“…and when he donned the Mask of Control, Makuta’s spirit took hold of the Hunter, twisting him beyond recognition.”
The gathered villagers shuddered as Nilkuu continued his tale. The fire flickered as they pulled closer to each other, a few glancing over their shoulder to survey the darkened landscape expectantly. One, however, simply rolled his eyes.
The Protector of Stone leaned forward over the flames, his masked face gleaming eerily. “No longer was Umarak known as the Hunter we have long told fables of. Now, corrupted by the evil of Makuta, he would forevermore be known as Umarak…the Destroyer.” He made a slow, sweeping gesture with one hand. “Where the Destroyer walked, only death followed. Animals fell at his hand. Plants withered into nothing. The ground itself began to rot. Okoto was slowly being reduced to a wasteland.”
One of the villagers leaned back with a chuckle. Nilkuu eyed him a moment, then cleared his throat and continued.
“Our brave heroes the Toa, horrified by the destruction, sought out the Destroyer and engaged him in battle. One by one…they were defeated.”
The villagers gasped.
“All seemed lost. Yet the Toa refused to give up. As Umarak loomed over Tahu, his claw poised to strike, Kopaka leapt forward, striking when the fiend’s guard was down and saving his brother. It was then the Toa remembered the object of their journey: Unity. And it was that Unity, they realized, that would save them now. New strength filled the Toa, and they attacked Umarak as one. With their combined might and wits, they drove the Destroyer back—he retaliated with one final assault, but it was for naught. Combining their powers in one tremendous blast, the Toa totally obliterated the Destroyer!”
The villagers cheered, except for one who seemed to be falling asleep.
“The day had been won. The weary Toa returned to their villages for a well-deserved rest, but fear not: even now they stand ready to fight for our island, no matter what evil may come to threaten us.”
One villager stood up from the cheering mass, stretching and yawning before sitting back down.
“Remember this tale, my people. We must never forget our Unity, even in the darkest moment. This is the way of the Bionicle.”
The crowd slowly began to disperse. When one villager in particular grabbed his staff and started to leave, the Protector called, “A moment, Ahkmou.”
The villager sighed loudly. He did not turn to face Nilkuu as he approached, nor did he look the Protector in the eye when he finally stood before him. Nilkuu gestured for him to sit. He remained standing.
“Ahkmou, you did not seem very interested in my story.”
“Forgive me, Protector,” Ahkmou mumbled. “I simply can’t see the point in telling a prolonged tale about the Toa saving us when we already know that they saved us.”
“There is more to a tale than its end, Ahkmou. It is important that we remember what happened along the Toa’s journey. It is more than just a reminder of what we survived: telling the tale of the Toa’s Unity helps us remember to cherish our own. Working together, they were able to defeat an ancient evil strengthened by the machinations of Makuta! So then, perhaps we can also achieve great things if we work together.”
To Nilkuu’s surprise, Ahkmou’s response was to laugh. The villager leaned against his staff as he replied, “A journey is worth nothing after its end, Protector. At that point, it ceases to exist. That end is all that really needs to be remembered going forward…at least, until the next tale reaches its end. Then that, too, will have no further meaning.”
Nilkuu shook his head. “How can you think that way, Ahkmou? Who led you to think only of endings?”
Grinning proudly, Ahkmou said, “Why Protector, you were the one who taught us about Destiny. And are not all things destined to end?”
They were both silent for a time. Eventually, Nilkuu said, “If that is what you think Destiny means, than I have failed to guide you.”
Ahkmou shrugged. “If that will be all, I think I shall take my leave. Good night, Protector.”
Nilkuu did nothing to stop Ahkmou this time.
Ahkmou slid down a dirt-covered slope as he made his way across the Region of Stone, steadying himself with his staff as he came to a stop. He walked forward, thinking, Protectors. They keep talking about Duty and Unity and Destiny like it matters. Why bother uniting to accomplish our duty if it’s all destined to end?
Ahead was a wide break in the ground. Approaching its edge, Ahkmou looked down to see a deep ravine, the bottom of which could not be seen in the darkness.
“This wasn’t here the other day. Umarak? Ah, who cares.”
He backed up a ways and prepared himself. He took off running, raising his staff as he came closer, and just before he reached the edge, he thrust it into the ground, intending to vault over the gap.
The unstable edge crumbled away beneath him.
Ahkmou could barely register what had happened as he tumbled down the ravine, repeatedly crashing through and bouncing off of branches he couldn’t make out, until he finally hit the ground with a dull thud. He tried to get up, but dizziness overtook him. The villager collapsed in the dirt. He thought he saw a point of faint golden light out of the corner of his eye, but it too was soon engulfed by the blackness.
He felt heavy. He reached out, and found that he could see his arm clearly despite the total darkness. “Is this a dream?”
“Perhaps it is.”
Ahkmou leapt up, brandishing his staff. “W-Who’s there?!”
“At ease, Ahkmou. I have no desire to harm you.”
Ahkmou gulped. He spun around, thinking he heard something move. Nothing was there.
“You are quite the remarkable villager. You seek to challenge the Protectors rather than blindly trust them. It is quite an admirable decision.”
“You think their time should be at an end, don’t you? I agree. Their ancient truths have no place in this world anymore.”
Ahkmou slowly lowered his staff. “…Yes. Yes, I feel the same. Their ways have become outdated.”
“A change is in order. The current Okoto is unstable, in constant chaos. It must be made stable. It is destined to stand still.”
“The Protectors say everything is constantly changing,” Ahkmou chuckled. “But if you ask me, all that means is that everything is constantly disappearing.”
“Indeed. One person’s truth cannot be said to be the real truth. They speak of Duty, yet that Duty is merely something they chose. They speak of Unity, but some are strong without need of others. They speak of Destiny…they know not what their Destiny holds. There is only one Destiny shared by all things.”
“And that is?”
The voice laughed, a deep, echoing chortle that surrounded Ahkmou. “I think you know already. The Destiny of everything in this world...is that one day, it must all come to an end.”
Ahkmou grinned. “Yes, of course. And how can something matter if it is destined to end?”
“What if I told you there was a way to transcend that ending? To escape even the one inescapable Destiny?”
The villager looked up. “Really?”
“It is actually very simple. To have meaning beyond the end…you must be the one to bring about that end. For after that, who will there be to deny your meaning?”
Ahkmou pondered this.
“I can give you that power. The power of ending, the power to escape ending. Power over Destiny itself. Would you like that?”
He tightened his grip on his staff. …Bring about the end…to escape the end? Be the one who enacts Destiny rather than let Destiny end me?
A chilling grin formed behind his mask. “I’ll admit, that much control has a certain appeal.”
“Excellent. Come forth, and I shall grant you this power.”
Ahkmou walked forward. Suddenly, he felt his foot move out over open space, and moments later he was falling again. When he opened his eyes, he was back on the canyon floor, clutching his staff in the darkness, unable to see anything.
A soft light ebbed over him. Something had been fused to the top of his staff: a short strip of gold that became the fractured remains of a circular disk, about one-third of its edge gone and what remained of its surface covered in small, almost-unnoticeable cracks. Ahkmou admired it as he stood, commenting, “It’s lovely, but I find it hard to imagine a mere staff head can control Destiny.”
“Open your mind, Ahkmou. With this tool, you will be able to shape reality, but only if you unleash the darkest depths of your imagination.”
Ahkmou looked up. “Well, can this thing help me get out of this ravine? I’d rather not spend the night down here.”
“Place the tip against the stone.”
Waving the staff around, Ahkmou used its glow to find the ravine wall and approached it. Taking another look at the weapon, he sighed, extended it, and lightly tapped it against the rock face. It shook in response.
The stone began to twist and pull itself free, reaching out in several directions as a large, writhing chunk of it fell to the ground. The mass of rock began to shape itself into an animal-like form with four powerful claws, its head featureless save for two glowing red eyes. It looked up at Ahkmou curiously.
The villager chuckled. “I see…yes, this ability has quite a lot of potential…”
The creature leapt upon the wall, digging its claws into the surface. Ahkmou grabbed onto its back as it started to climb, holding his staff out to help guide it; it took some time, but eventually they climbed out onto the surface, and Ahkmou let go. The creature crumbled away, its purpose fulfilled.
Ahkmou took another look at the staff in the moonlight. It looked rusty, and he noticed similar patches on his hand.
“An excellent start. But, in order to complete this power, there is more you must do.”
Ahkmou grunted. “I see. Give me a taste before you explain what all I’m really getting into. Fine, let’s hear it.”
“Scattered about this island are items similar to the one you now possess. I can guide you to them. With each you obtain, your power will grow, and if all are brought to the Black Crater, this ability can be perfected.”
“The Black Crater…”
Ahkmou stared at the head of his staff. “…Wait. What exactly are these things?”
“You will be gathering the fragments of my greatest creation. The most powerful mask ever created on this island.”
The villager’s eyes widened as he realized. “You’re…Makuta?”
“Hahaha…who else would empower you in your efforts against the Protectors?”
Ahkmou’s hands shook. “This is a piece of the Mask of Ultimate Power. How does it possess this power?”
“The mask is named so for a reason. Nothing is beyond its power, not even the power to create life where there is none. It is marvelous, is it not?”
“I thought you were destroyed? How are you talking to me right now?”
“The union of the six elements opened a rift in the universe, sending me to a separate dimension. For so long, I have been cut off from the island of Okoto, regaining what power I can, and in the wake of Umarak’s destruction the boundary between our two realms has grown weaker. I cannot return to Okoto without the Mask, but the gap has closed enough that I can reach out to its pieces. Through this fragment, I have reached out to you.”
Ahkmou continued to stare at the staff.
“Surely my identity is not off-putting. The only reason you would have to fear me is the story the Protectors tell, and I know that you put no stock in their tales. This is what you wanted, is it not? The power to create life, to craft destiny, to escape the inevitable end? Will you not pursue it?”
Ahkmou rapped his staff against the ground. It shuddered at the impact, and he could feel it ready to obey his commands. He smiled. A small ember of black flame appeared around the staff head as Ahkmou began to walk forward.
“Where is the next fragment?”