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This is an epic I'll be trying to work on over the next couple weeks, hopefully adding chapters as my college life allows me to. It's based in the current summer wave, both following and deviating from the plot bits we've been given at certain points. Hope you all enjoy! -------------------------------- Ch. 1 The City of the Mask Makers. Once, it was a bustling metropolis, busy with the hustle and bustle of the many Protectors of the ancient island of Okoto, and their great leaders, Ekimu and Makuta. The two brothers would work late into the night, forging masks for the denizens of the island, until Makuta’s envy spelled disaster for both himself and his brother. In a cataclysmic display of power, both brothers were knocked into an endless slumber. Ekimu was laid to rest in the city’s heart by the villages’ Protectors, while Makuta’s form was never found. Some think he was simply destroyed during the duel with his brother, but others believe his evil still resides in the cities ruins, slumbering, waiting for revenge. Many have begun to believe that rumor as the Skull Spiders began their reign of terror across the island, appearing within the city and driving the citizens of Okoto from their home. Vile arachnid creatures with an uncanny ability to control a being through their hive mind if given the chance to latch onto the being's face, creating a skull-like visage. Each village’s protector fought to defend their people, but could only help them retreat, to have to fight another day in the same helpless situation. Finally, in one final act of desperation, the Protectors assembled and performed the ritual of Time, summoning legendary heroes to their island-home through space and time itself. Through luck, persistence, and the Protector’s guidance, these heroes, known as Toa, hunted down artifacts of incredible power, golden masks forged by Ekimu before his ill-fated slumber and rich with elemental power. Brought together for the first time at the ruined gate of the City of the Mask Makers, the Toa found strength in unity and defeated what they thought was Okoto’s greatest evil, in the form of a monstrous Skull Spider, their Lord and leader. As the team of six elemental masters stood over-looking the bridge from which the Lord of Skull Spiders had met its fate, an ancient voice echoed through them. The sound did not resonate in their ears, but instead, their minds as their golden masks warmed against their metallic faces. “Great Toa, I am the voice of Ekimu. The ripple from your power has awoken my mind from it’s slumber, but you must find my resting place within the city to fully free me. Make haste…” Toa Lewa, the youngest of the team, clad in a silver and emerald armor that resembled the Jungle element he wielded, spoke up once the voice faded. “Well…that’s certainly not strange-mysterious at all. Are we actually going in THERE?” The Master of Jungle rose a silver-clad hand and pointed towards the mist-covered city. Nature itself had claimed the city almost more so than the Skull spiders had, moss and weeds cracking stone and adding a green tint to the brown stone ruins. Only wisps and shadows could be seen beneath the mists, leaving the naked eye to search for coherence in the swirling shades of grey and black. Gali, the Master of Water, smiled beneath her curved mask of gold, and replied in her smooth voice. “Yes, we are. Don’t tell me the great Toa of Jungle is afraid?” “No, Sister, the Toa-Hero of Jungle isn’t scared-afraid. He’s simply…wanting to be wary-careful.” The Toa of Ice, in his usual cold manner, rolled his crystal-blue eyes beneath his asymmetrical mask and remained silent. The air-headed Toa of jungle was trying to defend his ego, as always, and the city was holding the Ice Masters attention more so anyway. He blinked a few times, the telescope-device worked into the right side of his mask magnifying his view of the city, and Kopaka slowly panned across the ruins’ peaks. At first, only fog met his vision…but shape that wasn’t a broken tower or hanging mass caught his eye, only to disappear again when he blinked. Gali, in her usual fashion, seemed to pick up on the Toa of Ice’s sudden mood change and a soft touch met his golden pauldron. Kopaka tore his gaze from the city and met her warm, yellow eyes with his cold ones. “Kopaka, what is it?” She asked, her tone soft now, losing the teasing tone from Lewa, who was now arguing over the Master of Earth about the distance the Spider Lord had fallen from the bridge and the possibility of it being fatal. The Master of Ice replied in his quiet, chilly voice. “I…believe I saw something in the mists. It could be nothing, but…” “We will investigate, Brother. We will uncover this cities mystery, together, as a team.” Kopaka didn’t smile, the physical act wasn’t a practice he made a habit of, but her voice did quell some of the unease he felt, to a degree. She was the only member of the team who either didn’t look at Kopaka’s perfectionist attitude as cold, so he found a form of…understanding from her. Nodding without a word, he turned his gaze back to the city. The Master of Fire, Tahu, gripped his twin FlameSwords more tightly, their cores flickering like burning embers, and started forward, his voice strong like the flame itself. “We have conquered this Island's greatest evil. Surely whatever hides in the shadows of this city cannot hope to threaten us. As our sister has said, united, we are unstoppable.” The Master of Stone’s yellow eyes looked to Tahu, then back at the large gate ahead of them. Being attuned to the very stone they stood upon, Pohatu was not quite so convinced. He could feel vibrations through the stones, tiny kinetic waves passed through the stone of the city and rippled up through his bronze and silver body…but what caused them? Skull Spiders did not have foot-steps, or that would take away their element of surprise. “I don’t like this place, Tahu… Something foul lies in that city, something I don’t think we’ve seen before.” Tahu stopped and looked back at Pohatu at the sound of his grating stone-like voice. The Master of Stone was the bravest, most durable of them, and even he seemed…wary. Tahu frowned then…The Prophecy had deemed him the leader of this team of heroes, but he was still struggling at times to find a decision that was in the best interest of them all. To his luck, the hulking Master of Earth put a hand on Pohatu’s shoulder and spoke, though his own voice like a rumbling earth-quake, it was also light and confident. “Ekimu trusted this fate to us and to us alone. He would not have if he did not think us capable of the task, brothers and sister. We will face what this city has to throw at us, and for better or worse, we will come out the other side together.” None of the Toa could argue with that and moved forward towards the ruined city and its mysteries. Ch. 2 A pair of red eyes watched the Toa enter the cities gates from atop one of the many spires, and the being had to bite back a fit of laughter. These “heroes” moved as a group, which would make them easy to track, easy to predict. As much as the being wished to simply leap down upon them and pursue, he knew in the back of his shattered mind that HE would not approve of that. He always wanted to be informed of what was going on… Tearing his eyes from the group, Keretor expertly crawled down from his perch, four hands clutching at rocks and out-cropping’s in the tower as he made his way to the street level. Also known as the Skull Slicer, Keretor bound on thin, skeletal legs towards the city’s center, four arms tucked close to his exposed ribs as to improve movement. Somewhere in the storm of thoughts in his skull, he remembered running through the halls of an arena, hearing hundreds of fans cheering his name after each victory, over and over…then pain, darkness, a war in his mind…then the rest was an incoherent blur, up until his death and resurrection by Kulta, or as he was more commonly known, the Skull Grinder. For once, his mind collected on the memory of only a few months ago. He remembered pain, as if his bones were being clicked back into place, and a fire burning through him that woke Keretor from the eternal peace of death. While Kulta’s resurrection power had reanimated his body, his mind was left more in tatters then when he’d met his end. The only shreds of sanity he could remember clearly were two simple objectives; Obey Kulta, and retrieve the Golden Masks. The rest, well…The Grinder had been delightfully vague on. Finally, taking a turn around a sharp corner, the Slicer came to such an abrupt halt that the hook-swords across his back banged against his deep-green bones and armor with a solid clang. The sound raised the attention of the towering mass of bone and armor at the far end of the torch-lit room. Translucent-red ribs and armor reflected the fire-light as he turned to look down upon the Slicer, similarly red eyes seeming to radiate malevolence. Keretor instantly dropped to his bony knees, all four arms tucked under him in a bow as Kulta stepped over to him to hear his report. The Grinder easily stood atleast a solid five feet over the Slicer, and was twice as wide, despite being as skeletal as Keretor himself. The brute’s armor made up for the lack of physical mass though, covering most of the creature’s silver bones. “Keretor…” His voice was twisted, evil, echoing from his horned skull…yet it carried a certain collected tone to it, betraying the visage of death and destruction. “Usually it takes quite the effort to drag you away from sticking my Skull Spiders to the walls with your swords and listening to them scream, so what brings you to my chambers?” It took the Slicer a few minutes to cackle his way into coherence, but finally, he spoke, his voice shrill and high-pitched. “Heeeehahaha… The Toa, my Lord, they’ve entered the cities gates, hahaha…and they have the Golden Masks, like you predicted…eehehaha…” The Lord of the Skull creatures would’ve frowned if he had any flesh or mechanical parts left to do so, and he turned his back to the chuckling Slicer, looking back at the glowing trophy he had resting upon a pedestal at the center of the Chamber. The ornately-designed Mask of Creation rippled with raw power, its crown-like visage staring back at Kulta. It was one of the reasons the Toa had come to this ruined city, and surely, that wretched Mask Maker would lead them right to it. Rather than a threat, Kulta saw an opportunity… He already had one of the greatest masks in existence, only three remained out of his reach, but if he could get the Golden Masks from the Toa themselves, he could use them to empower the greatest of his undead creations. He would simply let the Toa wander into his claws of their own power. “Keretor, stall the Toa. Use whatever means you wish, but make sure you try to get one of the masks in the process… severed limbs won’t achieve our goals.” The Slicer snickered to himself, and stood, four hands clasping together in excitement for what was to come. The green-armored undead’s mind was racing now with all the different ways it could RIP one of those perfect little masks away from the Toa, all the glorious ways he could make them scream…when Kulta’s next command caught him off-guard. “And Keretor… once you disorient them, I want you to lead them back towards the Arena. The others will be waiting to assist you…” “But, my Lord…I can defeat them on my own, I will make them quiver in fear and-!” The Grinder turned back to Keretor, and stalked over to him, long skeletal legs carrying him the distance within a few strides, and clutched the Slicer by his skeletal neck, holding him off his skeletal feet with ease. The poor victim’s four arms were useless at trying to pry Kulta’s grip from his vertebrae. “You will do as I have commanded you, Keretor, or I will send you back into the black oblivion I tore you from and use your remains to feed the Warriors…Am I understood?” All the Slicer could do was nod, still chuckling to him, though not quite as whole-heartedly as before. Kulta threw him back towards the gate with a simple swing of the arm, and walked back over to the pedestal holding the mask, the sound of Keretor scampering back towards the city streets echoing through the halls. The mask of Creations golden glow reflected off Kulta’s silver-chrome bones, and the Grinder ran a clawed hand across its engraved surface…Yes, the Toa would come to him, in time, and he’d give them a proper welcome. Every current resident of the City would…