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A Lingering Shadow

Generation 2 Mask of Time Takua Bionicle

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#1 Offline Wiriamu

Wiriamu
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Posted Dec 29 2016 - 11:51 PM

A special thanks to Xboxtravis, who's marvelous works blending G1 and G2 Bionicle helped inspire part of this work. You might recognize some elements from my previous G2 work Head of Stone, Heart of Jungle.

 

EDIT: Silly me, forgot to make a review topic: http://www.bzpower.c...ngering-shadow/

 

 

Kini Nui, the ancient City of the Mask Makers, had regained much of its lost glory since the departure of the Toa and the closing of the Shadow Realm. The majority of Okoto's inhabitants had returned and taken up residence in the city, and the efforts of their many builders and artisans had done much to heal the damage caused by centuries of neglect and various battles. On this night, fireworks lit the sky as the inhabitants did what no Okotans had done in countless ages: held a great Festival of Masks. Music echoed throughout the city and across the island as instruments of every shape and size were lifted by Okotans young and old, while the drumming of feet in dance added its own beat to the night.

 

High above the festivities, in the building that served as both Ekimu's Forge and the Temples of both Creation and Light, the Mask Maker, the Protectors, and the archaeologist Harvali stood gathered in an ancient vault. Various artifacts and other items of importance, such as the mask of Tera* the Skull Basher, were stored in this chamber, which Ekimu usually kept locked. However, following the defeat of the Shadow Horde, he had allowed Harvali to enter the chamber and begin cataloguing various items in order to ascertain whether they might be of value to the island as a whole. Now she sat with a large, ancient volume before her, with Ekimu and the Protectors watching anxiously.

 

"Forgive our pulling you away from the Festival, dear Protectors, but Master Ekimu and I though that you should see this. This tome was hidden in a secret alcove within this vault, which I only discovered after as Ekimu and I were having some old containers moved out for placement in the museum that once served as Ekimu's tomb. It was sealed, with instructions that it should only be opened by the Protectors and any Mask Makers who should be alive at the time that the Prophecy of Heroes should be fulfilled. Ekimu himself has never seen it, but it seems to date from the time when the Temple of Light was constructed, thus explaining how its makers could know of the prophecy."

 

Nilkuu, Protector of Stone, raised an eyebrow. "Such an ancient book...who knows what secrets it might contain?"

 

"That is what we intend to discover-and at my invitation, Harvali shall read from the book," Ekimu replied. "She has dedicated her life to preserving Okoto's ancient history, and I think it only fitting that she should share the contents of this volume with us. Once she has done so, we shall have a decision to make, my friends: whether or not this account should also be shared with the people of Okoto."

 

Narmoto, Izotor, Vizuna, Kivoda, Nilkuu, and Korgot each nodded their heads, acknowledging the solemnity of the occasion. Then, at a nod from the Mask Maker, Harvali carefully opened the book to the first page. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she began. "In the time, before time..."

 

 

This island, which we now call Okoto, was very different from what it is today. Its regions were not infused with the very power of the Elements themselves, and its inhabitants-who were taller than they later became-were scattered and without purpose. One day, there came among them one known as the Herald, who-through daring unmatched before or since-accomplished great feats. When his tasks were done, the Herald vanished, but there arose a mighty hero: Takanuva, the Master of Light, whose Light reached the very stars from whence all Okotans are said to have come.

 

Thus it was that the Great Beings sent seven more heroes down from the heavens, which was said to have had a hand in the creation of our world. These heroes were Tahu, Master of Fire; Kopaka, Master of Ice; Lewa, Master of Jungle; Gali, Master of Water; Pohatu, Master of Stone; Onua, Master of Earth; and Teridax, Master of Shadows. With them, they brought the Vahi, Mask of Time, which was said to have played a role in the birth of our world. By joining their powers together, the heroes created a beautiful temple to safeguard the treasure, before creating a great labyrinth on a neighboring island to safeguard treasures too great for even the noblest of Okotans.

 

With these tasks done, the Toa set about teaching the Okotans to harness the Elemental Powers within each of them by relying upon the masks that they wore. In time, eight tribes were formed, each possessing the power of a different element wielded by their respective Elemental Master. The Fire Tribe became renowned smiths and lava farmers, founding the fortified city of Mata Nui; the Ice Tribe built the city of Voya Nui as their observatory and repository of Okoto's legends and prophecies; and the great engineers and explorers of the Jungle Region founded Kini Nui, which they shared with the noble mask makers of the Light Tribe. Mahri Nui became the heart of the Water Tribe's enterprises, which included not only sailing and fishing but scholarship and science; the Stone Tribe's artisans raised the great city of Metru Nui, future capital of the island; the Earth Tribe's underground metropolis of Karda Nui encompassed a great museum, surrounded by miles upon miles of mines and other caverns, which for a time were also home to the Shadow Tribe.

 

For many generations, the people of Okoto enjoyed an age of prosperity, using their Elemental Powers under the direction of their noble heroes. Unfortunately, while most of the Masters were loved by all, the fierce Teridax was feared by most Okotans outside of his own Shadow Tribe, who were themselves feared for their creation of dangerous creatures more than loved for the creation of helpful ones. In time Teridax grew jealous, and sought to claim Okoto for himself and stand as Master of All Elements; to that end, he used dark arts to craft the mighty Nui Stone, an artifact that he used to rob Tahu, Kopaka, Lewa, Gali, Pohatu, and Onua of their powers. With these energies and his own Shadow powers at his command, Teridax's victory seemed inevitable, but Takanuva was able to destroy the Nui Stone in a desperate strike.

 

Teridax was consumed by the released energies, which created a rift in reality itself that was filled with his darkness; thus was the Shadow Realm born. Before he perished, Teridax swore that the Shadows would avenge him, and his blade fell upon the ground and was left at the site of his demise. Takanuva, fearing for the lives of his fellow Toa, sacrificed his own powers of Light to send them back to the stars. Before disappearing himself, the Toa of Light comforted the Okotans, revealing that the Toa would return again-though he did not know how they might be affected by Teridax's actions-and that the long absent Herald would make his own return prior to their coming. He also left behind his mask, the Avohkii, the finding of which had been one of the Herald's tasks.

 

Without the Toa to guide them, the eight tribes of Okoto fell victim to suspicion and mistrust-in the case of the vengeance filled Shadow Tribe, it was well deserved. Teridax's actions prompted the passing of a sacred law barring the creation of masks containing more than a single elemental power; for some even this was not enough, and a policy of strict isolation between tribes became common. Every relation from trade to marriage between the tribes was regarded by most as an insult to the memory of the Toa and an act of worship of the fallen Teridax. Though Kini Nui remained the provision of both the Jungle and Light Tribes, fewer and fewer Jungle Tribesmen would make their home their as the generations passed. It would prove tragic in more than one respect, for the Light Tribe and the ostracized Shadow Tribe became locked in an ongoing war that saw both decline.

 

Despite the division among most of the tribes, this was still an age of great heroism. Among the exploits that took place in this time were those of a group of warriors under the mighty Ackar and the cunning Kiina, who drove off the Piraka pirates before pursuing them into unknown seas, never to be seen again. The island was also menaced by the fearsome Skrall, a dark horde who were only stopped when the powerful duo of Axonn and Brutaka faced their leaders Tuma and Stronius in a battle that caused a portion of the island to sink, taking the battling titans along with it. Hydraxon, hero of the Earth Tribe, faced the Shadow Tribe warlord Icarax, while Surel, friend to the wolves of Okoto, faced the dreaded Telluris, master of the Skopio war machine.

 

In time, a mere handful of members of both the Light and Shadow Tribes remained, but these were powerful and fearsome, possessing all the Elemental Power that had previously been shared among hundreds. Among the Light Tribe survivors were the brothers Artakha and Karzahni, leaders of their tribe and the last Mask Makers. Karzahni was renowned for his skill in battle wielding chains, and under his rule the city of Kini Nui was a place of great sportsmanship. Many noble warriors or competitors, such as the four-armed Jungle Tribesman Oris and the masterful archer Likus**, were interred in the city after spending lifetimes in its service. Artakha was more devoted to his work of creation, and was notable in one other respect: despite the war between them, he had fallen in love with a woman of the Shadow Tribe, Korusca***, and the two were joined in marriage.

 

The Shadow Tribe, determined to achieve a final victory over not only their Light Tribe enemies but over all others, enacted a dark ritual. Using magics left to them by the Sisters of the Skrall, worshipers of the foul Annona and Tren Krom, they channeled all of their Shadow energies into their leader Miserix, who also used the Avohkii to drain the powers of Light from their enemies. His six minions then used the same spell to draw the powers of the other tribes from them; the process left all the other Okotans reduced in stature and without the Elemental Powers they had so long wielded.

 

Now known as the Element Lords, the seven villains sought to claim the island for their own, and even the great Karzahni and Artakha could not defeat them alone. Fortunately, there were those who recognized the danger of the Element Lords as being far greater than any old suspicions. Six of these, one from each tribe-Flammik, Buzkayo, Bumonda, Rokreng, Droton, and their leader Lady Jagiri of the Jungle-came together and aligned themselves with the Mask Makers, who crafted a set of seven masks. The eight heroes soon confronted the villains at the Temple of Time itself, where they employed the masks in an effort to drain the villains of their power. In the ensuing battle, Karzahni was knocked into the pool of the Temple of Time, and was ever after possessed of the power to see or grant visions of the future.

 

The mask used to drain the powers of Miserix became twisted by its dark powers, which it alone attempted to contain, while Jagiri and her comrades drew the powers of their respective Element Lords into their masks and themselves. This would forever mark their bloodlines, and they and their descendants would thus be the only ones among the Okotans able to master the power of Elemental Masks. Stripped of their powers, Miserix and his minions ceased to be, while Artakha and Karzahni-the only remaining members of the Light Tribe in the wake of the Element Lords' onslaught-reclaimed a portion of their tribe's Light power from the Avohkii, granting them increased longevity. However, the heroes and the elders of the island soon decided that it was too dangerous to attempt to return the Elemental Powers to the islanders.

 

As such, the excess Elemental Power was channeled into the island itself, which was remade and renamed: Okoto, the land of six regions. The elemental forces produced crystals that radiated elemental energies, and gave rise to the Elemental Creatures: Ikir, Melum, Uxar, Kivoda, Ketar, and Terak. Agil, Creature of Light, was born from energies released from the Avohkii, though no Region of Light came to be as a result. An attempt was made to release the darkness within the seventh mask made by Artakha and Karzahni, resulting in the birth of Jaga, the Creature of Shadows****. However, the darkness that might have given rise to a seventh Elemental Region was instead drawn to Teridax's discarded blade, and his oath of vengeance was given form as a monstrous mockery of the departed Toa, who was soon given the name of Umarak.

 

Jagiri and her comrades became the first generation of Protectors, dedicated to defending Okotans from whatever danger might arise. Under their guidance, the six surviving tribes became allies once more, and many of the old taboos were cast aside. For some years they continued to work with the Mask Makers, though sadly Karzahni was eventually driven mad by his visions, and later murdered by Umarak, who stole the Shadow-infused mask from Kini Nui and named it as his own, the Hunter Mask. Artakha and Korusca were subsequently blessed with twin sons, Ekimu and Makuta, whose mother passed soon after their birth, having forsaken the power of Shadow that had been her birthright. In time, Artakha himself passed, leaving his Mask of Creation to Ekimu while crafting the Mask of Control for Makuta.

 

 

Ekimu and the Protectors were silent, processing the long lost account of Okoto's ancient history. Kivoda, who along with his comrades had said nothing during the narrative, turned to the Mask Maker. "How much of this did you know, Master Ekimu?"

 

"Some, of course-part of it is the history of my own family. But my uncle Karzahni, whose visions were inscribed in the Temple of Light as the Prophecy of Heroes, foresaw the need to keep much of it secret, and impressed that need upon my father Artakha. I wish I had known this before the Toa had departed-it would have been a comfort to them to know of their origins and connection to Okoto's past. But we must concern ourselves with the future-we cannot change what has passed."

 

Intent on their discussion, the eight Okotans were unaware that they were observed by the most unlikely of sources: the Bull Skull Mask once worn by Skull Basher. Though no eyes could be seen through its empty sockets, it was indeed receiving audio and visual input. And on the other side of a wall between worlds, that input was received by another whose history had been touched upon in the ancient tome. Makuta, the last Okotan to bear the legacy of the Shadow Tribe, stood trapped in the dimension born from the fall of the first Master of Shadows and smiled wickedly at his brother's words.

 

"Oh, how wrong you are, brother-you just don't know it yet."

 

To be continued...

 

 

*Skull Basher's name is taken from a placeholder name for an Earth Tribe Glatorian mentioned in the draft for the cancelled BIONICLE 5.

**Oris is also named for a BIONICLE 5 character, a Jungle Tribe Glatorian, while Likus is named for an Ice Tribe Glatorian intended to appear in the same film.

***The name Korusca comes from a prototype name for the Kanohi Avohkii.

****I figured that if one magazine model could be a Creature of Light, the other one could be the Creature of Shadows with a G1 inspired name.


Edited by Wiriamu, Feb 12 2017 - 01:16 AM.

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Voicing your opinions with tact is the best way to keep a discussion from becoming an argument.
So far as I'm aware, it's pronounced like this: We're ee ah moo.
 

Check out my Creations:

Epics

G1 Battle for Spherus Magna - G2 A Lingering Shadow


Short Stories

G1 Fallen Guardian - G2 Shadows of Past and Future (The Legend Continues Entry) Head of Stone, Heart of Jungle


MOCs

Mask Hoarder, Desert Scourge


#2 Offline Wiriamu

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Posted Jan 25 2017 - 12:49 AM

Well, here goes chapter 2; shout out to Nescent, who has graciously agreed to let me utilize some of their "Wildlife of Okoto" and "Wildlife of the Ancient City" ideas in my fic.

 

 

Makuta's amusement was interrupted as he heard heavy footsteps from behind him; he turned to find the latest arrival to the Shadow Realm approaching him. Umarak the Destroyer regarded his master balefully, obviously resentful of his previous mistreatment. The Mask of Control had mutated his form and granted him greater power, enough that he had gladly submitted to Makuta's will. However, being drawn into the Shadow Realm himself so that Makuta could make his escape-particularly since that act had been thwarted-had brought back his old independence.

 

Fully aware of that, Makuta moved closer to Umarak, letting the Destroyer take in the full fact of his own greater height and mass. "You have something to say, Umarak?"

 

"What is there to be said, Master? You betrayed me, sacrificed me for your own benefit, and now we are stuck here along with all your other pawns for the rest of eternity! Ekimu and the Toa beat you-you have gained nothing but to trap me here with you!" Showing how little he cared about Makuta's greater size, Umarak lunged at him-and was quickly knocked aside by Makuta's staff.

 

Before the mutant could return to his feet, Makuta had seized him in his free hand and lifted him by the scruff of his neck. Holding Umarak helpless in his grasp, Makuta regarded him as though he were a misbehaving pet, before setting him back on his feet. He then walked away from him, stepping up to the balcony from which he had addressed his subjects just prior to his failed escape. For a moment he said nothing, waiting until he sensed that Umarak had realized the folly of further attack, before addressing him.

 

"You think I have gained nothing, Umarak? I beg to differ, and I will tell you why. I was fully aware that my escape from the Shadow Realm might be thwarted-I had read the Prophecy of Heroes many times over the ages since I became trapped here. Of course, I had hoped I might defy it, but I was also prepared for failure. True, the portal has been forever sealed, but the Toa are gone from Okoto, and if history serves as a pattern it will be long ages before they can return.

 

"The Prophecy is the furthest that the future of Okoto was ever predicted by my uncle Karzahni, whom you murdered. Ekimu and the Protectors have no reason to believe that there is any threat left to fear from me, or any of their old foes. But I still have minions on Okoto, and even with the Shadow Realm sealed I can command them. Indeed, your presence here will enable me to call upon one whom I would not have had previously. Reach out to your old mask, my Destroyer...and call forth one of your Shadow Spawn."

 

As he spoke, Makuta waved his hand, and an image formed in the air before him: a window to Okoto, the other end of the shadowy masses through which Makuta had spoken to Umarak in the past. This view opened once again to Umarak's lair, the Temple of Shadow, long abandoned by the tribe of that element, and a view of the Hunter Mask Umarak had left there after donning the Mask of Control. As bidden, Umarak reached out, using both the Mask of Control and his own Shadow powers; as he did so, the Hunter Mask rose into the air, it's green portions changing to red* as it did. When it reached an appropriate height, Shadow energy emerged from it and took on a humanoid shape, which soon gained substance as one of the Shadow Spawn, Umarak's tailed clones.

 

Smiling, Makuta regarded his underling in good humor. "Excellent, my friend. Now have your minion travel to Kini Nui, my old city...he has work to do."

 

 

The night after Harvali's reading, Ekimu and Narmoto found themselves walking towards the most damaged portion of the city, where work was still being done to repair the long abandoned structures. The other Protectors were elsewhere on various tasks, the group as a whole having voted to reveal the contents of the ancient volume after the work on the city was completed. However, there was a facet of the history that weighed on Narmoto's mind, which was part of why he had asked Ekimu to accompany him to oversee the reconstruction effort in the wake of the Festival of Masks. Ekimu, sensing the unspoken question within the Protector of Fire, waited until they were out of earshot of any Okotans currently walking or working around the city to address him.

 

"You have something you wish to ask me, Narmoto?"

 

"Indeed, Master Ekimu...it is the account that we read with Harvali last night. It taught me much, and many questions have been answered by it, but there is one that still plagues me. Legend said that the Herald, whose tasks brought forth Takanuva, the Toa of Light, would return before the Toa returned to Okoto. But if there was indeed a Seventh Toa, why did he not reappear with the others? And what of the Herald?"

 

To Narmoto's surprise, Ekimu began to laugh, as though Narmoto had told him some great joke. "Forgive me, Narmoto-I mean no disrespect. It is just fitting that you, of all Okotans, should ask this question of me. After all, though you did not know it before today, you know the Herald better than just about anyone on Okoto...he is your brother, after all."

 

"Wait...you can't mean Takua!"**

 

Smiling, Ekimu nodded. "To be honest, I am surprised it did not occur to you after we read the history of Okoto last night. Even with as much confusion as Okoto has been plagued by since Makuta's fall, no orphan's origins have been so inexplicable as those of Takua. But then, the first coming of the Herald was also mysterious-he appeared from nowhere, and seemed to disappear again just as quickly after he found the Avohkii. It really makes a great deal of sense that he would return without memory, just as the Toa did."

 

"The Avohkii...is Takua meant to find it, as he did so long ago?"

 

This time Ekimu's unexpected reaction was to hang his head. "If only, my friend. The Avohkii was lost to memory even before Makuta's fall, though as the last Okotan-and thus the Protector-of Light, I could always sense its presence somewhere on the island. Sadly, I have been unable to feel it since the Toa awakened me. I had hoped it was merely an effect of my long slumber, but if anything would have brought that sense back it would have been my entrance into the Temple of Light and subsequent transformation.

 

"No, I fear that the Avohkii is lost forever, undoubtedly consumed in the cataclysm unleashed by my battle with Makuta so long ago. Thus, I fear that whatever tasks Takua may have been intended to accomplish must remain incomplete. Still, I have no doubt that he will be a great aid to the people of Okoto, as shown by his bravery in facing Umarak at the Temple of Time. If only-"

 

Ekimu was promptly cut off by a loud crashing sound, which prompted him and Narmoto to put a halt to their conversation and rush towards the source of the noise. To their horror, one side of a building had collapsed, leaving the interior exposed to the open air. None of the Okotans in the area had been hurt by the accident, but it had unleashed something that had the potential to cause even greater harm. A monstrous beast with an equine lower body and the torso and arms of a Skull Raider had emerged from the rubble, gripping two axes with its four arms. The creature was a horrific mass of red, purple, and black, with a horned head unlike any Narmoto had seen before.

 

Drawing his Hammer of Power, Ekimu faced the creature grimly. "So, the Kalitar*** still lives."

 

"The Kalitar?"

 

Turning to Narmoto, who had drawn his Flame Swords, Ekimu nodded before returning his attention to the beast. "It is a creature of great power but also great rage that I and the Protectors of old trapped beneath the city. It was the last mission that Owa, Udapo, and Epolim took part in before retiring and passing their masks to their children Owaki, Uganu, and Etoku. Those three had worked alongside Agarak, Kerato, and Mamuk for some years-I believe that was why I mistook your comrades Kivoda, Izotor, and Korgot for them as opposed to their predecessors whom I knew immediately before Makuta's fall."

 

"I would love to hear more, but perhaps for now you can stick to how you trapped it in the first place?"

 

Before Ekimu could respond, the Kalitar charged the pair of Okotans, swinging its axes with deadly skill. Narmoto barely got his swords up in time to block a blow, which sent him flying instead of cleaving him in two. Ekimu suffered a similar loss after catching the other axe blade on his shield, and landed heavily several meters away. Before the Kalitar could go after him, Narmoto recovered and attacked with his Elemental Fire Blaster. Angered, the beast turned and charged towards him, and this time the Protector was able to employ his smaller size to curl and roll out of the way of the charging creature.

 

Despite its size, the Kalitar recovered quickly, and turned to renew its attack. However, it was halted when a blur of gold suddenly darted between it and Narmoto. Ekimu took advantage of the welcome distraction to employ a feature of his hammer he had not employed in many centuries. Holding the weapon so that the head of the hammer aimed directly at the Kalitar, he pressed a button on the handle. The head began to spin rapidly, and with a boom like thunder unleashed a barrage of Light blasts, even more powerful than Narmoto's Fire blasts. Struck directly, the Kalitar staggered and then fell to the ground, stunned.

 

Once certain that the Kalitar wasn't getting back up anytime soon, a group of Okotan laborers came and bound the creature with strong ropes while relieving it of its axes. Narmoto then turned to regard his unlikely savior, and was stunned to find himself looking at a fox-like creature covered in golden armor. The creature looked at him and crouched playfully, before running over to Ekimu. Narmoto was surprised to see Ekimu's rare smile as he bent down and held his arms out to the fox, which leaped into them with obvious excitement.

 

"Well, if it isn't my old friend the Golden Fox! It has been too long, dear companion-and you had perfect timing, as usual!"

 

The Golden Fox soon clambered onto Ekimu's shoulders, allowing him to walk forward to oversee the restraint of the Kalitar. "We shall have to see about relocating the Kalitar somewhere where it won't threaten the people-perhaps the Labyrinth of Control would make a good home for it. What say you, Narmoto?"

 

"A wise suggestion, Master Ekimu, but I think we have bigger problems to worry about. I have seen this building before today, and while it was decaying there was no reason for it to fall apart as it did. Something caused that wall to fall...but what?"

 

In answer to Narmoto's question, a loud screech filled the air. Whirling, the two soon spotted the source: the figure of the Shadow Spawn atop a nearby roof. With its eyes glaring at them from behind its red and black-tinged mask, the creature turned and fled towards the outskirts of the city. Before either Narmoto or Ekimu could react, the other Protectors arrived on the scene, having been drawn by the noise of the falling wall and the battle with the Kalitar.

 

Thinking quickly, Ekimu gave instructions to his friends. "Protectors, it seems that my brother Makuta has some last bit of mischief to commit against us. The six of you must seek out the Shadow Spawn and bring it down before it does any more harm. I had thought that our troubles were over, but the appearance of this creature convinces me otherwise. I shall travel to the Temple of Time, to see if the Mask of Time can shed any light on what we may be facing."

 

Agreeing with the Mask Maker's plan, the Protectors set off after the Shadow Spawn, while Ekimu made his way to his forge. There, he made his way to his most recent creation: a new airship that he had created based on the blueprints for his original vessel. It had taken some modification, given the changes to Okoto's natural energy flow after Makuta's betrayal, but he had been able to make the ship flight capable. His only regret was that he would not be taking it out for a pleasurable excursion, but for a mission of some urgency.

 

So intent was Ekimu upon his mission that he failed to notice a number of shadowy figures clinging to the back of the airship as it took off.

 

To be continued...

 

*I've always hated when sets or set pieces don't have story roles.

**See Takua's Tale: A G2 Story for more info.

***One of the many marvelous entries from Wildlife of the Ancient City.


Edited by Wiriamu, Feb 12 2017 - 01:13 AM.

  • 0

Voicing your opinions with tact is the best way to keep a discussion from becoming an argument.
So far as I'm aware, it's pronounced like this: We're ee ah moo.
 

Check out my Creations:

Epics

G1 Battle for Spherus Magna - G2 A Lingering Shadow


Short Stories

G1 Fallen Guardian - G2 Shadows of Past and Future (The Legend Continues Entry) Head of Stone, Heart of Jungle


MOCs

Mask Hoarder, Desert Scourge


#3 Offline Wiriamu

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Posted Feb 13 2017 - 09:09 PM

Within a matter of hours Ekimu had arrived at the Temple of Time, a journey that would have taken days without the benefit of his airship. For the first time in over a thousand years he approached the hallowed structure, and could not help but marvel. Okoto had almost entirely changed during the time he had spent in slumber, whether from the cataclysm unleashed by his ancient confrontation with Makuta or through the ravages of time down through the years. But the Temple of Time was unchanged, a tranquil oasis untouched by its surroundings; even the foul hunter Umarak had been unable to breach its sacred boundaries, though the presence of Takua at the time of his attempt had more than a little to do with that.


The Golden Fox trotted along at Ekimu's side as he passed the Wall of History, where the names of Protectors past were recorded. It was more than a little disturbing to Ekimu that many of them were unknown to him, and even more that some of those names had been scratched out for shame at betrayals committed by their owners. The two most recent names to have been so marked had been told to Ekimu: Nidhiki, Protector of Jungle, and Tuyet, Protector of Water, whose name had been crossed out only after Takua's recent visit to the temple and confrontation with Umarak. Those two Protectors had been in league, seeking to use their Elemental Masks to impose order on the Okotans; only the noble hearts and actions of their comrades Lhikan, Kanae, Tiro, and Marn* had halted their attempt to seize control of the island. Tuyet, the cunning mastermind, had carefully concealed her role in the matter, leaving Nidhiki to take the fall for their plot; only after she had subsequently fled the island had the truth been learned by her successor Naho, but until the Fire Region Guard had come in search of Takua no one had come to the Temple of Time without pressing business that prevented them from examining the record and marking it accordingly.


However, the Wise Master had not come to the temple to consider Okoto's past, but to safeguard it's future: the appearance of the Shadow Spawn wearing Umarak's Hunter Mask was a chilling omen that Ekimu could not decipher himself. Barely glancing at his own carved likeness and the gifts that had been laid at its feet throughout the centuries of his slumber, he entered the temple proper. In no time he had arrived at the vault where the Vahi, the Mask of Time, had always rested, save for the times that he had donned it and that the Protectors had taken it to the Temple's pool of light in order to summon the Toa. However, when Ekimu opened the door, he was stunned by the sight that greeted him.


A golden mask did indeed float above large pedestal, but it was not the Mask of Time that Ekimu remembered. Instead of resembling a helmet with several triangular ridges or horns, this mask would cover the wearer's lower face and nose only, leaving the eyes and top of the head exposed. With a start, Ekimu realized that it's shape would fit exactly with that of the Mask of Time he had donned so long ago: somehow, that upper half had been replaced by it's long missing lower half!


The Golden Fox's yelp of warning was the only notice Ekimu received before a powerful blow struck his back and sent him flying to the opposite end of the vault, passing mask and pedestal as he did. With a groan he rose up on his hands and knees just in time for the fox to come running up to him, it's small body quivering with terror. Lifting his head, Ekimu spotted the source of his pet's fear and was taken aback. Two tall figure stood in the doorway: one of them was Skull Slicer, who now wore the Golden Mask of Skull Spiders that Ekimu's uncle Karzahni had long ago crafted in his madness. The other, Skull Basher, was wearing his old mask, but it now shone with a sickly green light**.


Realizing that Skull Basher had struck him with one of his axes-and mentally expressing gratitude that he had brought along his shield strapped to his back and thus prevented far greater injury being inflicted upon him-Ekimu rose shakily to his feet. "So, Oris and Tera***, your master has seen fit to put you to use after all. Given how miserably you and your superiors, the Lord of Skull Spiders and Kulta, failed him, I am surprised he would call upon you. But then, with the Skull Spiders leaderless, the Skull Raiders buried, and the Shadow Horde destroyed, he can't be too choosy about his pawns, now can he?"


The response Ekimu received was the last thing he expected: Skull Basher's eyes shown red, but when he spoke it was the voice of Makuta that issued from his mouth. To Ekimu it was chilling, for even after he had donned the Mask of Ultimate Power his brother's voice had not sounded as harsh and grating as it did now after centuries trapped in the Shadow Realm. "Mock me as you will, brother, you have failed to predict my masterstroke. Yes, you and those accursed Toa, and even the Protectors of this day have thwarted me time and again, and left me imprisoned in the Shadow Realm with virtually no means of escape.


"But these victories of yours are mere moments from being inconsequential, my brother-you cannot stop what I have planned. Indeed, you have in truth paved the way for my greatest victory, though you could not have known it. You and the Protectors are the only ones with even a chance of thwarting me now that the Toa have returned to the stars, and the Protectors are busy chasing my Shadow Spawn, fully committed to a hunt that they hope to be for the last remaining threat to Okoto. They thought Skull Slicer destroyed and Skull Basher safely interred, unaware that the former had recovered the Golden Mask of Skull Spiders from the ruins of the Lord's lair beneath Kini Nui. On my orders he freed his comrade and returned to him his mask, which is now infused with my power, and the two of them stowed away aboard your new airship.


"Even the Toa have unwittingly played a part in my victory, for these two servants of mine still carry traces of their Elemental Power, enough to fool the Temple of Time into thinking them of your ilk when, in reality, they shall now use the temple's power to fulfill my dreams. And once they do, every triumph you have achieved, every delay you have caused me, every injury you have done to me, shall be recouped many times over. I am really quite pleased-my one true regret at the prospect of escaping the Shadow Realm was that I wouldn't be able to avenge myself on Agarak, his wife and brat, and those other sycophants who fawned over you so long ago. Now, however, I shall be granted that chance."


His part as Makuta's mouthpiece played, Skull Basher holstered one of his axes and reached forth to take the Vahi from its pedestal; he then turned and walked out of the vault, heading for the pool of light at the temple's center. Once he had crossed the threshold, the vault door closed, and something happened that astonished Ekimu: the other half of the Mask of Time appeared above the pedestal! Both halves had been hidden in the Temple of Time, it seemed, though as far as any previous visitors had been aware only one could be found. One was always hidden, only appearing if the other was taken from the vault and the door closed, and doubtless would disappear back to its hiding place when the door was reopened. Ekimu could only assume that Makuta had somehow learned of the mechanism while imprisoned in the Shadow Realm, and could only watch in dismay as the Skull Slicer took the upper half.


As the door opened again to allow the four-armed monster to exit, Ekimu recovered himself enough to give chase, drawing the Hammer of Power from his back. However, he left his shield where it was, and thus was unprepared when several energy bolts struck him as he exited the vault. To his dismay, it seemed that Makuta had managed to enlist one more old minion in his latest plot. Several meters away stood Likus, former Captain of the Kini Nui Guard and later of the Skull Warriors, her rank denoted by her Golden Skull Mask; she had disappeared after briefly seizing Kopaka's Golden Mask of Ice when Lewa had left the other Toa briefly after their arrival in Kini Nui.**** Unlike her underlings Likus retained the skills in undeath that she had possessed in life, as she had just handily demonstrated.


Stunned, Ekimu was left unable to act as Skull Basher and Skull Slicer moved to either side of the pool of light and set the two halves of the Vahi in place above it. With a single glance of contempt at Ekimu and the Golden Fox, who had come running up to his fallen master, Likus leaped up to join them. Standing on three sides of the pool, the trio of villains watched as the two halves of the Vahi floated together and merged, forming a single mask that shown with power. And then, as Ekimu watched in horror, energy flowed from the masks worn by his enemies into the Mask of Time, which responded by releasing a blinding wave of power...



Feeling as though no time had passed at all, Ekimu opened his eyes only to find that the Skull Creatures and the Vahi were gone. However, much to his surprise, he was not alone in the chamber with the Golden Fox: the Protectors all stood in various poses, looking as though they had just been in the midst of an intense battle. As they realized the alterations to their surroundings, Ekimu saw that a handful of other Okotans also stood in the room. Unlike the Protectors, each looked as though they had been in the midst of some mundane task, before some effect of the Skull Creatures' actions had caused them all to materialize here.

To Ekimu's surprise, he knew at least one of the beings in question: an Okotan somewhat younger than any of the current Protectors who had red armor on his arms and torso but yellow armor on his legs, while his mask was as blue as any Okotan of Water's. This was none other than Takua, which made the elderly Fire Okotan beside him leaning on an old Firestaff and wearing a Mask of Invisibility Vakama, Narmoto's father and Takua's adopted father. Ekimu was unfamiliar with the other three, either by name or by sight, though they all appeared to be around Vakama's age. One was an Okotan of Ice with a Mask of Telekinesis and an ice pick, the next was a villager of Water with a Mask of Translation and a short trident, and the last was an Earth Okotan who bore a drill and a Mask of Night Vision.

 

Kivoda was the first to get a bearing on his surroundings and spot Ekimu. "Master Ekimu! What has happened? The other Protectors and I had caught up to that Shadow Spawn and were fighting it; the next thing we knew we were here, in the Temple of Time!"

 

"Indeed, Kivoda; this is an occurrence which has no parallel, so far as I am aware," remarked Vakama, who bowed to the Mask Maker. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you, great Ekimu, though I wish it were under less troubling circumstances. I was with my grandson Hafan when this strange transition happened, and I am curious as to why only those who now stand here are present."

 

The old Earth Okotan stumped forward, his shoulders bowed with age but his eyes gleaming with wisdom. "I believe I have part of your answer, Brother Vakama. While the past does not contain an incident like the one we are now sharing, I believe that we have all shared an experience that links us and may explain our presence here. I do believe that all of us who now stand here are the only living Okotans who have visited this Temple before; perhaps that is why its power has gathered us here now."

 

"I do believe you are right, Father-as usual," smiled Korgot. "Master Ekimu, this is my father Whenua who preceded me as Protector of Earth."

 

"A pleasure, I'm sure," Ekimu said, bowing his head respectfully. "Of course I have met you before, Takua, and know of your father Vakama. I would guess that you two are former Protectors as well?"

 

Much to Ekimu's surprise, the Ice Okotan responded with a long string of clicks, whistles, growls, and screeches. Izotor groaned before holding up a hand to halt the elder's strange speech. "You must excuse my uncle, Master Ekimu; Nuju speaks only in the languages of the Region of Ice's wildlife. Before, during, and since his time as a Protector he spends most of his time out in the wastes of the Region of Ice. Unfortunately my cousin Matoro, his usual interpreter, is not a Protector, and thus was not brought here; Nuju was merely introducing himself."

 

"Fortunately you are not the only one who understands him, Izotor," chuckled the old Water Okotan. "Master Ekimu, I am Nokama, mother of Kivoda and comrade to Vakama, Nujua, and Whenua during their time as Protectors. Sadly, not all members of our group are with us any longer. Nilkuu's father Onewa sacrificed himself to save a village of the Stone Region from Skull Spiders, while Vizuna's father-"

 

"My father Vazidan passed away shortly after his retirement," Vizuna finished. "He was the second Protector of Jungle to serve alongside Nokama and her generation of Protectors, having taken over the role from my grandfather Matau. Matau was forced to take up the role of Protector earlier than was traditional due to the betrayal of Nidhiki, his uncle; as a result, Vazidan felt duty bound to retain the office for as long as he was able. Forgive my interruption, Lady Nokama; I felt this was something Ekimu should hear from me."

 

Nokama nodded her understanding, but the next person to speak was Takua. "Well, I certainly never thought my little excursion here would have turned out like this. Question is, why am I here and not Kapura or his guardsmen? They did come here to rescue me after my encounter with Umarak."

 

"Yes brother, but they came only as far as the Wall of HIstory; the true boundaries of the Temple of Time only begin past the statue of Ekimu," replied Narmoto. "I left our brother and his men there and entered the temple alone to recover you. We then delivered you into the keeping of Kapura, while Jaller and I went off alone in an effort to pick up Umarak's trail, though we didn't know it was him at the time. Alas, he eluded us by his shadows, and did not trouble us again until the Toa sought out the Elemental Creatures."

 

Clearing his throat, Nilkuu primed his Sandstone blaster. "Now that we've got a guess as to what brought us all here, shouldn't we be asking why? You were coming here, Master Ekimu, to don the Mask of Time and see if you could view a vision of what might be coming. Were you successful?"

 

Shaking his head no, Ekimu explained what had transpired following his parting of ways from the Protectors. All twelve Okotans considered the matter grimly, before agreeing that they needed to try and determine what the Skull Creatures had done. As such, they turned and made their way out of the temple, heading for where Ekimu had parked his airship on the other side of the Wall of History. However, they were soon stunned to see that the Statue of Ekimu was gone...and the Wall of History little more than a heap of rubble. Gripping their weapons Ekimu, Narmoto, Vizuna, and Nilkuu moved ahead while Takua, Izotor, Kivoda, and Korgot helped their respective relatives over the uneven ground.

 

Past the ruined wall, the dozen Okotans found no sign of the airship, and found that the path that had long led up to the temple was broken up, covered in scars that looked to have been left by explosives. However, the defilement of the sacred path was quickly eclipsed as the present and former Protectors, the Fire Region Chronicler, and the Mask Maker looked out into the distance. The Jungle Region, which had been much the same throughout Okoto's history, was unrecognizable, with the wild jungles having apparently been cleared away. Trees were visible in the distance, but they were in ordered rows that Vizuna couldn't help but find revolting. Of course, the hulking forms of Skull Shredders patrolling them was enough to unnerve the entire group.

 

Looking beyond the Region of Jungle to the west, Narmoto could see great clouds of smoke rising from the Region of Fire, far more than he had seen during even the worst eruptions. Kivoda, meanwhile, looked to the north, and saw the Water Region looking almost as hideously changed as the Jungle Region. Most of the many rivers that crisscrossed the region were dammed, and those that weren't appeared black with filth. Smoke rose from the Water Region as wells, both from various hideous structures that dotted the region and from the coast, where a massive port was faintly visible in the distance.

 

Nokama trembled at the sight of her home, prompting Vakama to place a comforting hand on her shoulder as he looked to the Mask Maker. "Great Ekimu...what has happened?"

 

"I...wish I knew, Vakama. Makuta's minions have tampered with the power of Time itself, but what they intended they did not reveal. Regardless, we can see the results; whether they accomplished Makuta's design or not, their actions have left Okoto drastically changed, for I greatly doubt that the other regions have been spared. The halves of the Vahi are gone, and I know of nothing else within the Temple of Time that can aid us. Therefore, we must make our way to Kini Nui...assuming it still stands in this twisted world."

 

 

Without an airship or other means of transportation, the Okotans were forced to make their way on foot towards Kini Nui. Fortunately the going was relatively easy, as Ekimu, the Protectors, and Takua lent their strength to the older Okotans, who despite their age were hardy. Nuju's Mask of Telekinesis was also an immense help, enabling those without climbing equipment or experience to move more easily up and down slopes. Korgot and Nilkuu made short work of any stones that were too large to go over or around practically, while Vizuna, Narmoto, and Izotor dealt with any dense vegetation.

 

As they traveled, they saw no signs of any other Okotans, but that wasn't to say that they were alone. The foothills leading to the Kini Nui brought the sight of Blossom Foxes, small creatures who had inspired Ekimu in creating the Golden Fox. However, these foxes looked thin and sickly, and fled at the approach of the travelers. They narrowly avoided several hideous Bony Crawlers, and were forced to take what shelter they could find as hideous vultures flew by overhead.

 

Finally, after days of hard travel and living off such meager food as the poisoned land seemed able to provide, the party arrived in the hills surrounding the Kini Nui-but it was not a happy sight. More vultures were visible flying over the city, along with hideous Plague Bats, which Vizuna recognized from the record of the lost Jungle Chronicler Teluli. Even larger bat-like creatures were in evidence as well, with skeletal humanoid bodies and what appeared to be weapons gripped in their claws. The great chasm surrounding the city was crawling with hideous creatures, from Skull Spiders to the towering horned Lortches.

 

However, the life inhabiting the city itself was what really unnerved the group of Okotans as they gazed down upon the city, which was marred by hideous black structures that spouted more choking smoke into the sky. Skull Warriors of various hues were in evidence patrolling the streets, partnered with living creatures of similar stature that Ekimu recognized as Skull Raiders. Under their glaring eyes, Okotans from every tribe could be seen moving through the streets: some running fearfully as though on some urgent errand, others bending underneath heavy loads that it seemed they were not allowed to transport any other way. But as horrible as it was to see so many of their brethren obviously enslaved, there was a more disturbing presence visible at the city.

 

Perhaps a third of the visible Okotans appeared neither fearful nor burdened, but walked about the city as though nothing was amiss. They would pause to allow the Skull Creatures to proceed on their way, but would force other Okotans to halt while they made their way forward. Such behavior would have been enough to mark them, but they also had armor that was a cold silver and a darker purple than that of the Earth Region. Though no members of Okoto knew it, Toa Gali had beheld such Okotans in the Shadow Realm, though the perpetual darkness of that place had obscured the color of their armor. For Ekimu, however, their appearance stirred memories of the long-distant past and made him shiver.

 

"The Shadow Tribe...lives again..."

 

Before Ekimu could say more, Nilkuu had lifted his hand to point towards the highest point in the city. The Forge of the Mask makers was still recognizable, but two major changes had been made. The statue of Ekimu was gone, replaced by the hulking figure of Kulta the Skull Grinder alongside the visage of Makuta in his original form. However, an even more imposing sight was a massive sculpture that had been added to the very top of the Temple of Creation. It was a massive mask, and none of those present save Ekimu had ever seen it whole or in pieces-but there was no mistaking it.

 

The Mask of Ultimate Power.

 

To be continued...
 

 

*I took the liberty of applying the names of some Mata Nui locations to Lhikan, Tuyet, and Nidhiki's fellow Protectors, as I did their fellow Toa Mangai in my Battle for Spherus Magna epic.

**A nod to the translucent green version of the mask from San Diego Comic Con.

***Like Skull Slicer's name, Skull Basher's was a concept for the cancelled BIONICLE 5.

****My way of canonizing the Skull Warrior character animation and adding a bit more interest; Likus wears the Golden Skull Mask from the Villain Pack, though of course she-another change I made-doesn't appear so in said animation.

 

EDIT: I had previously noted Likus' role as the top Skull Warrior merely in notes, but thought I'd add it to the actual text. I had also previously written that only two figures appeared on the back of Ekimu's airship-Likus' inclusion was a last minute impulse-and have edited the text accordingly.


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#4 Offline Wiriamu

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Posted Mar 03 2017 - 12:30 AM

For a long while the party looked down upon the hideously transformed city, unable to convey in words their horror and disbelief. Two villagers of Fire, one of Jungle, two of Ice, one of Stone, two of Water, the last of Light, two of Earth, and Takua the Chronicler were all lost in their own thoughts. Nuju was the first to break the silence, advancing on Ekimu with a stream of angry sounding birdcalls as he jabbed the air with his Ice Pick. Izotor quickly moved between his uncle and the Mask Maker, his expression disapproving. "Uncle Nuju, that is no way to speak to Master Ekimu, even if he can't understand what you're saying!"


"I believe I grasp the intent of Nuju's outburst, if not his words," Ekimu replied mournfully. "I don't know how Makuta's minions have brought this evil upon Okoto, but it must have something to do with their theft of the Vahi. I believe that, as Whenua has theorized, our interactions with the Temple of Time in the past have shielded us from whatever changes have been made. But as to how-or even if-those changes can be undone, I have no answers."


Clearing his throat, Whenua moved up and put a hand on Nuju's shoulder. "If I may, Master Ekimu, I believe that our first step should be finding out exactly what Makuta has done. We must find someone who can tell us what has befallen Okoto, though we must proceed carefully. Kini Nui is clearly an occupied city under guard; we would be best served by sending the stealthiest among us in to investigate, or perhaps seeking a smaller settlement."


Vizuna was about to agree when Whenua when his sensor tail alerted him to a nearby presence. His eyes widened as a mob of hulking figures emerged from the surrounding hillside, wielding a motley array of weaponry. They were similar in size to Okotans, but had tails, wings, and clawed feet. More chillingly, they wore Skull Masks similar to that which Skull Slicer had worn upon his initial encounter with Lewa, and indeed resembled the Skull Creatures with their skeletal features.


Ekimu and the Protectors were all veteran fighters, having faced many of Okoto's menaces. But with Takua and the four aged Protectors with them and the sheer weight of numbers they faced, they knew that fighting their way out was not an option. And so, reluctantly, they raised their hands in surrender, and made no move to stop the beasts from taking their weapons. Korgot was about to protest as the creatures also relieved Whenua and the other elders of their tools, which doubled as walking sticks, but halted as Vizuna shook his head and moved to offer Whenua his arm for support.


Korgot moved to her father's other side with a grateful smile to the Protector of Jungle, while Takua and Narmoto helped Vakama, Izotor and Ekimu saw to Nuju, and Nilkuu and Kivoda aided Nokama. The creatures then formed a ring around them, cutting off any chance of escape, not that the older Protectors could have gotten far in any event. Much to their surprise, another figure appeared: a golden-armored being with the upper body of an Okotan but an equine lower body. It regarded the captives silently before gesturing with its long spear, directing the party in a course that ran parallel to the city.



Leading the way, the golden centaur brought the party to the far end of the chamber, where a small group of Okotans waited. One member of each of the six tribes was in evidence, and to Ekimu's surprise he knew most of them by sight, though not by name. The stern-looking Fire villager, the Ice Okotan with an axe strapped across his back, the Jungle villager carrying sword and shield, and the Water Okotan had been the vanguard in defending Kini Nui from the Shadow Horde. With them stood a Stone villager whom Ekimu recognized as Melea, and an Earth Okotan he couldn't recall seeing before.


"Greetings, Fallen Hero," Melea said, addressing the centaur. "Who are these strangers you and the Cave-Dwellers have brought into our midst?"


When the Fallen Hero spoke, it was in a raspy, broken voice, as though he was not used to speaking, or at least not in the language he was being forced to use. "Me not know, Melea-Stone. We find them looking down on Mask-City with many weapons. Never see them before."


The Fire Okotan, whose face seemed locked in a permanent scowl, was fixated on Ekimu. "Looks like some other fool trying to liberate Okoto by impersonating Ekimu. You'd think they'd learn-the dead only walk again at Makuta's bidding on this island. I must say though, your disguise is more convincing than most; I could almost believe that was the real Mask of Creation, if I didn't know it was in Capital City."


With a start, Takua realized who the Fire villager was, having been thrown off by his unfamiliar demeanor. "Jaller! I can't believe it's you! But you're wrong-this is Ekimu!"


"How...Takua?" Jaller's scowl fell away for the first time since the group had entered the cavern, replaced with sheer disbelief. "But...this can't be! You were sent to the Labyrinth of Control years ago; no one has ever escaped from that island!"


Before Takua could overcome his own astonishment at Jaller's words, the Water villager raised her hand and pointed at Nokama and Kivoda, her voice shaking with surprise. "Grandmother Nokama...Uncle Kivoda..."


"Naho's wake-Hahli!" Kivoda's outburst set off a veritable chain of exclamations, as the two groups of Okotans were able to recognize friends or kin. Jaller soon realized that Vakama and Narmoto were part of Ekimu's group as well, while Izotor and Nuju recognized the axe wielding Ice villager as Kirbold. Korgot and Whenua recognized their fellow Earth Okotan as Gar, though the scarred warrior was barely recognizable as the brave explorer of underground waters. Vizuna soon recognized his own countrymen, the Chronicler Teluli, who seemed to have survived Makuta's conquest just as he had survived Okoto's wilds.


As soon as they had overcome their surprise, Teluli spoke the question on the minds of his comrades. "How have you all come to be here?"


Recognizing his fellow Chronicler, Takua gave an account of Okoto as he and his colleagues remembered it and what had befallen them up until their encounter with the Fallen Hero's Cave-Dwellers. Once he had done so, Jaller and his comrades looked at each and spoke in whispered tones for a moment, processing all that had been said. Finally, Gar rose and spoke to the newcomers, whose weapons had been returned to them. "I believe I can answer your questions, friends, though our tale may seem as horrifying to you as yours is wondrous to us.


"Our histories are much the same until the confrontation between Makuta and his brother Ekimu that you spoke of. As you have described, Ekimu and the Protectors of that time journeyed to Metru Nui, the Capital City, to halt Makuta's plans with the Mask of Ultimate Power, carrying with them the Golden Elemental Masks meant for the Toa. However, our history records that Ekimu's attempt to stop Makuta was thwarted by three Skull Warriors, who killed Ekimu and brought down his airship. The Protectors and Masks survived, but by the time they escaped the wreckage Makuta's defenders had vanished and Makuta had gained full control of the Mask of Ultimate Power's energies. He quickly subdued the Protectors, adding insult to injury by using their own Elements to defeat them.


"With his newfound power, Makuta was unassailable. His secret allies the Skull Raiders soon emerged from hiding and helped him to seize control of the island, aided by the Skull Spiders and the Skull Warriors who rose from their graves at Makuta's call. Without the Protectors or Ekimu there was no one with the strength to put up any real opposition; most attempts were quickly crushed, with the rebels either being executed, enslaved, or imprisoned in the Labyrinth of Control. Makuta even enlisted Umarak the Hunter to his cause, and together they succeeded in capturing most of the Elemental Creatures; only Agil remains free, but he has not been seen in centuries.


"You must understand, friends, that your presence here is difficult to accept. You-or the versions of you that we knew, I suppose-are among those that have fallen to Makuta's wrath in one way or another. The sacred Protector masks are now worn by Protectors unworthy of the name, chosen by Makuta after trading their honor for position and power. They and others like them have become a new Shadow Tribe, and have retained youth and strength long beyond their years; indeed, some of them should have been dead many ages now. Such is their depravity that they united at the Temple of Time in order to summon the six Toa you spoke of so that Makuta could trap them upon their arrival; like the Elemental Creatures they are now held captive in the various cities of Okoto."


Narmoto could hardly believe the terrible account, though he knew in his heart that it had to be true. Looking to Jaller, he voiced his greatest worry. "Our families..."


Jaller could not look at his brother; it fell to Kirbold to say what the Fire warrior could not. "They are slaves, prisoners, or dead, noble Narmoto, apart from those you see here and a scattering of others hidden across Okoto. The Region of Fire has been brave and persistent in its efforts against Makuta, but they have paid dearly for it many times. Makuta himself slew your grandfather Lhikan, while you and your father Vakama were exiled to the Labyrinth of Control. Similar fates have befallen many of the other Protectors and their kin in this world."


"And...Hafan? My son?"

This made Jaller look up, but his eyes soon lowered again. "He doesn't exist in this world, my brother. You were to be married, but she who was to become your wife joined you and father Vakama in an attempt to drive the Skull Grinder's forces from the city of Mata Nui. She survived, but she and the others who fought with you now labor in chains among the lava flows, directing the molten rock into the foundries of our enemies. It was for that attack that you and father were exiled-or rather your counterparts-and with the stories we have heard of the Labyrinth of Control, we doubt that they still live."

 

Clenching his fists, the Protector of Fire turned away from the group, who wisely let him be. Indeed, most of them were overcome with their own feelings of grief, wondering at what had become of their loved ones in this twisted version of Okoto. However, Ekimu thought back to the mission he had gone on with the Toa against the Skull Raiders, and realized that he had to focus on the future, not the misfortunes of past or present. Gripping his hammer tightly, he looked Hahli in the eye.

 

"What of the Mask of Time?"

 

"Stolen not long after the death of your counterpart, Master Ekimu. The false Protectors brought it back to the Temple of Time in order to summon the Toa so that they could be trapped, but it has since been delivered to Metru Nui. Makuta claimed the city as his own and rules Okoto from there, while his most trusted lieutenants preside over Kini Nui, Mata Nui, Karda Nui, Mahri Nui, Voya Nui, and the Skull Raider city of Destral. Each city is crawling with Skull Raiders, Warriors, Spiders, and Shadow Okotans, but Metru Nui the worst of them all. Even if we could muster all the resistance forces on the island-indeed, even if every Okotan and Rahi not loyal to Makuta could be stirred up to march against it-I don't see how we could survive, let alone achieve victory."

 

Ekimu nodded, agreeing with her assessment. "True, from what I've seen and what you've reported, I doubt we could survive any such confrontation. But I do not intend to rely upon force of arms-indeed, I do not believe that such could stop Makuta even if we possessed ten times his numbers. The Mask of Time is what enabled Makuta's minions to change this world, and I believe that with it we can undo those changes and liberate Okoto. To obtain it, we must make our way into Metru Nui, for which a smaller force will be better suited.

 

"However, I think that we need more firepower than we currently possess. Such allies as you can muster will be essential, of course, but I believe we must take further action. Before we sneak into Metru Nui, I believe we must send a small party to each of the other cities. Their objective, while formidable, is simple: free each of the six Toa and their respective Elemental Creatures."

 

For a moment everyone in the room looked at the Mask Maker as though he were mad. Then, to their surprise, Kirbold started laughing, a deep rich sound, as though he was making up for a lifetime of lost mirth-which, indeed, he was. "Forgive me, Mask Maker-your boldness is refreshing. What you suggest is almost guaranteed to get us all killed...and yet, if we must die, why not die trying to bring down Makuta's evil?"

 

"Kirbold speaks for us all," Melea commented. "I will send word to our allies across the island so that they can make ready to meet us. As for infiltrating the cities, it seems that the best course would be to send groups that can blend in easily. As such, I believe I should take Nilkuu to Destral; Makuta forced much of the Stone Tribe population to relocate there after he took Metru Nui for himself. Jaller can lead his father and brothers to Mata Nui, Kirbold can go with Nuju and Izotor into Voya Nui, Teluli and Vizuna can head into Kini Nui, Hahli will go with Nokama and Kivoda to Mahri Nui, and Korgot and Whenua can go with Gar to Karda Nui."

 

"You seem to have missed me, Melea," Ekimu remarked.

 

Teluli coughed. "All due respect, Master Ekimu, but you don't exactly 'blend in.'"

 

Surprisingly, the golden warrior smiled before closing his eyes briefly. To the astonishment of all present, his gold and blue armor began to change color, becoming green and yellow like Vizuna's. With the transformation complete, Ekimu opened his eyes and looked around, indistinguishable from a Jungle Okotan apart from his Mask of Creation. Seeing the looks on his comrades' eyes, he gave a grin that was almost mischievous.

 

"A little trick of the Light Tribe; once upon a time there were many who could change their appearance at will. If you can spare me a villager mask the transformation will be more convincing. I shall go with our Jungle Tribe friends. To be fair, I think a little more distribution is required; Takua, I think it best that you accompany Nilkuu and Melea. You may not be a Stone Tribe native, but I would guess that villagers from all tribes are present in all villages?"

 

Gar shrugged. "To a degree, though I must admit that Takua's distinctive enough that it could prove troublesome."

 

Looking at the Chronicler, Ekimu gave another smile. "I believe I can remedy that..."
 

 

To be continued...


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Voicing your opinions with tact is the best way to keep a discussion from becoming an argument.
So far as I'm aware, it's pronounced like this: We're ee ah moo.
 

Check out my Creations:

Epics

G1 Battle for Spherus Magna - G2 A Lingering Shadow


Short Stories

G1 Fallen Guardian - G2 Shadows of Past and Future (The Legend Continues Entry) Head of Stone, Heart of Jungle


MOCs

Mask Hoarder, Desert Scourge





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