Toa, and through them, I will use their combined elemental powers to free myself from this realm.” Ahkmou frowned in thought, and for a moment, he had to compliment his master on the plan. In theory, it could work. While shadows of their true selves, a darkness-born being wearing the Toa’s original, yet weaker, masks could combine the six elements and open the portal to the shadow realm again. Whether the creations survived the process was obviously irrelevant, and if they were as mindless as the Skull Warrior’s he was commanded to make them from, they wouldn’t miss their lives any way. As much as he hated to admit it, Ahkmou was impressed. Unfortunately he didn’t have long to mull over the more fine details before Makuta’s growling voice echoed through his mind. “I did not release you from this prison realm to stand around, Ahkmou. Go!” The necrotic servant sighed and threw himself into the surf, wincing as his body protested the movement, and began swimming towards the lower areas of Ga-Koto. The underwater village lay carved into the stone of the seabed, soft lights glittering within the huts and homes. Makuta had not said what he should do if the villagers or Protector tried to stop him, but he had a guess. Not that it truly mattered to him, what had they ever done for him? They’d never tried to come save him and his people, or even make contact… No, he had no love for these Okotan’s. If they tried to get in his way, he’d do what was needed. A school of Takea sharks swam by, and for a moment, he felt a stab of fear. The aquatic hunters were known for their ferocity, even to someone who spent a lot of his time in the desert regions. Villagers he understood, but Takea… they swarmed, chewed, tore at their victim. If the full school turned to attack him, he’d be Takea bones in seconds. Not willing to take the chance, he brought himself to a stop, rose a hand towards the large rahi and forced his will out through his hands, as he had with Kulta. Emerald bolts lept through the waters and struck the school, chaining to each of their silver bodies and causing them to spasm and twist in agony. The energy lept through the school for only a few moments before they finally went limp and began to gently float towards the surface. Just like with the stone rat in the ruins, Ahkmou felt the ache of his body subside, and this time, it did not return. So, it appeared if he took the life of others, it fueled his own. Well that was convenient. It also explained why the Grinder and his people had a constant need for prisoners, they most likely used them as fuel for their power. Sick, but also clever. Ahkmou was noticing a trend with Makuta and his minions. You’re one of his minions, y’know. Just a tool to be used and thrown away. He shook that thought away and continued his swim past the village and towards the ruins he could see off in the distance. The Skull Spiders’ work, most likely, so that was a good as any place to start. He was no Ga-Okotan, so he wasn’t going to be able to hold his breath for too long, so on top of Makuta’s impatience, time was not his ally. He spent roughly an hour in those waters, going up for air every so often and feeding upon the local wildlife when his limbs began to ache or his body grew weak. The Okotan’s must’ve done an efficient job of clearing out the skull spiders after their defeat, as he was having a very difficult time finding even a scrap of the little creatures. Ahkmou brushed his hand against a bit of coral as he came to a stop, toxic eyes searching for the accursed corpse, and as it died in his fingers, he noticed a deep blue among the now-cracked remains. There it was. The remains of a skull spider, deep blue shell nearly blending in with the coral until he’d broken it away. He gripped the little creature’s remains and shot towards the surface, gasping in air as he broke the surface. The storm was still raging, and he almost believed it had gotten worse in his time below the raging waves, as returning to shore took far more effort. He turned and leaned against a large rock outcropping on the coast, looking down at the little creature. Makuta had not told him how he was supposed to go about bringing the little terror back to life, or unlife, and so far he had only experience in draining the energy from a victim, not revitalizing one. However, Ahkmou did remember Makuta using the creatures in the shadow realm to...subdue the more destructive or rebellious matoran, using them as sentient masks. If they had a mind of their own, he may be able to simply let his power work for itself and read its own memories from beyond its watery grave. He figured it was as good a shot as any, and reached up to remove Kulta’s mask from his face. He enjoyed the soft whisper of the now-calm winds against his face before reaching down to gently press the salt-riddled spider to his face, nestling its mask-like underbelly onto his face. Its mechanical components had mostly rusted away from the caustic salts and he felt organic fluids dripping across his cheeks and forehead as he did so, forcing a silent gag. Then, he waited, yet again. He was starting to get tired of that. With a sudden dizzying rush, his eyes gave way to a memory not his own. Well, nice to see he could still improvise and get results. The skull spidr was underwater not far from where he himself had been searching, swimming towards the original Mask of Water that Gali had either abandoned or somehow lost during her short adventures on Okoto, its ocean-blue surface buried eye-deep in the sands. Ahkmou assumed it was being commanded forth by Makuta for the same reason he was now, but ignored the theory as he watched the memory. The creature’s long forelegs finally settled upon the mask and curled around it. With a satisfied hiss, it kicked its back legs and began towards where Makuta must’ve instructed it to take the mask. Ahkmou smirked behind the creature’s mask-esque remains. Perhaps things were going to go smoothly for once. Obviously this one had found her mask, now he simply needed to see what had ended it, and then find that. Most likely, the mask would be near by. The spider swam on a ways before a flash of movement sped across it vision, bringing it to a stop with another sharp hiss. The shape had been large, long, and easily identified as aquatic… but far too large to be a Takea shark. Besides, he thought, the sharks and other rahi feared any creation of Makuta’s by natural instinct. As he watched the shape whip by again, this time closer, Ahkmou made out colors now. Blue, orange, streaks of silver across its head… No, that was no Takea. The skull spider waited for the creature to swim by before it darted forward and tried to simply escape through speed alone. It made only a few feet before it seemed to be hit by a sudden current of water moving at such a rapid speed that it sent the arachnid swirling end over end, making Ahkmou feel nauseous for a moment from the view. The spider corrected itself just and he finally got a good look at its attacker as it raced forward, head bowed forward and tail moving rapidly to keep up speed and force. A body of bright blue and silver, fins lean and powerful, and a head of the purest silver, featuring a deadly fire-orange horn upon its tip. Along its back, a pair of weapons that looked familiar to the ones wielded by the Protectors were strapped and loaded. Ahkmou prepared for the memory to come to an abrupt end as this...creature of the ocean charged forward to impale the spider and reclaim the mask. Instead, Ahkmou himself was launched off his feet by a sudden force he didn’t register until he was a flying through the air, coughing water from his mouth as the spider came loose from his face. It felt as if the ocean itself had created a tendril of water and simply struck him with all its force. He landed with a sharp crash on the flat top of the rocks he’d been near, crying out as the impact nearly broke one of the bone spikes from his left shoulder. A moment later, Kulta’s mask, which he’d been holding at his side the whole time, landed next to him with a metallic clang. He sat up, coughing and sputtering, and more than a little furious. So now he had both a giant fish to find, and on top of that, the very ocean itself wished to get in his way. “Is that it now, huh?! First the Okotan’s don’t come to save me, then me trying to save my own mask turns me into Makuta’s lap dog, and now I have to fight the very waters themselves?!” he roared at the churning waves, rains pelting his face and armor in a torrential downpour,”Fine, I’ll face the ocean's fury!” As if the sea heard his request, he heard the waters suddenly roar an answer and with a brief flash of lightning, saw a new column of water rise from the currents and lash towards him before darkness fell again. His normally excellent night vision was ruined by the sudden flash and he had no idea where the strike was coming from. A moment later, he was struck dead-center, breath knocked from his lungs and he forced off his feet yet again. The continuous stream of water engulfed him, threatening to drown him in its fury as he unleashed bolt after bolt of darkness against the waves to try and fight back, their violet and black arcs simply cutting through the waters without effect. Just as his lungs began to burn and scream for oxygen, the waters suddenly cut off and Ahkmou gasped, lurching forward as he spit water from his mouth and his body expelled the salty invader. In the back of his mind, he noted to note mock the ocean anymore. As he slowly regained his breath, he looked up, expecting the last assault to come and finish him. Instead, a flash of lightning illuminated his true assailant, silver and blue armor reflecting the light brilliantly. The fish creature… There it was, floating a few yards off the raging waters, tail lazily swaying back and forth, though the sense of fury was present even from here. It’s movement was an idle one, instead, Ahkmou had seen enough rahi to sense their tension before the pounce. Ignoring its obvious distress for his presence, Ahkmou was more baffled by how the aquatic rahi was flying above its natural habitat, as well as how it was controlling the elements. As far as he was aware, only a Toa had that kind of power. Well, the Toa and… No, that was impossible. Surely he hadn’t attracted the power of the creature of Water, that was far too powerful for him to defeat alone. The Toa controlled the elements he know, but the Creatures? Makuta had mentioned them as the living elements themselves, fury and all, and he’d very much made this one angry. That explains the storm getting worse, he thought. He reached over to collect Kulta’s mask and snapped it back over his face, feeling a dark presence return to the back of his mind that he hadn’t noticed was missing. So that’s how Makuta communicated with him, the same way he had the Grinder apparently. Masks were everything, once again, it seemed. “Come on then, creature! If you’re here to try and stop me, I must say, I’m more afraid of Makuta then I am of you! What’s stopping you?” “Because her I asked her to stop.” Chapter 4 Ahkmou whirled at the feminine voice, nearly jumping off the rock’s surface from the shock of what he saw. She was tall, a good mask over himself, and her mask was beautiful. A shining golden hue that marbled into a deep-sea blue, eyes a brighter blue like the warm sky over Po-Koto and carved runes of the Okotan language arced across her forehead. Her armor of blues, silvers and sea-star orange was smooth and curved slightly across her body, most likely aiding with her swimming, though her identity was immediately known thanks to the carved symbol in her breastplate. “T-Toa… Gali…?” He whispered, sound barely audible over the storms and waves. There she stood, shape shimmering like a desert mirage, but unmistakably present. He couldn’t see her face, the Toa’s masks were far more protective of the wearer then the usual Okotans, but he could’ve sworn he saw a smile in her eyes. She rose a hand, and suddenly, silence struck him like a physical blow. Everything stopped. The storm, the waves, rain, everything came to a sudden halt at this Toa’s command. Such a simple display of power finally broke Ahkmou’s composure and he sunk to his knees before her, simply staring in stunned silence. “Yes, little one… Well, I guess not so little now. I am here, as my brothers and I should’ve been for all of you, so long ago.” “H..how?” “As a Toa, I am the element of water upon Okoto. From the dew that drips in Le-Koto, to the raging storms of my home, as long as the waters exist, so do I. Even if that means not physically, my spirit remains wherever my element does. Don’t worry, I didn’t get it at first either,” She giggled softly for a moment, the sound almost sounding a bit childish as she knelt down in front of him. Those eyes were so cool, like a drink after he’d spent all afternoon climbing the carvings of his home, and Ahkmou realized that she was both the ocean's beauty and wrath at once. “But… you were sent to the stars when you re-imprisoned Makuta? How are you still on Okoto?” he asked, starting to regain his voice again as he processed how he was speaking to the spirit of Water. He was grateful he hadn’t simply died at some point and not realized it. That would’ve been a terrible end to his legend. Drowned by a flying fish. “Our bodies were sent to the stars, yes, once our power was released and we once again united with the elements. Our spirits, however, remained here on Okoto to work with the Creatures and protect our homes.” Ahkmou nodded as he slowly grasped the situation. The Toa weren’t gone, could never truly be gone, but one thing still stuck out in his mind. Looking up at that gleaming golden mask, he asked a simple question, head tilted slightly as he frowned. “How did you find me…?” Toa Gali’s expression darkened and she shifted her gaze to the now-still oceans. She didn’t respond immediately and instead simply walked around him to look out across the endless waters. When she spoke, her voice was distant, as if she was lost in a painful memory she couldn’t ever truly forget. “During the battle with one of Makuta’s minions, Umarak, my soul was taken into the shadow realm. I did not linger long and it was through my visit I figured out the destiny my brothers and I had to fulfill,” she said, folding her arms as if catching a sudden chill. “When a spirit enters that place, it leaves a stain that… can’t ever truly be removed.” “That still doesn’t explain how-!” She held up a hand and Ahkmou instantly fell silent, afraid another torrent of water would flatten him against the stone again if he continued. Gali was silent for another moment, before continuing. “Because of that stain, I’m able to follow anything that also has that darkness within it. It’s both a blessing and a curse, really. I am able assist Akida in finding any threat to our home, but having that darkness within oneself is…” Ahkmou finished the sentence for her, a grim chuckle on his lips as he did so, “Fatiguing? Always feeling like another presence is hovering over your shoulder, like a looming shadow?” “Yes… You are wise, littl one.” She replied, eyes softening again a few degrees and turning back to look at him. “The name’s Ahkmou, and I’ve been around the shadow realm for about a thousand years, you tend to get used to the lack of privacy,” he shot at her, bitterness dripping from his voice. “Yes, I’m sorry we couldn’t save you all… Even if we were physically on the island, doing so would also release Makuta, and you know what kind of evils he would unleash.” “So the lives of the Capital city are worth the lives of the rest of Okoto…?” She frowned and looked away, as if the thought of leaving any Okotan in peril was too much for her to bear. Ahkmou didn’t care, he pushed harder as he stood and walked over to her, pointing up at Akida, as she’d called her. “You still have a connection with your elemental creatures, you could do something, anything, to try and help us, instead you’ve accepted that we’re lost… and you still haven’t told me why you found me here. You could’ve just ended me and stopped whatever Makuta is planning for me, but you haven’t,” he tilted his skull-like visage so he caught her gaze and she looked at him fully, pain obvious in her eyes. “The prophecy is done, Ahkmou, our destiny fulfilled.”
  2. Welcome to the eighth installment of my new series of Bionicle flash fics, The Biological Chronicle. If you want to read the other stories in this series, you can find links to them in my signature at the end of this post. If you don't know what this is, allow me to quote from the first fic's introduction: With that out of the way, enjoy: 2008 Though Gavla sat in the stands of the Metru Nui Coliseum alongside hundreds of other Matoran, she never felt more alone in her entire life. Turaga Dume, the head elder of the city, was giving some speech about how great it was that Mata Nui was awakened, how the darkness had finally been defeated, and other cliches that Gavla found extremely tiring. So tiring, in fact, that Gavla slipped out of the stands without anyone noticing, without anyone even stopping her to inquire where she was going on this momentous day. That was not surprising in the least. She had no friends, whether among the Av-Matoran or the others, so why would anyone care where she was? Gavla soon found herself just outside the Coliseum exit, trying to decide where she should go next. The cries of joy from the other Matoran were muffled out here, but she could still hear them plainly. She looked over her shoulder at the massive Coliseum, wishing the entire structure would just collapse on top of everyone inside there. Especially on Takanuva. “You're sick of it, too?” said a voice nearby, one she didn't recognize. Gavla looked around before spotting a Po-Matoran leaning against a streetlamp not far from the Coliseum's entrance. She had not seen him when she exited; in fact, unless she was mistaken, it seemed like he had just appeared out of thin air. She dismissed that as her imagination, though, because this Po-Matoran didn't look much different from the other Po-Matoran she had seen. “Who are you?” said Gavla, folding her arms and glaring at him. “And why aren't you in the Coliseum celebrating Mata Nui's awakening with everyone else?” The Po-Matoran shrugged. “I guess you must be one of those Av-Matoran. My name is Ahkmou. Let's just say that I'm not particularly popular among my fellow Metru Nuians. Hence why I'm out here alone.” Gavla eyed him carefully. “Why do they hate you? I thought all you Metru Nuians were best friends. The Three Virtues and all that.” Ahkmou chuckled. “They hate me because I used to serve Makuta Teridax himself.” Gavla shook her head in astonishment. “Wait, you, too, served the Makuta? I thought you Metru Nuians hated them.” “Not all of us,” said Ahkmou. “And besides, it was a while ago. I'm clean, but the other Matoran and even the Turaga still don't trust me much.” Gavla's shoulders sagged. “I know what you mean. Life was so much better when I was a servant of the Makuta.” She expected Ahkmou to react with horror at the statement, but to her relief, he nodded. “I agree. The power . . . oh, how powerful I felt when I was Teridax's servant. When you get a taste of that power, nothing ever seems to quite match up afterward, does it?” Gavla wasn't sure that she agreed. The only reason she had liked the Makuta, after all, was because they had accepted her. She never felt particularly powerful among them, but she nodded nonetheless, as she didn't want to cause any rifts between the two of them so soon. “Were you a—?” “Not a Shadow Matoran, no,” said Ahkmou, shaking his head. “Still, I know what it feels like. Darkness is a seductive force and I love it for that.” Gavla nodded, feeling happy that she had found someone who understood her. She was even starting to think that maybe she had finally found a friend, even though she had just met Ahkmou and did not know him very well. Then Ahkmou looked up at the sky and started. “What the—?” Frowning, Gavla followed his gaze. She was shocked to see that the stars had rearranged themselves into the shape of Makuta Icarax's Mask of Shadows. That made no sense, though. What was going on? She looked back at Ahkmou, who was now smiling in a way that reminded Gavla of the way Makuta Vamprah had sometimes smiled right when he was about to get his prey. “What's going on?” said Gavla. “Ahkmou, why are you smiling?” “Because if that mask is what I think it is,” said Ahkmou, his voice triumphant, “then I think life is about to get better for the both of us very enough. Very soon, indeed.” - Comments, criticism, questions, etc. are all welcome . -TNTOS-
  3. Another old picture for a fanfic I started writing but never finished. Basically it took place after the reformation of Sphereus Magna when trade routes were established on the seas, and involved a ragtag crew of misfits and outcasts.
  4. Chapter 1 Takanuva was lost in a whirlpool of time and space, floating for what seemed like an eternity, or perhaps a thousand eternities, as he was trapped once again. It had been a long few weeks since Brutaka had opened up the first portal that was supposed to reunite him with the Toa Nuva, but after the last portal which had opened up into an empire run by a power-mad Toa of Water, he hoped that this portal might finally land him at his destination. He had caught glimpses of strange alternate dimensions, one where the Makuta were fighting against the Toa who had rebelled against Mata Nui, or one where the Bohrok devolved into Matoran. Such strange places… Takanuva could not appreciate enough the twisted universe that he originated. Finally a bright blue circle of light opened below him and he floated towards the opening portal door. The light nearly blinded even a Toa of the element, before he landed on solid ground. Recovering from the fall, Takanuva dusted off his white and black armour, before coming to realisation where he had ended up. This was the Underwater Chute that he had taken with his friends the Toa Mahri not so long ago. But something was amiss. The place seemed more used that when he had been through. He strolled down the Chute heading towards the Tunnel of Darkness. Surely this could not be his own dimension? As he strode towards the entrance of the Tunnel of Darkness, Takanuva felt a pulse of energy in the air. He held his Power Lance forward, which tapped on an invisible barrier made of pure energy that rippled at a touch before vanishing again. The Toa of Light was curious. This barrier did not exist here before, he thought. What would be the need of it? The answer came soon enough. A horrendous screech further down the chute cemented Takanuva’s worst nightmares. He had never heard a sound quite like it, but the monstrous gurgle conjoined with the shriek reminded him of tales told by Turaga Vakama. They could be only one creature. Sure enough, his light power revealed scores of Visorak heading towards him. Takanuva did not hesitate but to run, throwing shots of light and shadow behind him to slow down the rampaging spiders. The horde was too large, however, and with every spider knocked back, another took its place. They battered into the barrier, which crushed many under its great strength. The Toa of Light exhaled gratefully, until he was surrounded by a dozen Onu-Matoran carrying Disk Launchers. Their leader, Onepu, stood forward, Launcher aimed at Takanuva’s heartstone. “State your name, Toa!” Onepu ordered. Takanuva sighed. This certainly wasn’t home if Onepu could not recognise him. “I am Takanuva, Toa of Light. What is going on here? Why are Visorak attacking Metru Nui?” Unlike beings that he had encountered from the former dimensions, Onepu did not seem puzzled by Takanuva’s lack of knowledge. “Those Visorak must have given you a bump to the head, Toa of Light. Bomonga, Tehutti, take this… Toa… to Helryx. No doubt she will have questions for our surprise guest. Takanuva was shunted back along the Chute by the two Onu-Matoran, whilst Onepu stayed with the other Onu-Matoran to protect and repair the energy barrier. The Chute led out into Le-Metru, and Takanuva could instantly notice a change to the city than the one he left not so long ago. The city felt rough, and busier than usual. Le-Matoran passed him protected in strong armour, as well as a Disk Launcher strapped to their back and a knife by the sides. Every Matoran was armed and ready for danger. What had happened in this dimension which provoked the Matoran to become so battle-ready? The Onu-Matoran wasted no time in hailing an Airship, for Le-Metru was still the hub of transport in the city, and they headed to the Coliseum. From up above, Takanuva could see the reason as to why Le-Metru had looked so dark – barrage balloons cloaked the city. Whatever dangers that made the Le-Matoran wear such protection must surely be a dangerous one. Tehutti tapped Takanuva on the shoulder. “We’re here”, he said. “Let’s go.” Takanuva was eager to get off the Airship. He remembered Toa Helryx from the day he first started travelling through the alternative dimensions. Her wisdom would be most appreciated considering the circumstances. Tehutti and Bomonga led Takanuva along dark, gloomy passages along the Coliseum. The Toa of Light knew the way well, starting to pick up the pace. He had to find out what was going on in this universe. Bomonga reached a door leading into the inner chamber, but Takanuva pushed himself in front of the Onu-Matoran and heaved the doors open himself. The sight that he witnessed did not please him. Bomonga made a rehearsed announcement. “Welcome to the Headquarters of the Resistance, led by Turaga Helryx.” - - - Review topic here.
  5. Truth At The Fingertips The battle was over. The Mangaia was quiet once more, only the sound of dripping water coming from the remote corners of the cave. Makuta’s voice still echoed in the minds of the Toa Mata, but he was gradually fading, more a memory now than a threat. The darkness seemed to fade with his disappearance, the shadows no longer carrying fear and dread; yet the six figures in the center of the lair remained still, anticipating Makuta to come from where they least expected. Tahu was the first to let down his guard, his firesword dying to a flicker so he could look around the chamber. Each of his partners followed suit, and the Toa of Fire could feel the sense of contentment emitting from the group. Tahu, however, kept his eye on the dark chamber ahead- their job was only half accomplished. “The Makuta... is he really gone?” Pohatu asked, voicing the group’s thoughts. “Back to the nothing from which he came,” Tahu confirmed, quoting their enemy from moments before. Makuta was merely a guard, protecting the Mangaia until it was the proper time to be used. He had taken his job too far, however; he had used his Rahi as attack hounds, instead of cautions to the wandering villager. Makuta acting out, the Toa attempting to be heroes... everyone was trying to be more than what they were, the Toa of Fire realized, as he lead his team farther through the lair. In the green light that came from the cracked walls, the Toa found a door, battered and damaged from Onua’s shockwaves in the battle. Formerly a grand gate, it now buckled, wobbling under its own weight. With a nod from Tahu, the Toa of Stone and Earth pushed forward, set to demolish the wall. The others stood back, cautious lest the fragments fell on them. The six clambered into a long, lofty chamber, seemingly uncorrupted by the taint of Makuta, Kopaka noticed. As misguided of a guard he may have been, he still must have realized whatever significance it had. The hall glowed an eerie purple, as a luminous liquid sludged through an etching on the floor. It was a map, they understood, but of what they could not fathom; circles crossed with lines into a complex cross, almost like the Toa of Ice’s double edged sword, engraved into the nadir. Scooping a sample from the minuscule moat into a vial from his pack, Kopaka’s eyepiece scanned the liquid. It bubbled slowly in the tube, and with a glance at the floor he found the connection. The Turaga had claimed the Makuta had struck down Mata Nui with a spell-this had to be the “spell” he had used, some sort of virus. So the master of shadows did know what this chamber meant, Kopaka thought grimly as he capped the vial. How much more here has he corrupted? “Brothers,” came a call from Gali. The five turned to see their sister in the center of the map, hand running through a niche. From her pack she pulled her Makoki stone; the six pieces had granted the Toa access to the lair, but maybe their task went beyond that. Gali’s portion fit into the bottom part of the hemisphere, and with the donation of the pieces from the other five, the fragments clicked cleanly into the niche. With the click of the final fragment, the floor began to shake, something far below rumbling. Backs to each other, the Toa Mata readied themselves for a cave in. This was the threat they had least anticipated. Under their feet, the Makoki stone flashed, a green light shooting through the stone floor like a fast blooming flower. Where it travelled, a new liquid pushed away Makuta’s virus; It flowed from the Makoki through one side of the hilt... and stopped. Quivering for a few moments, it fought against the Makuta’s liquid, but was halted, unable to combat the virus any further. As it ceased progress, so did the quake; it kept the Toa on their toes as they looked to the ceiling, as they felt that moment of anticipation hanging in the air. Somewhere in the universe, in places far south of Metru Nui, the quakes could be felt by all those present. They felt something they’d never encountered before; more violent than a bioquake, but not as terrible as the Great Cataclysm, the Matoran knew something was happening as glanced from their work. Looking at their neighbors with blank expressions, they all subscribed to the same thought: Could this be it? A small voice in their heads asked. Something told them no, but a stronger, deeper voice resounded in the opposition they hoped for, that the Great Spirit was rising. Blank stares became smiles as the quakes grew, and then-- Nothing. The quakes abruptly vanished, as if it were an illusion dispelled. Faces fell and shoulders sagged, workers cursing themselves for holding their breaths. Mata Nui remained asleep, and would not awaken, not for all the faith in the universe; the quake had been nothing but a tease. Overwhelmed with disappointment, Matoran bowed their heads to their forlorn work once more. “Down!” Pohatu shouted as rubble fell like rain. The ruined gate was crushed as a wall of stone fell upon it, boulders and slabs of protodermic rock followed the pull of gravity. Soon a barrier was established, splitting the Toa from the Mangaia; the ceiling would have followed, if not for the Toa of Stone’s intervention. “So we’re trapped,” Lewa spat, looking mournfully at the mountain that stood before them. “Not if this isn’t fixed,” Onua spoke up, as he listened to Kopaka’s observations about the conflicting liquids. “We’re only trapped if we can’t get to where we need to go. This is a puzzle, and the Makoki is the key. Once it changes colors, and we have somewhere to be while the wall stands in our way, will we be trapped.” Lewa crossed his arms and turned away, muttering about how these five would not be his five ideal cell mates in a psychotic ward. “But what about the Matoran?” Gali asked, backed by a nod from Tahu. “What if the Koro were damaged by that quake, and they, or the Turaga, needed us?” “I don’t know, sister,” was the Toa of Earth’s reply. “I don’t know.” *** “Ahkmou is gone.” The words came from Nokama, surprisingly. The other five elder’s eyes were drawn to her over the Amaja Nui circle, curiosity plain on their masks. The was news enough to pull Vakama from his memories of that spit of land erupting off the coast of Ta-Wahi a few days past. A vision of the opening of the stone gate had enticed him to the site, in hopes of greeting the Toa Mata as they emerged from Mangaia following their fight with the Makuta; the Turaga had instead found himself thrown to the sand in the earthquake, the only thing emerging happening to be that island from the water. Speculation overcame him as he worried- he needed to know what was out there. But the Toa remained missing in the day following the quake, and while their absence prolonged, that distant island remained a mystery. Now speculation was escalating to panic, with the news of the Po-Matoran’s disappearance. “I was alerted last night by one of my guards that a boat had been taken from our docks, a Po-Koro throwing disk abandoned by the sailor, presumably a joke for a collateral.” “What does he hope-expect, the Makuta to have scurry-fled there?” Matau wondered, throwing his hand towards the new land in the east. “Maybe he does,” Vakama scoffed. “The signs of the peaceful times have reappeared here, the Rahi free of infected masks. But we cannot afford to sell ourselves to the Po-Matoran’s delusions, despite the proof there might be. Makuta would not move out of that lair until the Matoran are right where he wants them.” The other Turaga nodded, but they still looked to him for more. “No, my visions have not given me a glimpse of what is out there, nor what has happened to the Toa. If we cannot send them to bring Ahkmou back from whatever he is headed into, what are we to do?” Some of them exchanged blank looks in reply, themselves unsure of the answer to that. A series of whistles and shrugs came from Nuju, which the Ko-Matoran Matoro stepped forward to translate. “Turaga Nuju says... why should we send six strangers, instead of our former brothers and sisters whom we’ve known all our lives?” This brought a wave of mutters from the other Turaga, but Vakama stood stoic. Maybe he was putting too much faith in the Toa, but he still felt uneasy in trusting anyone else with the task. “I am same-sided with our ice brother,” Matau spoke. “The story-legends say-speak of great things from these six, but I yet to see that from him. Lewa swings from trees all day, and sweeps our stray Kanohi from branches. What have they done to hard-prove themselves?” “Our quest for the Great Disks was the same,” Nokama reminded him. “Six novice Toa, on a quest for objects of power. And they have proved themselves countless times- I would not be in attendance here if it weren’t for the actions of Gali; I am sure that without the actions of her brother somewhere along the line, you as well would not be here today.” “It seems that with the Toa’s arrival, we have stepped down from a certain level of competence,” Whenua contended. “We managed on our own for close to a thousand years, and as soon as they arrived, we have begun to think that they are the answer to our every salvation.” “Well, the legends speak of them as far more than novice Toa,” the Turaga of Air grumbled, with a supporting nod from Whenua. “We did not need a few dozen Kanohi to imprison him! And if all we needed were comforting figures around the villages, we should have stay-remained Toa and found some other way to woke-risen the Matoran.” When his fuming was met with shocked silence, Matau frowned. “I’ve always believed that was what he drained the Coliseum for-why would that Rahi scum ever use his own powers to wide-wake those he thought lesser of?” “These Toa are heroes in the making,” Vakama answered. He sighed; they’d always been an argumentative group as a Toa, and their Turaga stature did not change matters. “Have some faith in them.” “But they are not here, at the moment, so we will have to improvise,” Whenua reminded them. “Why can we not send our fellow Matoran, as Nuju suggested?” “He does not trust them,” Onewa cut the Turaga Fire off. “That Matoran knows of Metru Nui, and a version of what happened there. Vakama thinks that on the island out there is another entrance to Metru Nui, and if a party sent out there finds it...” “No,” Vakama rose to his own defense, slashing fiercer than Nuju would in a whistling fit of rage. “That would mean that all of our secrecy we vowed for would be for nothing, It is not the right time to return, Onewa, and you know it!” “These Toa were supposed to signal that time though, brother,” Nokama suggested. Vakama shot a glare at her, and Matoro backed away, recognizing the heat of the Turaga’s anger, as he slowly saw he was on the losing side of the argument. “I haven’t had visions of returning, but that time is soon,” Vakama replied. “Just because the Toa arrived does not mean they have to follow them into the tunnels. The time is soon, but not too soon. This is our home for now, brothers. Fine, take these Toa out of the equation. Say we won’t wait to send them out to this island. How else do you propose we bring Ahkmou back?” “He is afraid enough to run from his fellow villagers,” Onewa said menacingly. “But he is no fool to run from us when he knows we have him in our sight.” The Turaga of Stone was not implying the use of his Komau as he cracked a knuckle. “By the Great Beings, Vakama,” Matau proclaimed. “just admit Onewa is right. We are old-worn, not cripple-bound. Why don’t we just go ourselves?” *** If Jaller found anything comical with the care that the Turaga climbed into the boat, he did not show it. No one ever saw the elders squawking like a family of Brakas, and he would not be seen like that either. He remained on the Ta-Wahi hill that looked toward the bay, watching the six Turaga and Matoro soon become a dot in the distance, before he headed back to Ta-Koro. Though there was no danger on the road ahead, he kept his hand on his disk, half anticipating a Nui-Jaga to leap from the cliff side. The days of sudden peace following centuries of fighting the Makuta left the Captain of the Guard uneasy; without some strategy to conjure against some enemy, he felt restless, and almost hoped for an attack to arrive. The silence of the island was unnerving; he listened around him on his way back, almost hoping for something, anything to be lurking in the trees. Jaller wanted to pounce, and despite the dozens of Matoran who sang of the long awaited peace finally arriving, he found he could not join them. That Takua may enjoy this, the Captain of the Guard thought, but I’m not well when I’m idle. Jaller entered the warmth of Ta-Koro, nodding to the masks that lined the top of the fortress’s walls. Passing under the arch at the end of the gate, his Hau breaking from the gaze that each Kanohi above met him with. Each guard’s eyes bore a look of determination that any Captain would be proud of, but Jaller was perturbed by the robotic, almost estranged way they were all synchronized. The walls have eyes, he realized darkly. As he made his way under the arch, he felt the shadow of their vigil fall upon his mask, wondering with a shiver if that wall to his mind was being peered into. Walking briskly through the courtyard, a silence surrounded him. Though the Ta-Matoran carried on with their duties, each cast him an eye, out of respect. His mask whirled to meet each one of them, and he sense they awaited a public word from him- he was the leader of Ta-Koro in Vakama’s absence, and must have something to say. But Jaller was the sole actor under a spotlight, and with no script he found himself incredibly anxious, with nothing to say. The other Matoran watched him quizzically as nearly sprinted to his hut. *** “We may no longer be in our youth-prime, but now you finally get to see the Toa Metru in action,” Matau joked to Matoro. The Ko-Matoran managed a brief smile as he and Onewa stroked the boat away from Mata Nui, briefly chuckling at the Turaga’s nostalgia. As they paddled, each passenger could be heard caught up in their own thoughts, their words expressed in the trickle of the water along the hull of the boat. Wondering what lingered in each elder’s mind, Matoro looked from the fading shoreline of Mata Nui to the imposing mountain that lay ahead, watching the artificial channel between islands funnel water from one part of the rest of the world to the next. A gate to...Mata Nui knows how many places, Matoro thought as he glanced the horizon with his eyepiece, the endless blue bending beyond the curve of the earth. And we’re concerned only with what lay on the other hinge. Glancing beyond the bow where Nokama sat, Matoro regarded the approaching island with wary. Seven heads jerked as the boat rode up onto the shoreline, the travelers caught unawares by the unexpected arrival. Wading to the sand with the boat in tow, they stretched their limbs as they viewed the new island. The mist that had obscured its details from a distance had been pulled back like a curtain; the sand seemingly bare in comparison to the beaches that lined Ga-Wahi; nothing was here except for the cliffside that poked its way through the seawater that still trickled down from its emergence. The islands on this ocean, Whenua thought with the shake of his head, remembering back to when they first glimpsed Mata Nui. This place had simply popped up, a perfectly constructed landmass, if not a little barren, with no signs of millennia of formation, just like their island paradise. Casting a glance along the cliffside, he wondered if--- “Over there,” Onewa pointed, gesturing just beyond the bend of the shoreline. A boat was nestled alongside the rock wall, poorly hidden by its sailor. The paddle was stowed under the seat amongst a clutter of objects that could have come from nowhere other than the island of Mata Nui; a kohlii fishing net, some sea shells, a Po-Matoran walking staff akin to Onewa’s... and a triangular stone engraved with a symbol the Turaga wished they weren’t familiar with. “Maybe he went looking for bait,” Matau said nervously, hoping to turn a blind eye as he looked at his fellows. The seven left the canoe as it was, following the tracks that strolled away from it. The footprints scattered, as if the one who made it were in a stupor while wandering the beach. Soon they not even resembled a Matoran’s footprints, the shapes contorted until it looked like there were several trails leading down the beach. “All of this effort to hide, when we are a day behind in the chase?” Onewa implored, as they followed what they hoped was the Po-Matoran’s vestige. One of the trails strayed closer to the rock, until they disappeared under a ledge an arm’s reach above the beach. A pathway wound from it toward whatever lay at the top, and the Turaga looked at each other; each of them was physically incapable of climbing that gap. A gesture from Nuju however, was the answer around their roadblock, as his Matatu glowed. One by one he telekinetically raised each of the party to the path, until Matoro pulled the Turaga of Ice up to the ledge A wave of gratitude came from the Turaga of Ice in form of a nod as his assistant pulled him up to the ledge. As they started upward, Vakama cocked his ear to the sky, as if hearing something in the silence above. It was hard to believe that his comrade was... gone, the exile thought in a state of breathless disbelief. It was almost as though he had never existed, no remainder of his presence left on the island to hint that he was anything but a bad dream that all of the Matoran of Mata Nui had encountered. But to Ahkmou, the Makuta was more than an inhabitant of the island; the manifestation of his darkness had seemed almost physical, as if it were part of the island itself, and his disappearance was as powerful a blow as if a village had been wiped clean off the map. He had told Ahkmou that he would not be easily defeated, that the Toa were no match for him... but the Po-Matoran could have sworn to have felt the blow that Tahu and the others had dealt. The spirit of shadow had lied to Ahkmou, and just from that betrayal he felt that more alone in the universe. Staring out at the unhampered ocean, anger coursed through him as he refused to believe the reality of it. So the Makuta had not fled to this spit that had risen from his downfall; the Po-Matoran had fled out here as a place of protection, hoping his partner would be here. But he was not, and now the Turaga surely would know that Ahkmou was working with the Makuta. He briefly wondered why he was staring out at the ocean, and not at the island he had come from. Maybe it was because he wanted to see the same sight they saw. But their was an unfairness to it, he fumed as he glared out at the sea, furious at his own folly. He was an outcast, but an outcast one would ever consider valuable. The company at the battle of Kini Nui had supposedly been a collection of misfits from all over the island, and from that they had gained some credibility with the rest of the Matoran. Him? He would never be listened to, no matter what he did. The masks of those Matoran burned in his mind, an animosity at the smiles they wore nowadays on the island... then those masks were of the elders, the six that would always believe he was under their thumb. Yet the masks he envisioned were not those of the six Turaga- they were different, bolder, however at the same time there was a striking resemblance. The Po-Matoran was certain these masks were not worn on Mata Nui, that they were products of his mind, but he was certain he knew from somewhere. Surrounded by nothing but the quiet wind, he listened for an answer in the silence. But the only reply was the gentle lap of the waves carrying up from far, far below. It was not fair, but he felt like he could not help it. He had been warned by Onewa for the lucky Ghekula stunt, but he felt that the Turaga had more to say then... the Kohlii balls would be sure to bring everything else out, confirm any suspicion the elder had for him to be associated with the Makuta, that his cover was blown. Ahkmou was certain that he had been here before, that there were many more times he had been atop some peak, pondering the weight of his crimes, but those times he could not recall. No matter what the Makuta told him, all those memories of anything he might have done in his life in Po-Metru were blocked off. There was no confirmation, but definitely a suspicion that something similar had happened there. Down on the shore, he could hear the waves crash, collapsing on themselves, and then the slosh of the tide retreating back to its larger body. There was that renewed rumble forward, followed by the moment’s pause where the wave hung in midair, a silence that kept the Po-Matoran on his toes. One word relieved him of the tension as the waves crashed again, as the cycle restarted. Standstill. He grinned as he felt the breeze buffet around the edges of his mask, the tickle of air brushing across the Kanohi only to pause for a moment, leaving his impatient face itching for the caressing touch to finish its stroke. But he understood what had happened to the Makuta. He’s only keeping us on our toes, Ahkmou smiled grimly. A crunch of a footstep on the path made him turn around, wiping the smile off of his face. The Turaga were there, calling his name, but his mind could see the other bolder masks, their true masks staring at him as though he were an exotic new Rahi. A Ko-Matoran was with them in their rear, staring at the Po-Matoran as if he and Ahkmou were two completely different species. “He fell, this place rose. I had to come out here.” “What did the Makuta tell you?” Onewa asked. “Everything. All the truths of Metru Nui, and how you left me, in that river, to die.” “It was a mistake,” Vakama croaked. “Something took you from us. We didn’t--” “You, Vakama, he told me you were willing to kill us all,” Ahkmou sneered. “There were circumstances!” the Turaga of Fire exclaimed. “Ahkmou, all we want is just... we don’t want you to tell the others of Metru Nui. They’ll know, when the time is right, but they cannot know... not yet.” “And if I do?” “Brother, please, just cooperate,” Matoro insisted. “If you tell everyone, then there will be chaos. Not the Great Spirit’s plan, not even Makuta’s plan. Everything would go to chaos, and if something happens to the Turaga, not even I would know how to get back there.” Ahkmou turned away from them towards the ocean once more. He glanced down into the blue... and could see shapes in the waves, shadows of large beings. A few of them had crawled out onto the beach, with wicked looking talons and claws, and probably many more grotesque features that could not be seen from this distance. They were making their way onto the shoreline, and the Po-Matoran had second thoughts. He probably could not outrun whatever was down there. But maybe the Toa could. The seven did not see what he had seen, standing further back along the trail. Vakama, Onewa and Matau looked pleadingly at him, while the other four had been attracted to the writing on the side of the walls. Ahkmou had not known what they read, or even if all of the seaweed and mud seeping through them that they could be read. Nokama’s Rau glowed as she translated it, but shook her head at them, signaling she was unable to read it. If we spend any more time up here, whatever’s down there might make their way to the other side. And they see they’re not alone... “I...I will come with you,” he surrendered, his shoulders sagging as he trudged toward the surprised group. *** The bobbing of the boat on the waves jerked Garan awake once more, and the Onu-Matoran cursed himself for falling asleep once again. He held his eyes closed tightly for a brief moment before opening them to see Velika at the rudder, keeping the boat set straight for the island ahead. Casting a grateful nod toward the Po-Matoran’s way, he let his eyes drift back to the ocean. The shores were in sight now, that he was glad for. There had been too many days out in this rocking canoe, and Garan needed his land legs back. He needed answers as well, to questions that burnt deep in his dehydrated mind. The island of Voya Nui had seen the emergence of this mammoth island- only a distant dot from there-, and Garan was one of the few willing to explore what lay out there. It was another time when water and food were scarce, and this might be the perfect opportunity to replenish the village. Velika had come along because of his unique view on the world might spot the Onu-Matoran something they may have needed that he overlooked. But could this mysterious island be the answer to their recent famine? A brown dot appeared between the boat and the island. They’d pass through enough piles of driftwood on their voyage to get Garan wondering where they came from; the island ahead did not appear to be forested, and the debris was not coming from their land. He watched the wood float closer to them, but it did not follow the currents that flowed towards Voya Nui. As it floated away from their destination, the Onu-Matoran wondered if his dehydration was getting to him, or if he had fallen asleep again. He could see bursts of blue and brown in the driftwood, but red and white and green and black? He was definitely seeing things, unless... “Velika,” he called, breaking a silence between the odd pair. The eyes under the powerless Great Komau flicked his way. “We’re the only boat that left Voya Nui, right?” “A single drop of water can herald a rainstorm to meet a dry ground’s ache for water,” was his riddled reply. “Are we the single drop, or part of the storm though?” Garan asked, pointing ahead. The boat had distinguished itself on the water now- definitely not driftwood. He could not make out definitive forms of those in the boat, but he could see that they were not of the build the rest of the Matoran of Voya Nui were. Who were they? The single thought raced through his mind. Where did they come from? Was Voya Nui the only island that went “up”, or were we merely the first? Standing up, he begun to wave his arms and shout, to indicate their presence. But they could not see him for all the noise he was making. The boat across the water kept rowing onwards, oblivious to him. Garan prepared to fire a pulse bolt with his tools as a flare, but he stopped upon realizing the speed they had suddenly picked up. His gaze dropped from the boat to shorter sights... only to see the boat cruising towards a whirlpool, right in their path. “Velika!” he barked. “Steer us out of here!” The Po-Matoran nodded, pulling hard on the rudder. The currents were tenacious, countering the villager’s strength, and the boat was approaching that whirlpool fast. Garan joined his brother Matoran, closing his eyes as he pulled with all his might on the rudder.... And he found himself cruising smoothly onto a beach when he opened his eyes again, feeling the boat wedge itself in the sand as small waves pushed it forward. He and the Po-Matoran looked at each other, surprise even in Velika’s eyes. “Perhaps the Great Spirit decided to give us passage,” Velika wondered aloud. “Or maybe we got lucky,” Garan replied abruptly, brushing himself off. Ahead on the cliffside looked like a ledge they could climb. Would there be freshwater higher up? *** Whenua lay sprawled out on the bed in the Ga-Matoran hut, exhausted from the return trip. So tired was he that he could not make it back to Onu-Koro; his time as a Turaga was taking a toll on his body, and here he and the others were, adventuring as though they were still Toa. He felt his thighs ache from the slopes they had scaled; his arm had become sore as he leaned on his staff, fingers cramping as they clenched the shaft. They were getting too old for this, the Turaga of Earth was realizing. He closed his eyes, the inscriptions they had found floating in front of him. They were older than Metru Nui itself, as he and Nokama had discovered, indecipherable by either expert. Whenua stowed them in his memory for future reference, his mind slipping as it gave in to his body’s fatigue... ...and suddenly he was dreaming of a time that almost seemed ancient, where he had felt the same weariness. His earthshock drills hung at his sides as the Vahki transport burst through the street, as Matau pushed it to the limit to reach the Coliseum. He slid to the floor of the vehicle, content with his job accomplished. In almost the blink of an eye he and the others were jumping to the Coliseum floor, facing a hideous impostor atop Turaga Dume’s podium. He did not catch the speech the masquerader gave to the Toa, for his attention was on the twin suns that were becoming slivers on the skyline; but he could hear the chilling proclamation, as the podium reached for the sky. “And even now, the Great Spirit will soon sleep...” “Ah!” Whenua screamed, jolting awake on the bed. The rumbling voice of the Makuta echoed in his mind; even as a memory, the master of shadows was still haunting. Taking a deep breath, his head tilted to the window, the three vertical strata of rock protruding from the ocean. His arm was reaching out toward the structure, three of his fingers matching the cliffside. Three finger island, the Turaga thought. A fitting name. He closed his eyes once more, attempting to fall back asleep- but all he could see were the twin suns, closing like eyelids... “No,” he whispered, jolting up in bed. Shaking his head, he stared across the sea in disbelief. The twin suns, three finger island, it had to be a coincidence... but as Whenua imagined himself laying on the bed, he could not deny this truth. “It cannot be.” *** Someone had left a canteen, and Garan drank gratefully from it, thanking the Great Spirit for the small gift. He and Velika had not found much so far besides dried seaweed laying along muddy trails leading to the peak up at the top. Some carvings were etched into the sides, writings that the Onu-Matoran could not read, having been faded long ago. The strangest thing of all was that Velika had taken the lead throughout the hike, muttering to himself excitedly. For one who had always taken a step back in the village, he was certainly engaged in this task. Garan often wondered where his traveling companion pulled much of his wisdom from, seeing things so simple that the other villagers overlooked or never considered. Where had the Matoran been in his time before Voya Nui, and what had he learned there? Shrugging the thought off, he paced behind the Po-Matoran, wondering what else could be on this island. They emerged on a cliffside, overlooking a blank ocean. There was still much distance until the peak- they would have to backtrack, but for now, Garan sat. He wondered... charging up his pulse bolt generators, he sent them forward, seeing if beneath the ground they yielded freshwater. He was a fool for thinking so, he knew, but it was worth a shot; obviously any pools of freshwater here would have mixed with the ocean, but there could be more underneath. The ground rejected his bolt, ricocheting it back toward him. He dove as it sped at him, and went wild into the ocean. As he recovered, Garan looked up to see Velika in the wall, the sounds of his tinkering muffled. “What did you find?” he asked the engineer. What Garan saw took him aback. Velika had opened some sort of hatch, where a panel of complicated technology flashed. Covered in mud, a little bit damaged in places, but it looked like it operated. What did it operate? Garan watched his brother Matoran operate. Velika had been an extremely talented engineer, but the speed that he moved in going through the buttons was frightening. “Velika, do you know how to operate this?” “When in a drought, you do not go building a pyramid,” was his only reply, his mask buried in his work. “Instead, you mine.” The tone almost did not sound like Velika, but Garan was so puzzled by the meaning of that riddle that he did not notice. A tremor. All was still, and he was caught up in the confusing Matoran’s words, but he felt a tremor. The cliffside begun to rumble, and Velika stood back, hands on his hips. “What did you do?” Garan asked, slightly panicked. “I believe it is time to leave,” the Po-Matoran, throwing the latch shut. Worry was in his voice too, and Garan threw away all of his questions as he followed the Matoran back to the boat. The entire mountain quaked violently by the time they had made it to the beach. The sands were shifting as well, and the two hopped into the boat. Even Velika pushed off with a sense of urgency to leave this place. They would take their chances with the whirlpool our there, but they had to get off of this island. They did not look back until they were far away, and what they saw astounded them both. The island was sinking, falling into the ocean, shaking even the water. Waves formed that carried them away from the place, but Garan stared long and hard at the place as it sank. The excursion had been worthless, he thought as he tossed the canteen into the bottom of the shell, grabbing a pair of oars in its place. Or was it? *** They had given up as a team on trying to batter through the ruined gate, and instead each wandered the chamber, alone with their thoughts as they sought an alternate exit. The pile of rubble was a puzzle that had been rendered unsolvable- it was too thick, too many other aspects that thwarted their elemental powers. If they even tried to bust through the rubble, it would have brought them into an even tighter trap, so the only solution was to think it out. Tahu watched the others while he boiled with frustration, itching to be in action again. Lewa was the same way off in another corner, maddened with claustrophobia as he quietly babbled nonsensically; the chamber still retained an aura of silence about it, as the other Toa solemly wandered. Onua and Pohatu sat on the pile of rubble, feeling the vibrations of the underground, while Kopaka strolled alongside the walls, using his Mask of Vision to find anything they’d overlooked. While he did not find any hidden passages, he did seem to find many symbols that required deciphering. The Toa of Water, however, still tinkered with the puzzle on the floor. She’d made some progress, but in the end what did it matter? Tahu had utmost faith in his sister Toa,but if she triggered another reaction, what would it do besides rain more rubble until the suns from Kini Nui shined this deep? Gali, on the other hand, moved with a patience that would have tried a dermis turtle as she deciphered the paths of the liquids. The Makoki was an extremely sensitive remote, tender movements pushing the virus this way and that. A slight touch the wrong way could let the Makuta virus take over the entire system, and then there would be no telling what could happen to the six of them in here. Their enemy had certainly concocted a complex “spell”, as Kopaka had proposed to the rest of the team. Not even a combination of their elements could counter it; it could not be siphoned, diluted, or evaporated to let the natural liquid have its way. There was almost a higher voodoo protecting it, to show the Makuta had not concocted a feeble plain. The mastermind behind this would not easily let his efforts be overturned, even if they lasted long after he had been defeated. If the rule over the Matoran was not on his terms, then it would be on no terms. Perhaps she was tiring from days of looking at it, but she’d sworn that the Makoki moved on it’s own. The liquid coursed one way, and she blinked with surprise, as progress seemed to revert. “No!” she cried, as the standstill had moved again. The others were about to come to her aid, but a new earthquake interrupted. The liquid flashed in response, branching off towards one wall of the chamber. Signs carved into it glowed, except that this wasn’t the glow of the virus, but of the natural liquid from the puzzle. “What did you do Tahu shouted over the rumbles, as they watched the walls tremble. “I did nothing! It acted on its own!” the Toa of Water responded, doubt coursing through her mind. Had Gali been tricked into working on the wrong formula? And eerily, the quake stopped. The chamber was still again, and the flash cut off. The symbol on wall shone for a moment, and then went dark again, but the six Toa stood wary, elementals wisping around their tools. With a hiss, the symbol lifted up, revealing a new chamber. They could not see because of the mists that came from the room, but there was something new glowing, from deep in there. Tahu, eager to get out of this forsaken puzzle room, took the first step forward, but a voice from inside brought him hesitation. Clean it all. It must be cleaned. ------------------------------------------ Last Year when Faber Files published the idea of Three Finger Island, I was fascinated on what the story direction could have taken. My goal was to remain as canon as possible, and to see if I could set the story back onto its course while still having the characters adventure out to "Three Finger Island" I went through a lot of rewriting stuff, trying to figure a truth that each character would realize, and in doing so, I found a few truths about myself. Anyways, hope you enjoyed this. NS.
  6. West of Po-Koro – A BZPower.com Short Story Fan Fiction by BZPower.com member X-Ray Hafu took a step back as he admired his fruits of his labor. In the weeks since the end of the Bohrok War, he had been hard at work repairing the damage the Bohrok had done to his home of Po-Koro. At the moment, he had just finished rebuilding one of the great statues that he himself had felled to stem a Tahnok swarm’s march into Po-Koro. It was a grand statue of an unmasked Matoran face, staring back at him with the soul that he had given it. “Another Hafu original,” he said to himself, chuckling. He started to put away his tools, when a familiar voice called out from behind him. “Hi, Hafu!” said the voice. Hafu turned around to see a Ga-Matoran wearing a Noble Kanohi Huna approaching him. As his fellow workers headed into the village, he met the Ga-Matoran and said to her, “Maku, isn’t it? A pleasure to see you again, water maiden.” The two shook hands, and Hafu walked with her to the gateway to the village. All around them, reprogrammed Bohrok and Bohrok Va were going about their work, rebuilding the destruction that they had caused. Thanks to the mechanical aptitude of an Onu-Matoran named Nuparu, the Bohrok were now their helpers. “What brings you to Po-Koro?” Hafu asked Maku. “I’m here to see Huki,” said Maku. “I haven’t seen him since he left Ga-Koro after the Bohrok were defeated. Turaga Nokama is finally letting me off of probation and letting me journey afar again.” “Truly,” said Hafu, “it is a great thing that you are able to walk among us. Huki has been busy as of late, what with the repairs and all. Still, I think his spirit would be lifted greatly if he saw you.” Maku blushed under her mask. Her close friendship with Huki had earned her more than her fair share of ribbings from her fellow Ga-Matoran. True, the Huki plush doll that she kept in her hut may have been a bit much, but she was nonetheless unafraid to maintain her friendship with the Po-Matoran. “Where is Huki?” she asked Hafu. “Where do you think?” said Hafu, who then laughed. “He’s at the Kolhii field, practicing, as usual. That’s where the bloke spends nearly all of his free time.” “Well, as the premier Kolhii player on Mata Nui, he needs to keep in practice!” said Maku. “Especially with the new version of Kolhii that he came up with back at Ga-Koro.” “Huki is ‘the premier Kolhii player on Mata Nui?’” said Hafu, crestfallen. “Oh, lighten up, Hafu,” said Maku, playfully punching Hafu in the shoulder. “Isn’t it enough that you’re the premier carver and artisan on Mata Nui? We all know that you can play a good Kolhii game too.” “Oh, bother you!” said Hafu, shaking his head. Maku only laughed more. The two Matoran finally reached the Kolhii field. It was flat affair, surrounded by stone seating and two large goal markers. Huki and some other Matoran were punting a Kolhii ball around with their Kolhii staffs, playing a simple game of keep away. “Passing to you, Podu!” shouted Huki to another Matoran as he punted the ball towards him. Podu caught the ball with the cup shaped end of his Kolhii staff, and ran with it to the left of the field. The other two Matoran ran after Podu, the Hau wearing Matoran setting the ball on the ground, bunting it along with the hammer end of his staff. “Hi, Huki!” shouted Maku to her friend. Huki stopped to see Hafu and Maku standing at the gateway to the stands. He stopped running, and raised his hand in the air. “Time out!” he called out to his fellow Kolhii players. Podu and the other two Kolhii players stopped moving around. “What’s the matter, Huki?” said Podu. “Getting tired again?” The other two Matoran chuckled at this. “It’s no laughing matter,” said Huki. Ever since he had been infected by Ahkmou’s Comet Kolhii balls, he had occasional bouts of fatigue. Turaga Onewa had estimated that the effects would be gone within a few months. Maku and Hafu walked down from the stone stands to the Kolhii field, Huki striding forward to meet them. “Hafu, Maku,” he said, smiling. “Just the two beings I wanted to see.” “You’re just the being I wanted to see too,” said Maku, winking at Huki. Hafu cleared his throat loudly. Huki sighed deeply, and said, “Yes, I’m glad to see you too, Hafu. I’d be even happier to see you if you showed up to Kolhii practice once in a while. Or are you still busy running around with that Ta-Matoran… what’s his name… the Chronicler?” “His name’s Takua, friend,” said Hafu icily. “For your information, I’ve been hard at work helping to repair the village. Those Bohrok don’t know how to fix art, I tell you, no matter what those Onu-Matoran big brains tell them.” “Relax, Hafu,” said Huki, patting his friend on the shoulder, “I was just joking around.” Huki took his hand back, and turned to address Maku. “But now I’d like to say something serious.” “C’mon, Huki!” yelled Podu. “Are you going to be talking all day?” “Just a second, Podu!” Huki shouted back over his shoulder. He turned back to Hafu and Maku and said, “Kolhii practice ends in half an hour. Maku, meet me at my hut then. It’s important.” “Alright, Huki. I’ll see you then,” said Maku, bumping fists with Huki. Huki waved goodbye, and went back to his game with Podu and the other two Po-Matoran. “I wonder what he wants to talk about?” said Hafu, nudging Maku with his elbow. “By the way, how’s Takua doing these days?” “Last I saw him,” said Maku, “he was giving Jala a ribbing because Hahli put a flower in his mask. Other than that, our friend the Chronicler seems to be doing just fine. You?” “I myself am glorious as of late!” said Hafu in his usual magnanimous manner. “Thanks to our former enemies the Bohrok, our work has been cut in half. That won’t stop me from working anyway, though. But I am wary of those goat-dogs, the Bohrok Va. They’re… different, than their larger counterparts. That is to say, they don’t run on Krana, and that’s what worries me.” “I’m sure it will be fine,” said Maku. “Ours over in Ga-Koro have been nothing if not servile. It’s like we were never at war at all.” “Just you wait and see, water maiden,” said Hafu, turning to depart from Maku’s side. “Mark my words, the day we let those things into our village is the day we welcomed doom into our home.” Maku shook her head as Hafu walked away. She herself had been wary of the Bohrok at first, but the fear that had gripped her when she had first seen them had gone away, replaced by apathy. But what if Hafu was right? Were the Bohrok and the “goat-dogs” as the Po-Matoran called the Bohrok Va really plotting against them? Of course not, thought Maku as she made her way through the village to Huki’s hut. Our Turaga and the Toa wouldn’t let them into the village if they were a potential threat, right? And besides, even if the Bohrok are plotting our doom, the Toa Nuva will be there to stop them again. This time, more powerful and better equipped than ever before! * * * Huki walked along, his Kolhii staff resting on his shoulder. He had trained hard today. Train hard, play easy, he thought to himself. He approached his hut, glad to be done with practice. It wasn’t that he was tired of Kolhii, but that he had something important to speak to Maku about. And there she is! he thought, spotting the Ga-Matoran leaning in the door frame of his hut. “Hi, Maku!” he shouted to his friend. “Sorry I’m a little late. Goylo didn’t want to stop practicing.” “It’s okay, I’m good,” said Maku, going to greet Huki. They both entered the dimly lit hut and sat down on the curved stone bed, the hut’s sole piece of furniture. “Alright, Huki,” said Maku. “What’s this ‘important’ thing you wanted to talk about?” Huki stared Maku in the eye and said, “Ahkmou.” Maku’s smiling expression turned to confusion, and said, “Wha- what?” “Ahkmou,” repeated Huki, his contempt for the word and the being associated with it obvious. “That traitor nearly killed half the village, and now he’s gone. We need to find him and bring him to face Turaga Onewa’s justice.” Maku nodded grimly, not at all surprised by Huki’s bold declaration. Ahkmou had been a Matoran who had sold Kolhii balls infected with Makuta’s darkness, striking the population of Po-Koro with a deadly plague. Huki himself had succumbed to it, before recovering. Thusly, she understood perfectly why the Po-Matoran was eager to find the traitor. “Do you have any idea where he might have gone?” Maku asked. “I might,” said Huki, glancing out the door. Today was the off day for the Po-Matoran, aside from the guards. What with the Bohrok helping to repair things, they had increasingly more leisure time on their hands. At the moment, it was two hours before noon, Kolhii practice being held in the early morning so as to avoid the hot sun in the afternoon. “You might?” said Maku. “What’s your lead?” “While I was out on patrol with the guard a few days ago,” said Huki, “I ran into an Onu-Matoran named Midak. I struck up a conversation with him, and he mentioned seeing a lot of things, as he spent a lot of time above ground.” “Why would and Onu-Matoran spend a lot of time above ground?” “I don’t know, but I thought he was odd to. Anyhow, he mentioned seeing a Po-Matoran with a Noble Rau heading towards the Papa Nihu Reef. Midak said that the Matoran tried to buy or rent an Ussal from him, but Midak wouldn’t have it.” “So you think that this Po-Matoran could have been Ahkmou?” said Maku. “Yes,” said Huki, standing up on the floor. “I sought out Onepu, and he told me that there’s a cave system on an Onu-Wahi beach that would be a great place for someone on Makuta’s side to hide.” Huki then flashed a dark grin. “You know why?” Maku said, “Because they’re crawling with Makuta infected Nui-Jaga?” “Exactly,” said Huki. There was a moment of silence between the two. Huki then said to Maku, “Well, you in?” “In?” said Maku incredulously, “In for what?” “For going to find Ahkmou!” said Huki, throwing his hands up in the air. “What did you think I was going to ask you to do?” “Slow down there, Rahi herder,” said Maku, holding up a flattened hand. “It’s not that I don’t want to, but I’m not sure that I could go all the way to Onu-Wahi and back before sunset. Turaga Nokama would be really mad at me… again.” “I’ve already talked to Turaga Onewa about it,” said Huki dismissively. “He agrees with me that we have to find Ahkmou.” What Huki neglected to mention was that Turaga Onewa had said that they ought to establish a multi-village search party to find Ahkmou. This wasn’t Huki’s idea of a good adventure, however, and he hadn’t brought it up again after that. “Well, what are we waiting for?” said Maku. “Let’s head out!” “I’m glad of your enthusiasm,” said Huki. “We’re going to need a lot of throwing disks and a couple of dikapi, which my pal Ally can provide.” He got off his stone bed, grabbed full pack lying against the wall, and walked out of the hut. “If you get in trouble with Turaga Nokama, I’ll vouch for you. Besides, with the help of our dikapi, we should be there and back in no time.” The two Matoran walked from Huki’s hut to the Po-Koro guardhouse. There, they found Ally, a Matoran with a brown Noble Ruru. “You say you want to head out to Onu-Wahi?” said the guard. “Alright then. I have your dikapi right here.” He was about to show them to the stables, when Hafu ran up to the three. “Hey, Maku, Huki!” said Hafu, out of breath from running so fast. “Where are you guys going now?” “We’re going on a secret mission,” said Maku as they followed Ally to the stables. In a conspiratorial whisper, she said to Hafu, “We’re going to find Ahkmou.” “Ahkmou!” said Hafu. “You’re going to go with Huki to find that lousy traitor?” “Yes, we are,” said Huki, emerging from the stables with a pair of dikapi. “Isn’t it said that two is better than one?” “Isn’t it also said that a cord of three is not easily broken?” said Hafu, putting his hands on hands on his hips. “I tell you, Huki, I will go with you, wherever you’re going.” Huki paused to think. Hafu was a great friend, a great artist, and a great Kolhii player. He also knew that Hafu had more than proved his mettle as a warrior at the Battle for Kini-Nui a month or so before. “Alright, you can ride with us,” said Huki. Hafu pumped his fist, saying, “Yes!” Huki turned around and said to Ally, “Ally, we’re going to need another dikapi.” “Yes, Huki!” said the Po-Matoran. He ran to the stables, and then came back out with a third of the flightless bird Rahi. “Perfect!” said Huki, taking off his pack. He opened it, revealing a cache of six bamboo throwing disks. “Here, take these,” he said, passing two to Maku and two to Hafu. “We’re going to need them where we’re going.” * * * The three friends rode their dikapi over the sands of Po-Wahi at a very fast rate. Their mounts were widely known for their speed, putting the Ussalry of Onu-Koro to shame. The trio quickly reached the grey landscape of Onu-Wahi, just north of Tiro Canyon, where the Toa had battled a swarm of Tahnok during the Bohrok War. They continued on through Onu-Wahi, taking in the barren countryside around them. It was temperate, but not lush, rocky, but not too hard. Finally, Huki, who was in the lead, brought his dikapi to a halt next to a lone tree, causing Maku and Hafu had come to a stop behind him. Huki dismounted, and tied his dikapi to the tree, saying, “We are here!” Before them lay a small cliff face, indented with a large cave. It was dark within, pitch black for that matter. They were unable to see into it very far. “Is that were we have to go?” said Maku. “Yes, Maku,” said Huki, as Hafu walked up beside him. He took a throwing disk out of his pack, and said to his friends, “Get your disks ready.” The three friends approached the cave warily, keeping an eye out for hostile Nui-Jaga. They slowly walked up to the cave, carefully scrutinizing the entrance before entering. “We’re going to need a lightstone,” said Maku to Huki. “Always prepared,” said Hafu, pulling a lightstone out of his pack. The gold colored stone glowed brightly, illuminating the cave before them. So far, there were not threats in sight. “Let us go forth,” said Huki boldly, leading the way into the cave. They went deep into the cave, searching very corner of its dark recesses, or not so dark, thanks to the lightstone. “Are you entirely sure, dear Huki, that this is indeed the correct cave?” whispered Hafu. “I’m positive,” said Huki. “I scouted this cave a few days ago, and saw an infected Nui-Jaga go into it. If my reckoning is right, we should be finding the traitor in no time.” Just then, a blood curling shriek echoed through the cavern, comparable to the sound of breaking glass. It startled even the three veteran adventurers, who all knew that it could only be one thing. “Nui-Jaga!” said Huki, taking out a disk. “Stay together and get ready to throw your disks!” The monster click-clacked up from the darkness ahead of them, crawling into the light. It was a purple specimen, with two infected Kanohi Pakari on the top of the ends of its forearms. It approached the three Matoran, hissing menacingly. “Hup!” said Huki, hurling a disk at the Rahi. The bamboo throwing disk struck one of the infected masks, knocking it off, before returning to Huki’s hand. Thrown into disarray from the sudden loss of one of its infected masks, the Nui-Jaga spun around in confusion, crawling up the side of the cave wall. “I’ve got the next one!” said Hafu, hurling one of his own disks. He was disappointed when his disk struck not the Nui-Jaga’s remaining infected mask, but its mandibles, which was of no help to him. “Confound it!” said Hafu as he caught the disk on its return to him. “I’ve got it!” said Maku, bravely approaching the giant purple scorpion. With a mighty heave, she hurled one of her disks at the Nui-Jaga, deftly knocking off its remaining infected Pakari. Once the last mask was off, the Nui-Jaga shook itself, before thundering towards the trio. “Look out!” shouted Huki, who dive tackled Maku to the left side of the cave, while Hafu ran to the right wall. Fortunately, Nui-Jaga were slow, and they were able to wait while the Nui-Jaga lumbered past them, screeching as it made its way out of the cave. Huki got off of Maku, and helped his friend up. “Are you alright?” he said to her. “I’m fine,” said Maku, brushing the dirt off of her armor. “But thanks anyway.” “Onward!” said Hafu, taking the lead. The group continued on, carefully avoiding the discarded infected masks, and descended further into the cave. After about ten minutes of walking, they discovered the object of their quest. Hafu spotted Ahkmou first, cowering against the back wall of the cave. The carver’s lightstone lit up the portion of the cave the traitor was hiding in, causing Ahkmou to put a hand over his eyes to block the glare. “P-please!” Ahkmou said, cringing. “Don’t hurt me!” “Oh, we’re not going to hurt you at all,” said Huki, roughly grabbing Ahkmou by the arm. “Not yet anyway.” Hafu grabbed Ahkmou’s other arm, and Huki said, “Alright, traitor. Let’s get back to Po-Koro, shall we? By the way, ‘gone fishing’? Really?” * * * It was slightly difficult to mount both Ahkmou and Hafu on one mount, but the trio managed to do so, saddling their dikapi and heading back towards their village. They rode for about an hour and a half, until the once again came within sight of the village of stone. There, the Po-Matoran and the Bohrok were hard at work, though the Matoran stopped what they were doing when they saw the arrival of the company. They stared in awe as the heroic Matoran rode into the village, with the traitorous Ahkmou in tow. Someone started clapping, and it spread to every one of the crowd, as they began cheering wildly. “Hooray for Huki and Hafu!” said one, while another shouted, “The heroes have arrived!” Still another said, “Maku all the way!” Maku, Huki and Hafu could not help but wave. Once they had entered the village, Huki and Hafu hauled Ahkmou between the two of them to Turaga Onewa’s hut, Maku following behind. The Turaga met them not far from it. He said to the Matoran, “So, this is where you’ve been off to. Ahkmou, eh? I’m very glad to see you, very glad.” He turned to Ally, who was attending him, and said, “Ally! Get some of your fellow guardsman and put our friend Ahkmou in a secure place. I plan to meet with my fellow Turaga to discuss his fate.” “What’s there to discuss?” said Huki angrily as Ahkmou was led away. “He betrayed us to Makuta! He deserves to be pounded into dust!” “Ahkmou’s betrayal will not be without its repercussions,” said Turaga Onewa. “I assure you, he will be punished. But even a traitor may turn a new leaf.” And then, mostly to himself, he added, “I knew one who did.” He then started towards his hut, saying over his shoulder, “In the meantime, we have a more pressing issue to worry about.” “What would that be, Turaga?” said Maku as she and her two friends followed Onewa. “Toa Pohatu Nuva’s symbol has been stolen,” said Onewa. “I have no doubt that the goat-dogs may have assisted in the deed. The guards described the creature who stole it as being like a Bohrok, but looking slightly different.” “What are we waiting for?” said Hafu. “Let us summon the Chronicler’s Company at once! We will track down these thieves and—” “Patience, patience,” said Turaga Onewa. “Honestly, Hafu,” he said, “you have more hot air in you than a Ta-Matoran. Anyhow, this is a terrible tragedy not only in terms of the honor of the Po-Koro guard, but also of practicality. Once the symbol was stolen, Pohatu lost his elemental powers over stone. Meaning that we are now without a hero to defend us.” There was a silence for a few minutes, until Hafu spoke up, saying, “I told you we couldn’t trust the goat-dogs, Maku.” “You might be right, Hafu,” said the Ga-Matoran. “I think- I think I’d better get back to my village, to see if every is alright there.” “One adventure at a time, I suppose,” said Huki. “In the meantime, thanks for everything, you two. I really appreciate you coming with me, sharing in this adventure.” “Oh, it was nothing,” said Hafu before Maku could say anything. “Though, I suppose I’m deserving of some accolade.” “Great beings preserve us,” said Huki, shaking his head, Maku laughing. “Honestly, Hafu, you’re not going to be happy until you get an island named after you.” “I just want my fair share of the glory!” said Hafu to Huki. “I mean, I did help defend Kini-Nui, and I did bring down my own statue to save Po-Koro. I—” Maku shook her head as the two Po-Matoran continued arguing. We’ll never hear the end of it from him, she thought. Oh well, at least we caught Ahkmou, and we did have a good adventure. I guess I’d best be getting back to Ga-Koro now. Here’s hoping Toa Gali hasn’t befallen similar bad luck as Toa Pohatu. One adventure at a time, I guess. Right? The End Okay, so I know BS01 says that Ahkmou fled to Ga-Koro with the other Po-Matoran during the Bohrok War, but I don't think that he would have been so quick to return to Po-Koro. Ah well. I still have my stories. Also, I used Hewkii and Macku's pre-Naming Day names because this story takes place before the Rebuilding and the Naming Day ceremony. Anyhow, C & C appreciated. X-Ray
  7. LewaLew

    Ahkmou

    "Ahkmou"A great many years ago,A great many ages.The Great Spirit's islecradled his nation.The brave Toa Metruwho vanquished Makutahad built this new refugethis tree-riddled haven.But the black brother's evil,is never suppressed.Though his dark arts were stayedone stone-carver was lost.The monster's dank cavern,was where he fell aside.And the fear-peddler found himand sold him his wares."The turaga have left you.Here with the sea-beasts."The false savior lied,"But I give you my help.""Follow my cause,give word of my enemyAnd I avenge youof the vile deserters."And on that day,the gullible villager,the foolish stone-carversold his life to the monster.For centuries onward,he lived in the village,his pact with the devilall but forgotten.The wicked beast-masterstayed hidden for years.His messenger cameto peddle his fear.The Great Spirit's symbol,he wore on his face,scarred by the workof the black brother's hand.His armor was rustedlike his mask it was worn.Blighted his spirit, sincethe same marks it bore.The fear-peddler's prophetcame to restring his puppet.And remind him his bargainwas never complete.So Ahkmou cameto the present day,knowing the dark heraldwas never away.He sold his trinkets, knickknacks, and toyswhile informing the courierof the elder's deeds.But his spirit was light.The villain's visits were short,His mind seldom thought ofthe dark angel's bargain.He met a friendin the village of water,A right cheerful lady, of his own occupation.He first met the ladywhen he left his dark masterin the land now protectedby the sea-queen, named Gali.The Turaga greeted him,his alleged betrayer,and brought him to the village,to rest and revive."To Po-Koro" she said,was where he should go.To the village of Pohatu,the great stone-titan's realm.But a boat he would need,and a boat they had not.And the great whale-road's surfacewas the only way out.Though at first he was spiteful,for what the Turaga once did,His stone heart soon softened,and he doubted the villain.The sea-people were kind,and bore no ill will.So he followed their plan,and accepted their aid.To find the supplies,to build the wave-skimmer,he entered the shopof the sea-people's vendor.The lady was joy-filledwhen he entered her storefor stone-carvers hardlytraveled this far."Okoth's my name"her smile shone brightand waved towards her sales-stockand mentioned their price.He asked her questionsconcerning her store.Enjoying her voiceand the skills of the trade.For the next week coming,he returned every dayMore for her smilethan for boat-parts he came.They finished the boat,and he sailed to the desert,though for centuries later,he would make return visits.But for each time he saw Okoth,the herald came twice.For each moment of pleasurehe was recompensed evil.When the Toa first came,the great titans of legend,The messenger came withhis most dark proposition."The light-bringers come.Your debt still unpaid,but the black brother requestsone last payment today."Ahkmou stood tall,this was the dayto be free for all timefrom the fear-peddler's pact.His poorly made bargain,would now lay to rest,he would forgive the Turaga,and abhor the beast-master."The black brother's darknessmust extinguish the light.You must peddle his poisonto be free from his chains."No, he could not!Ahkmou fretted within.The mage-monster's poisonwas too great a sin.But if there was a curesome health-giving herb,Perhaps he could save hisfriends and his kind.Then he could livepure, whole, and good,but still, the price seemedtoo treach'rous for him.But If he rejected the offer,he would still be a slave.He could not live full honest,to his people and friends."Will they survive?"He asked he dark prophet."Of course," he replied"As Makuta does wish it.""How will I do it?"He asked of the mage."With kohlii balls tainted within by the plague."Ahkmou agreed,justifying his crimefor his redemption was hungin the balance this time.He crafted a sphere thatwas light, tough, and quick,that his sport-loving brotherswould find best for the game.He made many othersand gathered them plenty,to store in the caveof a dark monster's living.The scorpion's poisoninfected the spheres,which Ahkmou then soldbetraying his brothers.The stone-village fell sickthe greatest bedriddenby the dark villain's poisonand by Ahkmou's dark bargain.He left for a timein he peak of the plague,to sooth his consciencewith a visit to Okoth.He arrived at the village,to find the shop closed.He stopped a boat-builderto ask what 'twas the cause."She fell ill this past week,after a game of Kohlii,with your new Comet ballsthat she bought from a traveler."Ahkmou rushed to the shop,and broke open the door.And smote his chestfor the evil he caused.He leaned down to his friendand confessed in her earthe dark plague he had causedfor the black brother's pact.She wimpered, unspeaking,and he rushed from the hut,entering the cavewhere his bargain was struck."Come out, come out!Heal me my friends!Curse me for my part,but spare all of them."The cavern was silent,'til a hollow sound creakedthe black brother emergedand his darkness creeped.But wait! This was the herald,not the master he sought."Where's the dark master?"Ahkmou did shout.But a shudder did follow,as he heard him speakwith the voice of the villain,dark, grating, and deep."There is high costto low living." the dark devil said."I peddled my fear, andyou purchased my wares.""You are less than a maggot," the black brother laughed."One way or another,my plan would stand fast."Ahkmou softly stammered,but all words would be naught.The crime was his own,but his friends paid the cost."The plot's been uncovered."The black brother warned."Now you are an exile,from all those concerned."The demon then vanished,leaving Ahkmou alone,the poor, fearful fool,again lost, all his own.
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