Northern Continent, 998 years after the Great Cataclysm
Darkness. It was everywhere. Hope and heroism, morality and friendship, humanity and tranquility – where they had once been was now consumed by darkness. Oppression and villainy, amorality and hatred, inhumanity and cacophony – those were the gifts of the darkness. He had memories of another time, a time when he had had a name, a time where he had teammates and a quest, and even further back, a time where he had a team of friends and a village to defend. But that had all ended in failure and it no longer mattered. That life had ended and it had ended in failure. All that mattered…was the darkness.
And then he heard it.
It was a pure sound and it began to fluctuate in pitch. That was not in accordance with the darkness. The darkness represented corruption and cacophony, not purity and unity. His primal mind fought against this foreign thing. At some pitches, the darkness masked it and destroyed it; at other pitches, the sound pierced through the darkness, uncovering a part of his that had remained dormant since the darkness had first arrived. Initially, his mind seemed to be largely successful in locking out this clean and untainted sound.
Then, something changed. Someone was invading his head and forcing him to become attuned to the sound. He had known this person once. She had had a name in that time on the edge of his mind - that time when he, too, had had a name. She sifted through his thoughts, finding the precise pitch at which the sound most successfully penetrated the darkness that lied within him.
Then she withdrew. Had the darkness driven her out, was it victorious? No, she had withdrawn simply because she had found all that she had needed.
The sound centered on a single pitch. It was the one pitch that nearly eradicated the darkness. For a short while, the darkness still seemed to be victorious. Then, the balance shifted. The darkness still fought back, but now his mind was actually hoping it would lose. The darkness and his mind were now fighting each other, not cooperating.
And then it was over.
The darkness was gone. Suddenly, he had a name again. He was Emeder and he had friends. His friends’ names were Guftivei and Imegna. The darkness no longer mattered. Guftivei and Imegna were what mattered. They were his friends and he could always trust them. No, nothing else mattered.
Then Imegna’s mind came back. He felt her realize she had been successful. A wave of joy shot through her, and, as a consequence of the psychic link, through Emeder as well.
I knew I could trust you.
Don’t ever do that to me again. It took almost two years for me to get you back.
It’s good to be back. Thanks for everything.
Don’t worry, it’s good to have you back, too. Look, I need to tell Guftivei.
OK. Wake me up soon.
Oh…just one last thing before I get Guftivei.
Let me make it official: Welcome back to the land of the living!
With that, Emeder’s mind joined his body in sleep.
At sea, en route from the Northern Continent to Stelt, 999 years after the Great Cataclysm
A return to Stelt. That’s what was in order, Emeder thought as he watched the ocean’s salty spray blast over the bow of the boat. Its tang hung in the air that was rushing by.
After he’d awoken as the Toa Emeder for the first time in almost two years, rather than some nameless Shadow Toa, Imegna and Guftivei explained what they had done to resurrect him. After numerous fruitless attempts by Imegna to locate his former mind under the shadows that had obscured it, they took an alternate approach. It occurred to her that this Order of Mata Nui, fighting Makuta and all, might know a way to revert the process. So, she tried to hail the only Order member she knew that was both aware of their quest and liable to be sympathetic: Axxon.
This would have still been pointless, considering she had been unable to break Axxon’s mental shield in the past, if it were not for a lucky break. Apparently, Axxon’s superiors had been spying on the team and they were aware of the current plight the team was facing. After much deliberation, their leader had decided to divulge the findings of the Order’s most recent findings related to the subject. Axxon had been informed and had been asked to keep a mental eye out for Imegna’s psychic signature. Should he sense it, he had been ordered to inform the team. What did he have to say? Sonics. Sonics were the key, but the Order had yet to master the process. She would need to do some experimentation of her own if she planned to succeed.
She had then sent Guftivei on a wild adventure to track down a sonic device that could be used for the purpose. He eventually tracked down a fierce Dark Hunter known by a multisyllabic name that translated to “He-Who-Makes-Others-Feel-Miserable” in his native tongue. He eventually defeated said Dark Hunter and stole its weapon, a customized sonic device known as a Sonic Piledriver.
That was what Emeder heard in his head. The Sonic Piledriver had produced the pure sound that had eventually freed him when paired with Imegna’s analysis of its effect on his mind. His actual awakening had been less of a socially uncomfortable incident than anyone could have expected. Emeder was not surprised his new form, as he had been self-aware during his waking fits, just unable to overcome the darkness and insanity. The other two had also come to terms with his new appearance. It was simply an occasion of rejoicing as Emeder was finally reunited with Guftivei and Imegna.
Then, the moment of truth. Had Emeder’s plan been successful? He had been bitten by the leech, he had been partially infected with shadow energy, his mind had been reverted, but had this granted him the elemental control over shadow that Shadow Toa were rumored to possess? In the cave, he called upon his elemental powers, not entirely sure what to expect. This is what transpired.
“Alright, I’m going to give it a go.”
“Right, bring on the shadow!” Guftivei jokingly taunted.
Emeder seemed to concentrate for a second. Then his power swept through the room.
“Nice!” Imegna called out, reaching out directionlessly. “You blinded me. You’re a natural at mastering newfound powers! Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever fully mastered my psionic abilities.” Then she wistfully admitted "Of course, the Rift might have had something to do with that..."
“Yeah, good job. I can’t see anything either,” Guftivei added.
“Um…is it bad that I also blinded myself?”
“Oh…yeah, you might want to work on that,” Guftivei suggested. Then he continued “So, can you let us have our eyes back now?”
Emeder tried to undo his actions, but instead released a series of shadow bolts that threw everyone off of their feet. Needless to say, he was having some difficulties.
“I have no idea what I’m doing!” Emeder admitted as he and Imegna crashed headfirst into each other while blindly stumbling around.
Over time, he became accustomed to his new abilities. That was why they were headed to Stelt. They were about to enter him as a guest competitor in the gladiatorial arenas that provided entertainment for the high society of Stelt. It would be a little “test-run” of his elemental control before he took to the Rift and battled the Light Ravager. Just one last trial, and then they were going to finish this. The Ravager would fall soon now.
Stelt, 999 years after the Great Cataclysm
“Alright, this is where we split up,” Guftivei announced. Members of Stelt’s elite were swarming around them in the open plaza, most of them hurriedly rushing to the arena stadium for the upcoming event. “Emeder, you head to the preparation room before your first event of the day. You’ve got three rounds overall, remember?”
Then Guftivei turned to address the hooded figure to their right. “You should probably start - ”
Don’t worry, I’ll be in the stands soon enough. Imegna had decided to wear an ornate black cloak made of an expensive textile in order to fit in better among the audience. The crowds in the arena were only comprised of society’s elitist tiers. A lone Toa of Psionics would draw attention, but with her mask concealed beneath the gold-trimmed hood that accented her armor, she could pass as a regal member of the upper class. It had been easy enough to steal the cloak. Guftivei had haggled over the price of something irrelevant and eventually stormed out, apparently discontent. Meanwhile, Imegna had simply walked in while using her elemental abilities to keep the owner fully focused on its conversation with Guftivei. Things rarely got much easier. Just one question: where are you headed, Guftivei?
“Oh, I got business to take care of. You know, I think I’ll hit the gambling table. Place some choice bets on the outcomes of the arena battles. I lifted a little bit of money off of that shop owner while I was haggling. Took advantage of your little ‘focusing spell’ that kept the fool interested in the argument.”
Try not to come back empty-handed.
“What, don’t trust my arena combat skills? All he’s got to do is bet on me, right?” Emeder asked.
Frankly, no. That’s part of the reason I’ll be watching: to project an illusion that you are horribly mangled if things turn against you, giving you a chance to slip out of the arena. Should work, those arena guards that are supposed to prevent escapees are pretty gullible.
“So, have you been envisioning any heroic ‘death illusions’ for me?”
No, mostly like the one I projected in the Makuta outpost to mimic my own death. Except the ones I’ve got planned right now are much more violent. Just for you!
“Well, I’m heading to the gambling table. Meet me there when it’s over.”
Good luck with your gambling. Try not to end up selling off your soul by accident.
“Nah, don’t worry. I’m good enough at it that I don’t even need luck on my side.”
I won’t even try to talk sense into you. It’s not worth the bother.
“Yay! You finally figured it out!”
That wasn’t a compliment.
“Didn’t say it was.”
As Emeder reported to the prep room, he started to get a bit nervous. The tournament bracket pitted each of the four contestants against a dangerous Rahi as a qualifier round. Then, the survivors faced off in the semi-finals with a duel of the two remaining contestants to end the day. The guard notified Emeder that the Rahi he would face in the first round were a pack of Gorrelian Hounds. Those just sounded bad. Maybe Imegna was right about him getting in over his head. He began to absentmindedly rub his hands together in a futile attempt to relieve his anxiety. Then a wave of calmness passed through him.
There, that should block out your nervousness, Imegna notified him.
Thanks. How would I make it without you?
You probably wouldn’t.
Good thing you don’t have an ego, Emeder sarcastically thought back.
You’re just as hopeless as Guftivei.
Yay! You finally figured it out!
…that wasn’t meant to be congratulatory.
Didn’t say it was.
At that point a horn blare heralded the beginning of the first event. Emeder settled down to wait until it was his turn to enter the arena.