Takanuva and Krakua had tried everything. They had unleashed their elemental powers and called upon their mask powers; they had both engaged their foe in hand-to-hand combat and tried to strike him from afar; they had worked together flawlessly, doing all they could to exploit the advantage of numbers.
It had been useless. The Toa of Light’s dark duplicate had deflected their every attack and pierced all their defenses; he had countered their every move, outsmarted and outpowered them every time; their unity had proven no match for his incredible mastery over the power of shadow.
Now Takanuva was on his knees, wounded and exhausted. Krakua had already fallen; the Toa of Light didn’t know whether he was alive or dead. Their opponent stood before them, brimming with power.
The Toa of Shadow raised his staff. Takanuva called upon his power and unleashed a bright flare of light, hoping to blind his foe, but the dark Toa instantly snuffed it out. Tendrils of shadow leaped from his staff and tightened around Takanuva. Bonded as closely as he was to the light, it was all Takanuva could do not to scream as the dark energy enveloped his body.
“Don’t struggle, brother,” said the Shadow Takanuva. “You can’t win, and I have no wish to harm you any further.”
“You’ve… got a funny way of showing it.”
The dark Takanuva chuckled.
“Ah, of course, defiant to the last. How incredibly foolish.”
“If you were in my place, would you do any different?”
The Toa of Shadow smiled.
“Maybe not. But then again, it’s been a long time since I was in your place. As you can see, many things have changed.”
Despite himself, Takanuva was intrigued. During the battle, his duplicate had never uttered a word. Why was he suddenly in the mood for conversation? And could Takanuva somehow take advantage of that?
“Don’t even think about it,” said the Shadow Takanuva, as if reading his mind. “My power is far beyond yours, you should have realized that by now. Try anything and you’ll join your friend.”
He paused, then resumed.
“I can’t help but be intrigued, Takanuva. When I first awoke on Destral, I was amazed; throughout my life, I’ve seen many strange things, but to be in the company of beings who are alternate versions of myself… well, it is nothing short of incredible. I’m curious, and that’s why I’m bothering to talk to you; plus, I feel that you should know the fate that awaits you.”
“Why, to become like me… like us. I won’t kill you. Unfortunately, there are no shadow leeches here, but I’ll soon get hold of one. Once your light is drained, you will be truly one of us.”
The Toa of Light couldn’t help the look of dread that appeared on his face. The Shadow Takanuva laughed.
“Scared, brother? Don’t be. It will hurt, but only for a moment. And then you’ll see the world as it truly is; you’ll realize all those lessons that the Turaga tried to pound into you are rubbish. Only one life matters: your own. You will be free from all those notions of unity, duty and destiny; you will be able to live the life you want, freed from the chains of conscience and remorse. If you want something, you will take it without regrets; if you simply wish to go wild, to give vent to those impulses that you’ve always been told to fear and repress, you will do so without the regard for the lives of others slowing you down.”
Takanuva was feeling sick. It wasn’t just the words of the other Toa; what truly horrified him was that the being saying those words was Takanuva himself.
How can this be me? How can I be saying this? Could this truly be the way I feel? But it isn’t!
“You see it, brother, I know you do. I’m not a monster, I’m not an alien. I’m you. This is you speaking.”
“No!” yelled Takanuva. He was weak, tired and at his foe’s mercy; yet suddenly there was no stopping the words. “No, that is not who I am! Friendship, conscience, duty… they’re not chains. They… they’re a part of me. And… and they must have been a part of you, too. How can you have forgotten? You were a Toa of Light once, a hero. How can you go against all that you were?”
The smile on the Shadow Takanuva’s face vanished. He stepped closer, until the two of them were mask to mask.
“A hero?” hissed the Toa of Shadow. “You speak that word as if it were something to be proud of. How long have you been a Toa? A couple of months? What do you know about being a hero?”
Without warning, he backhanded Takanuva, knocking him to the ground.
“For tens of thousands of years I wore that mantle. I devoted myself utterly and completely to my so-called duty. To be a better protector for the Matoran, I refined my abilities, gained a mastery over my power greater than that of any ordinary Toa. And what was my reward? A celebration now and then? The respect of foolish Matoran, who adore anyone who just happens to make their lives a little less miserable?”
His voice was getting louder and his eyes were burning with anger.
“Their demands kept piling up. They always wanted more. And because of my duty, I was compelled to satisfy them. I had become powerful; I could have exploited that power to rule, to bring about my own tenets and lead my life the way I truly wished. But I never did. You ask me why I stopped being a hero? I wonder why I didn’t do so sooner. I remember those days, and yet no matter how much I try I can’t figure out why I didn’t realize the truth earlier, why it finally took a shadow leech to make me see.”
He smiled cruelly.
“Tridax took me by surprise. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have had the time to regret his mistake. But he was lucky and so was I. When I awoke in Destral’s vault, I could see things clearly for the first time. All the wrongs that had been done to me had been laid bare; and, at last, I was conscious of my true power. I know my real destiny now. The Makuta think they can control me, but I am more powerful than they are. When the time comes, I will rise up and our brothers will join me. Together, we will destroy the Makuta and anyone else standing in our way. We will seize the island of Mata Nui and make it into our own realm: our power and authority will be absolute. In time, we could even extend our empire to our own original universes. And throughout it all, you, Takanuva, will be at my side.”
The Shadow Takanuva shrugged.
“Once a shadow leech comes for you, you might feel differently about that. But just in case you don’t…”
And suddenly the darkness was once again surrounding him, swallowing him, squeezing the life out of him.
“I will deliver all that I have promised, brother,” echoed the voice of Takanuva’s twin. “But I am more powerful than the rest of you, so the ultimate authority will be mine and mine alone. Hopefully you’ll be smart enough to accept that. This is a taste of what is in store for you if you don’t.”
Takanuva couldn’t breathe; the darkness was torturing him, snuffing him out. The pain was excruciating, blotting out every though but one: the desperate need to… somehow… get away.
And suddenly he was standing on the other side of the chamber, outside the black mass that had been enveloping him an instant before. His duplicate whirled to face him, but Takanuva was already gone, dashing down the corridor leading to the observation platform.
There was no real rational thought guiding his actions. It was fear that drove him on, the fear that, like a true Toa, he had until then managed to control. But now his courage had been swept away: faced with the shadows that had claimed his duplicate, plagued by the dread of sharing the same fate and confronted by a power infinitely beyond his own, he had broken. Running away was all he
could think of now.
And, for some reason, his powers were responding to that. He had in the past toyed with the idea of using his power to achieve greater speed, but he had never managed to put the notion into effect. Now, though, he was moving as fast as Toa Pohatu using his Kanohi Kakama, or perhaps even faster. In the blink of an eye, he left the corridor behind; he rushed through the hall that followed, saw the Matoran gathered there, approached Turaga Dume’s box… a bolt of shadow struck him, sending him skidding across the floor. He crashed against the observation platform’s outer parapet and lay there, dazed. He was aware of the Matoran scrambling around him, but all his attention was fixed on the corridor he had cleared moments before.
The Shadow Takanuva stepped through the doorway; majestically, relentlessly, he advanced towards him. Shadow flowed from his body, building up in his wake into a swirling, billowing mass of darkness. As he crossed the hall, that darkness spread out, swallowing the Matoran, covering everything; by the time his twin came to stand before him, the Toa of Light could see nothing behind him but blackness.
“You surprised me,” said the Toa of Shadow as Takanuva painfully pushed himself up. “Superspeed was not an ability I thought you’d be able to access; terror is an amazing thing.”
He held up a hand.
“A pity, though, that your newfound power does not allow you to fly.”
And he fired a bolt of shadow. The Toa of Light saw it strike him, felt his body being blasted outwards; and then he was falling through the air, with nothing to grab onto, no way to save himself. And then he struck the ground. His legs snapped upon impact; as he collapsed onto the arena floor, Takanuva screamed.
Amidst the pain, he heard the sound of someone landing close to him and knew that the Shadow Takanuva had followed him down. But there was another figure, green, insectoid and four-armed, looming above him now. Instantly, he knew her for a Makuta.
“Stay back,” he heard Gorast say. “The Toa of Light is mine.”
“He is my opponent,” replied the Shadow Takanuva.
“Not anymore. His light is mine to drain. Do not defy me, Toa.”
There was a moment of hesitation. And then the Shadow Takanuva said:
“So be it.”
“No!” groaned Takanuva.
Without even a conscious thought on his part, the Kanohi Avohkii gave off the brightest flash it could muster. The sudden light blinded his opponents and Takanuva rolled, crawled, anything to get away from them. But he didn’t get far: Gorast pinned him to the arena floor with her magnetic powers. Powerless, Takanuva watched her stride forward, stinger already raised high.
The shadows surrounding Kapura suddenly started retreating. Within moments, they had vanished completely. The Ta-Matoran picked himself up, breathing heavily. When the blackness had enveloped him, cutting him off from every light and every sound, he had truly thought it to be the end.
Other Matoran were getting up as well, as incredulous to be still alive as he was. Kapura turned towards the rim of the observation platform and saw the Shadow Takanuva that had caused all this step into the air and start descending towards the floor of the arena.
He was about to step towards the platform’s parapet when he heard a few Matoran behind him cry out in surprise. He turned to see Toa Krakua advancing towards him. The Toa of Sonics seemed barely able to stand and he was having to prop himself up with his sword as he dragged himself across the hall. Kapura stepped forward, allowing Krakua to lean on him. Together, Toa and Matoran made their way into Turaga Dume's box.
“I have… to see,” groaned Krakua.
They reached the parapet and looked down. It was on the dreaded figure of Makuta Gorast that Kapura’s eyes fixed: she was standing on the arena floor with the Shadow Takanuva, watching as Takanuva desperately tried to drag himself away. But he didn’t stand a chance: it took just a simple gesture on Gorast’s part for his body to freeze. Then the Makuta advanced on him.
“The Mask of Time!” Krakua suddenly shouted, whirling towards Kapura. “Give it to me, now!”
Gorast took a step forward. There was nothing Takanuva could do to stop her. She lifted her foot again… but she never put it down.
Takanuva blinked. The Makuta was slowing down, her motion was becoming barely perceptible. And she wasn’t alone: all over the arena, everything was coming to a halt. The Shadow Takanuva was standing completely still and his other twins, scattered across the arena, were also motionless.
It was then that he glimpsed the time waves: they were flowing all around him, distorting time, slowing it down. And yet, somehow, he wasn’t being affected. Or was he?
Yes, he realized. It’s not their time slowing down. It’s mine. My time is speeding up.
He tried to prop himself up, but he couldn’t. Though Gorast’s time was now slower than his, her magnetic powers were still working and for all his efforts, he couldn’t break free. Takanuva wanted to scream in frustration: something was giving him one last chance and he wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it. He spun his head around, frantically searching for something, anything, that might help him.
And then he saw it. Lying on the ground, a short distance away, was a colorless, indistinct mass, something that didn’t seem to have a shape of its own; the moment that realization went through it, he knew it for what it was.
And suddenly his fear was gone, replaced by sheer determination. He would not give up. He owed it to her: she had saved him, put her life on the line when he had asked it of her and died fighting, not for her people, but for his. Now, somehow, he would find a way to do her justice.
There was no way he could fight. His legs were still broken and only his willpower was keeping the excruciating pain at bay. He looked up, towards Turaga Dume’s box. The time waves were coming from there, from the Mask of Time upon Krakua’s face. The moment he saw him, he realized that he could expect no more help from him: he was as frozen as the others and, besides, Takanuva knew he wouldn’t be able to maintain the Vahi’s power for long.
Suddenly, for a moment, he thought he saw movement. There was a red figure standing next to Krakua and, though he was slow compared to Takanuva, somehow that made him faster.
Kapura, old friend: it was you, wasn’t it? The Vahi was the secret you were carrying. Traveling great distances by moving very slowly… I never really took you seriously before.
But Takanuva knew that even Kapura’s strange abilities would not be able to help him here and, besides, he couldn’t expect a Ta-Matoran to face a Makuta on his behalf. He had to do this alone.
Or am I alone?
He stared at the frozen Shadow Takanuva. The words he had uttered just minutes before had shown the Toa of Light how deep into darkness his duplicate had fallen. And yet, those words had also confirmed that, before being attacked by a shadow leech, the alternate Takanuva had himself been a Toa of Light, a hero. Was that Toa now truly lost forever?
The Kanohi Avohkii on Takanuva’s face glowed brightly as the Toa of Light called upon its power. Like when he had used it on Krakua, he willed in to delve into his duplicate, to find out whether any sliver of light remained within his soul.
At first, he saw nothing. He concentrated, trying to go deeper. He remembered well the battle that had raged within Krakua; even in the soul of one who so firmly rejected the shadows, darkness and light had been locked in perpetual conflict, their indecipherable movements shaping the emotions and the very essence of the Toa of Sonics. Yet he could find nothing similar here: not even a glimmer of light was fighting the darkness that so utterly pervaded his twin; and there was a barrier around his consciousness, an impenetrable wall preventing all light from entering. There was no way he could break through it.
Yet he had to find one. He could see the distortions created by the Vahi weakening. He had been given more time, but now that time was almost up.
Was there truly nothing that remained of the person his duplicate had once been? The words his twin had spoken suddenly came back to him:
I remember those days, and yet no matter how much I try I can’t figure out why I didn’t realize the truth earlier, why it finally took a shadow leech to make me see.
Takanuva was sure that his duplicate must have had a good reason not to turn to the darkness sooner. This could only mean that, somehow, his recollections of the past had lost their potency. Could the key lie there?
The memories were at the very bottom of the Shadow Takanuva’s consciousness. The Kanohi Avohkii wouldn’t let him see their content, but he could feel that each one had some emotion attached to it, that each experience had in some way altered the balance of light and darkness within his duplicate’s soul.
Of course. Light and darkness aren’t absolutes; none of us is forever bound to one or the other. Our experiences, our choices, they are what determines our path, they make us who we are.
He could see it clearly. Light and darkness were built upon the memories; and there was no way that only darkness could lie upon a foundation of millennia of honor, wisdom, kindness and heroism. The creatures of the Makuta had sucked out the light and thrown up a barrier to stop it from returning; but that wall, no matter how strong, did not have solid foundations.
The power of the Toa of Light flowed into the memories. Some were unknown to him, the recollections of a long, incredible life that Takanuva had not yet lived and perhaps never would; but others were familiar, for they were identical to his own.
There was darkness within them: his twin hadn’t lied, the shadows in his soul had truly come from within; and that meant, Takanuva acknowledged that now, that those same shadows lived inside his own soul.
But there was light as well, so much light. And when Takanuva unleashed his power, that light grew stronger; it broke through the layers of corruption that the shadow leeches had surrounded it with and attacked the unnatural wall that the creatures had built around the alternate Takanuva’s consciousness, undermining it, severing its weak foundations. Eventually, it just couldn’t hold.
The power of the Kanohi Vahi faded away. In the observation platform above the arena, Krakua collapsed, exhausted. Takanuva’s time slowed down again and Gorast started advancing towards him once more.
But it didn’t matter. For the armor of the Toa standing behind her was no longer jet-black, but shining white and gold. And when Gorast, perceiving the danger, whirled around to face him, brilliant, blinding light exploded out of him.
Vakama made his way across the bridge leading to the Coliseum. He knew he wasn’t moving fast enough and once again cursed his weak Turaga form. Had he still been a Toa, lean and powerful, he would have been over the bridge by now.
His eyes fixed upon the tall structure looming above him. It was there that, a thousand years before, he had lost everything; all the power that command over the Visorak Horde had granted him, all given up because of Matau’s idiotic words. All that had happened later, including the final, pointless, stupid sacrifice of his Toa power, had derived from that moment.
Now, in the same place, I’m going to get my power back.
He was well aware of what might happen if the Kanohi Vahi were to be shattered. It didn’t matter. There was no other way for him to regain what he had lost and, as long as he reached his objective, the universe could go up in flames for all he cared.
Finally, he reached the end of the bridge and gazed upon the battlefield that lay in front of the Coliseum’s gates. There were a couple of wounded Shadow Takanuva there, but they wouldn’t see him, concealed as he was by the power of his Kanohi Huna. He stepped towards the gates.
And then he saw the light. It was incredibly pure and bright and it was radiating out of every opening of the Coliseum and yes, even from the solid walls, somehow. Fear suddenly clutched his heart.
The two Toa of Shadow scrambled back, crying out in pain as the radiance grew stronger and washed upon their bodies. But then, abruptly, their screams ceased, and before Vakama’s startled eyes their armor changed color, becoming white and gold, just like Takanuva’s.
The two Toa gazed upon their bodies, astonished. But their surprise lasted only a moment; then, simultaneously, they added their own power to the brightness.
There was no way to escape it. The world went white as the brilliance enveloped Vakama. He writhed in sheer agony, as he felt rays of light penetrate his body and drill into his mind. And then, all of a sudden, he found that he could remember it all. He saw himself back on top of the Coliseum’s spire, watching Matau fall to his doom, and knew that even if he could have gone back, he would have saved him all over again, just as he would have given up all his Toa power to reawaken the Matoran.
He was no longer a Turaga of Shadow. The shadow leech had brought back the same evil that he had allowed, one thousand years before, to dominate him, but now the corruption had been washed away; he was what he would always be, the Turaga of Fire.
He was still surrounded by a white, blazing illumination, yet for some reason his vision was as clear as ever. Eyes open in wonder, he watched as the light spread outwards, growing ever brighter.
Antroz stood on the stairs that had once led down to the control room of Destral’s weapons, inspecting the damage. In truth, there wasn’t much to see, for the bomb of the Order of Mata Nui had been incredibly powerful: the chamber’s ceiling had collapsed, burying everything under tons of rock; nothing remained of the consoles.
He turned around and started heading back upwards. The Exo-Toa that he was inhabiting moved swiftly enough, but it remained a poor substitute for his original armor. True, it would keep his essence from dissipating, but his freedom of movement was considerably limited, as was his power and combat ability.
For the moment, though, there is nothing that can be done about it. It’ll have to do.
As he climbed, his thoughts turned back to the control room. It had been his idea, a few centuries ago, to automatize Destral’s artillery and link it all to the chamber’s consoles: by decreasing the number of sentient servants involved in the Brotherhood's military operations, efficiency would have increased and the risk of enemy infiltration reduced. The one weak point of the strategy had been the control room itself, of course, but its location had been a closely guarded secret and the security measures installed to protect it should have rendered it impregnable; and yet, somehow, the two Order agents had managed to avoid or disable every guard, trap and surveillance system. Now Antroz was facing the real possibility of being called to answer for what had happened.
That was his real worry. He wasn’t concerned about the state of Destral’s artillery: all the cannons remained intact and, even though the control systems had been destroyed, with a few minor modifications they could be made to work again. But the security breach, along with the loss of his armor, would nevertheless deal a severe blow to his prestige within the Brotherhood, while Icarax, fresh from his triumph over the Order forces, would be more powerful than ever; it was the perfect occasion for the new Brotherhood leader to rid himself of a potentially troublesome rival.
For now, there’s no choice but to be as obsequious as possible. But I’ll have to start thinking about overthrowing him. He may have won this battle, but he almost led us to disaster. That order not to teleport to the island above so as to defeat the enemy on the field… sheer madness. He can’t be…
A sudden mental communication broke through his thoughts. It was coming from one of few Rahkshi still stationed on Destral. Before Antroz could decipher its content, a series of telepathic alarms followed, each one stronger than the last. The Makuta stopped climbing. All over Destral, Rahkshi were sending out frantic signals of fear and pain; he actually had to struggle to form a mental link with them. But he finally saw through their eyes, the sight froze him to the spot.
The city of Metru Nui was blazing with light. It wasn’t the daylight, which since the Great Spirit’s death had become pale and weak, nor did it come from lightstones or torches. No, this was light in its purest form, impossibly white and bright and growing stronger by the second. It had completely enveloped the city and was lighting up the whole dome. Antroz saw it wash upon Destral, dispelling the shadows of the Brotherhood. All over the fortress, Kraata and Rahkshi were perishing.
There was only one being who could be responsible for what was happening: the Toa of Light. But no Toa could possibly have enough power to do this on his own…
And then at last the truth became clear. Fear clutched Antroz’s heart; he could tell that this was no ordinary manifestation of elemental power: the Toa, the same Toa that the Brotherhood in its foolishness had brought to Metru Nui, were putting everything they had into this attack. And he knew that nothing and no one would be able to withstand it.
There was only one chance. He remembered Tridax telling him, shortly before leaving for Metru Nui, about the mutated Kraata parasites that he had implanted into his corrupted Toa to ensure their obedience. Frantically, he reached out, seeking out the creatures’ mental signature. He could feel them, but the light was interfering with his powers and the telepathic link was vanishing. There was no time to waste. Antroz sent out his order, commanding the parasites to immediately slay their hosts. With the alternate Takanuva dead, the light would fade away.
But nothing happened. The radiance kept growing stronger. The island was now shaking violently as the light washed over it and infiltrated it, shining through every door, window, corridor and even penetrating solid rock, seeking to scour every space clean of the darkness that pervaded it. But evil and corruption had festered on Destral for tens of thousands of years; the shadows of the Makuta had seeped into the rock itself and perverted the island’s very foundation; to purify it was beyond even the power of dozens of Toa of Light. And so, in the end, there was only one way for the Brotherhood’s evil to be vanquished.
The light had already enveloped the fortress. Now it started to press down upon it like a solid object. Towers crumbled, walls and buildings were flattened and turned to dust. Beams of light seared through the rock and where they passed, cracks began to appear. And finally, it was too much; the great base of the Brotherhood, which had traveled from ocean to ocean at the bidding of its dark masters, had finally reached its resting place: weighed down by the power of light, it shattered, and its pieces tumbled into the waters, and Destral, island of the Makuta, was claimed by the sea and never rose again.
And still the light spread on, inexorably. Nothing could stand in its way. Metru Nui was ablaze, the radiance reaching down even into the Archives’ deepest tunnels, washing away the evil of the Makuta and the corruption of the shadow leeches.
And now it had reached the borders of the Metru Nui dome and seeped into the maze of passages and tunnels carved within its walls. The Brotherhood’s army, that moments before had been standing on the brink of victory, melted away, the Rahkshi consumed, the Visorak, Exo-Toa and Rahi stopped in their tracks, freed from the control of the Makuta. To the exhausted agents of the Order of Mata Nui, the light brought peace and relief: weapons fell from their hands as they saw their enemy vanquished before their eyes and reveled in the miracle that had occurred.
The Makuta were trapped. The light had them in its grasp and all their power was useless against it. Many tried to teleport to the island above, but it was not to be, for their minds had been paralyzed and no aggressive thought or intent was possible. And so they were forced to retreat, to flee back to the dying universe. As they teleported away, the brilliance finally reached its apex and Metru Nui was illuminated by the light of a thousand suns.