I feel like Umarak was super underused as a character in Journey to One. Some weird ancient deer spirit that's working for Makuta for some reason? That's really darn cool! But how did he come to work for Makuta? Why? I wish they had gone into more detail about how the whole situation came about. So, uh, that's what I wanted to do with this story. Enjoy I guess!
No More Shadows
Stillness hung in the air like a sound of its own. The far-off lapping of waves against the shore were the only echoes of things once heard. No bird called out, no leaves rustled in the wind. The jungle held its breath, and waited.
An age passed. Was it safe? Slowly, timorously, the creature inched from its refuge in the brush. Gently, silently, it set its foottip into the open. Minutes passed. Nothing.
It was safe. The creature scuttled into the open, its translucent insectoid wings shimmering as rays of light gently bounced off of it. A breeze floated through the clearing. Birds began once again to sing. The creature buzzed up to the branches of a tall tree and began inspecting the fruit.
A bolt of darkness shot out of nowhere, striking the creature and sending it tumbling back to earth. Before it could recover, another bolt struck it, then another. A towering, antlered figure grew out of the shadow of a tree, moving quickly toward its prey.
A shift in the wind. A change in the trees. A root snaked into the Hunter’s path unnoticed, catching his clawed foot and sending him face first into the ground. The creature, already freed from the dark energy it had been struck by, flew at impossible speed to the furthest reaches of the jungle, far away from the danger.
Umarak sat and stared at the spot the creature had lay prone moments before. So close. It had been this way for so long. Six Creatures of the elements to hunt, one Hunter to track them. But every time – every time – he was outsmarted in the end. After a long while, he rose. He wandered the shadows aimlessly, as he often did on days like these. Had this always been his life? Had he fought in futility since the dawn of time? Umarak could no longer recall his own past. All he knew was the hunt – tiresome and endless.
There had been a shift. He had felt it from within the island. Six new bearers of the elements had fallen from the stars. They had reclaimed the ancient city built upon the Creatures’ sacred Light temple. Okotans from all over were migrating to the site. Umarak knew that it was only a matter of time before the new elemental avatars sought out the old ones – the Creatures. And together, they would be unstoppable. After countless ages, Umarak was finally running out of time.
So consumed was he by these thoughts that he did not sense the fault in the earth on his path. The ground suddenly gave way beneath his feet, sending him sliding into a hidden cave. Above, earth continued to fall, opening up a wide hole that cast dim light onto the sight that lay before him.
Grand, angular arches and pillars carved an entryway into the rock. A light shone out from a square window carved above the entrance. It looked like a tomb, but Umarak had no memory of this place.
He approached the sealed doorway and seeped inside as a shadow. The golden light from the window was discernable in here too, if only barely. He followed it deeper into the labyrinth. Gaunt hallways stretched deep into the earth, until finally, Umarak came to a chamber housing the source of the light - a tarnished sarcophagus. It was carved with the visage of a horned, glowering mask of worn gold. The grave was surrounded by masks and other riches – vases, cogs and pistons, rare crystals. Mounted on the wall was a hammer that shone dim purple. As Umarak approached the sarcophagus, a voice emanated from the walls.
Umarak… Shadow Hunter… your time is running out...
Umarak started. He had not sensed the presence of another spirit here. He still did not. And yet, the voice persisted.
There is still time. YOU still have time. But if you are to capture the Creatures, you will need my power.
“I need no power but my own!” Umarak snarled. “You know nothing of me!”
I know EVERYTHING about you. Umarak, the lone shadow in a realm of light. You have forgotten your past. You have forgotten your home.
“I have forgotten nothing!” The words were hollow. He began to step back, unnerved by this intelligence that knew so much more than it should.
There is a Realm of Shadow. Parallel to this Realm you now dwell in. It was your home. It could be again.
A Shadow Realm? The Hunter’s mind was reeling. Memories – vague, incomplete – of a happier world, a happier life, trickled into recollection. He needed more.
“What do you want? How do I get to this Shadow Realm? Who are you?”
Once, I forged a mask of unparalleled power. It could open a gate between the realms. But the mask was shattered by my traitorous brother. He separated my body from my spirit. My body is here, buried safely away by my faithful followers. But my spirit is caught loose, trapped in the Shadow Realm with no body to give it shape. And so I haunt this tomb, waiting for the one who will resurrect me.
“You want your body back. And in return, you will grant me passage to the Shadow Realm?”
I will do you better. To be freed, my old mask must first be returned to my body. The Mask of Control. It has been hidden away by the Elemental Creatures. You must capture them, and force them to grant you a vision of the mask’s location.
Something flickered in the corner of Umarak’s eye. He looked to the back of the room. Out of a vase, a formless blob of matter floated to him. It began to twist and harden into a metallic shape. A great snapping trap, legs sprouting from its base. It crackled with energy at its sharp jaws, then abruptly melted away, shooting rapidly towards Umarak. With a blink, the energy was gone, leaving nothing but a small gaping maw on the Hunter’s chest.
My gift to you. Now you may summon the traps wherever you wish. They will hold the Creatures, and keep them from escaping you. Find them. Find my mask. Bring it to me. Then all will be as it should.
As he departed, Umarak noticed the name carved above the arched entrance: Makuta. It was not a name he knew. But so many Okotans had come and gone through the millennia.
He did not trust this Makuta, but he did not need to. Now that the spirit had recklessly imparted on him the location of its Mask of Control, and the tools he needed to reach it, it would be trivial to claim the mask for himself. He would finally capture the Creatures. He would take control of the Makuta with its own mask, forcing it to reveal the locations of the shattered parts of the gate-opening mask. Then he would be free of this wretched life on the island. He would return to the Shadow Realm. Home.
He tested his new powers. His bow now cast the mobile traps, small but powerful. Snapping open and shut with eagerness, they scuttled quickly across the tangled jungle floor and latched powerfully onto roots and branches. They would be enough.
It was time to set out to hunt. One last time.