- "So much had changed on their world since Millennium, Eostra, and the Dark Lord had taken over most of the planet in the past 100 years. All the inhabitants of the planet; regardless whether they were native to Spherus Magna or the Matoran Universe, lived in constant fear of death from day-to-day, and were forced to hide out in the most remote places to stay alive. In response to the takeover, Leviathos and several other beings had formed a resistance against the conquerors, and had their base made in the ruins of Atero, a place where no one would look for them."
Dark Realities is a novel that focuses on the struggle between a resistance of freedom fighters and the combined forces of Eostra Nihiltian, the Dark Lord and Millennium, who have united to form the Dark Empire and have conquered the reformed world Spherus Magna in an alternate universe. The story is written and authored by Chicken Bond, Varkanax39, Jareroden97, and honorarily by TheSlicer. The story was continued in its sequel and successor story, Broken Worlds.
Taken directly from BIONICLE: Journey's End
100 years ago...
Mata Nui looked down at the various populations meeting so far below and felt like he was seeing the future. The Matoran and Agori had much to learn from each other. The Toa teamed with the Glatorian would safeguard both sets of villagers from any threat. Natural alliances were being forged even now.
He turned his attention to the fallen form of Makuta. There was another alliance that should have existed, but never came to pass. Had he and Makuta worked together, they could have restored Spherus Magna without the devastation and loss of life. But Makuta’s greed and ambition wouldn’t allow that. In the end, both his mad dreams and the body he had stolen were wreckage.
Makuta was the past. It was time to worry about today and tomorrow for this world.
When he had gone to Raanu and asked to take the Agori’s city away from them, Mata Nui had made a vow to himself. If he succeeded in rebuilding the planet, he would not stop there. He would give the Agori a new life, a new chance to thrive here. Now it was time to begin that work.
Mata Nui scanned the body he wore. It was badly damaged and power levels were barely high enough to do what had to be done. But if he could call upon the Mask of Life one last time, combine its energies with the robot’s, then maybe ... Of course, there was one other aspect of what he was about to do that he tried to ignore. There was no way he would survive it. The robot was already dangerously unstable and channeling so much power through it at once would surely mean its destruction. Mata Nui would die with it.
If that was how it had to be, so be it. The Great Beings owed this world and its people a debt, and he was going to pay it.
Mata Nui looked toward the sky and stretched out his arms. He summoned the energies that coursed through his body, even as he called out to the Mask of Life. The mask at first resisted – it, too, knew that it might well not survive this, and it did not want to cease to exist. Mata Nui could have forced it to aid him – he had a stronger will – but he did not. Instead, he simply pictured in his mind how Spherus Magna could be if this was successful. He knew the mask would sense what was in his thoughts and that it would know this would be the ultimate use of its power.
A moment later, Mata Nui felt the power of the mask merge with what little remained of his own. Then he willed that power to flow from his body and sweep across the planet. Everywhere it touched, mountains rose, forest flourished, life appeared where none had been before. In the desert of Bara Magna, time seemed to flow backwards as barren sand gave way to a jungle teeming with trees and plants and long-dead rivers returned to life.
The vast ocean of Aqua Magna felt Mata Nui’s touch as well. Underwater, plants flourished, providing a bounty for the fish that swam in the sea. The power of the Mask of Life touched even the twisted, mutated beings who lived in the depths, curing them of the worst of their afflictions while leaving them able to survive beneath the waves. In the great forest of Bota Magna, the giant, bio-mechanical reptiles created so long ago by the Great Beings watched, amazed, as their homeland shifted and changed all around them. Areas where trees and foliage had ceased to grow suddenly were green again. Smaller animals scurried from their hiding places to feast on the new growth.
Agori and Glatorian stood in the once-desert and were speechless. This was not the world they once knew – it was better. After 100,000 years of struggling to survive, of scraping for every morsel of food and drop of water, now there was enough for all. As they watched in awe, clouds gathered above their heads for the first time in living memory, it began to rain in Bara Magna.
“He did it,” whispered Kiina. “I can’t believe it.”
“It’s amazing,” said Ackar, in shock. “I can’t even ... I don’t know how to put it into words ...”
“He promised me, Ackar,” Kiina continued. “He promised to bring me to a new world. Instead, he brought the new world to me.”
“Wait,” Ackar said, a new note of urgency in his voice. “Look at Mata Nui! He’s ... he’s collapsing!”
It was far worse than that. The overwhelming strain had taxed Mata Nui’s robot body past its limit. The metal that made it up was disintegrating rapidly, along with its interior mechanisms. Even from a distance, the two Glatorian could see the destruction spreading rapidly.
“Come on!” yelled Kiina. “He needs our help!”
Ackar and Kiina leapt atop sand stalkers and urged the beasts forward. Kiina couldn’t give voice to what she was feeling inside – Mata Nui, her friend, was dying for them. He had given his last bit of energy to defend them from Makuta and save their world, and there would likely be nothing they could do for him in return. Except mourn, she said to herself.
Before they got too close to the site of his fall, they had to rein the sand stalkers to a halt. The air was filled with metal dust – along with a few larger pieces of the body scattered here and there, this was all that remained of the giant robot.
“We’re too late,” Kiina said softly. “He’s gone.”
Ackar stood silently amid the metallic refuse that had once been inhabited by his friend. Mata Nui had done more than save the Agori from the Skrall. He had saved Ackar from himself. The veteran Glatorian had been on his way to forced retirement, and a life spent training young fighters who didn’t remember him or wandering between villages trying to find one more match. Mata Nui had been the one who showed him he still had value, that a Glatorian was more than a strong right arm and a suit of armor. He’d had faith in Ackar when Ackar had none in himself.
“Our troubles weren’t his,” said the fire Glatorian. “He could have gone north in search of his own answers and left us to deal with the Skrall, if he had wanted. Instead, he fought beside us and risked his life for people he didn’t even know. There will never be another like him.”
Kiina looked around. Toa, Agori, Matoran, and Glatorian had gathered now, drawn by the sight of the great robot’s collapse. Some looked grief-stricken, others merely puzzled, and some fearful. Mata Nui had granted them a new life and a new world, and no doubt they expected him to lead them into the future. Instead, he was gone and they were on their own again.
She turned back to the pile of wreckage, damp from the gentle rain. For a moment, she thought a shaft of sunlight had forced its way through the clouds, for there was a faint glow in the center of the rubble. But then the glow grew brighter. Ackar saw it, too, and climbed over the twisted metal to reach the source. He reached down and emerged with the Mask of Life, now gleaming brighter than a sun.
“Watch out!” yelled one of the Toa. “That’s dangerous!”
Ackar returned to Kiina’s side, cradling the mask in both hands. He knew the Toa was probably right and holding onto this object wasn’t a smart move. But something told him he was meant to retrieve it and keep it safe. The mask flared so brightly Ackar and all those present had to close their eyes for a moment. When they opened them again, the Mask of Life was hovering in mid-air. As if that was not enough to astonish them, a voice came from the mask as well --- the voice of Mata Nui.
“My friends,” he said. “The debt owed to all of you has been repaid. You have your world back again. Live on it in peace.”
“Mata Nui?” said Kiina. “We thought you were dead.”
“My mind and spirit lived inside this mask for so long that when the body I wore died, it was drawn back to it,” answered Mata Nui.
“The mask can do amazing things,” said Toa Tahu. “You could use it to make a body for yourself, couldn’t you? We could all use your wisdom and your guidance.”
“I think ...” There was a pause. “I think perhaps this is not the time for me to walk among you. You all have a new life to build. My destiny is fulfilled, but for many of you, it has yet to be written. You need to find your path without my shadow hanging over you.”
“But ... but all the battles we fought, all that we endured, was to bring you back to us,” said Takanuva.
“And in so doing, you grew as a people past the point where you needed a Great Spirit to guide you,” Mata Nui said gently. “The true power does not reside with me. It lives inside all of you.”
“So this is ... goodbye?” asked Kiina.
“Never goodbye,” answered Mata Nui. “Even I cannot predict the future, or if the time will come when I shall be at your side once more. But until that day arrives, I have something I must ask of you.”
“Anything,” said Ackar. “Name it.”
“The Great Beings,” said Mata Nui. “They vanished 100,000 years ago, not long after creating me. They were tormented by guilt over what they knew would happen to Spherus Magna, and their role in causing it. Find them ... tell them the planet is whole once more ... convince them to share their gifts with you. I learned what it can mean to have friends, not subjects; allies, rather than workers or soldiers. Perhaps they can do the same.”
“If that’s what you want, it’s done,” said Ackar.
“The time has come,” said Mata Nui. “All journey’s must come to an end, but this time, there is a new beginning as well. There will be challenges to face and enemies to fight, but I know you will overcome. All that has gone before, my friends, has only served to give birth to this new day.
“Let unity, duty and destiny be your guides. Be well, be strong, care for this world and for each other. Farewell.”
The light faded from the mask until it was the dimmest of glows. But no one present doubted that, somehow, Mata Nui’s consciousness still lingered there.
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
A cloaked figure moved through the darkened skies of the night. She strode through the land with confidence and strength, not fearing the dangerous creatures that stalked these parts. They held no threat towards her, no significance, and if they dared attack her; well, their life wouldn't last as long as they had hoped.
It was for this reason none of the local wildlife within the Black Spike Mountains dared attack Eostra Nihiltian, for although she did not look like a particularly threatening opponent, her appearance disguised the raw power at her disposal; power that was nearly totally unmatched.
The Elemantal of Annihilation strode into the assigned meeting place, and growled in frustration. As she had predicted, no being had been at this meeting place. She knew she shouldn't be here. It had only been, perhaps, a day since Teridax's death at the hands of Mata Nui and the reformation of the planet Spherus Magna, and Eostra had already begun assembling the legions of the Shadowy Ones following their mass migration to the new world.
She was certain that if she attacked now, whilst the new society of the Matoran and Agori was being built; she could conquer all of Spherus Magna in several years; at maximum: a decade. However, a mysterious telepathic message had been sent to her shortly after her arrival on Spherus Magna, distracting her from her planning. The message was extremely cryptic, simply saying: Meet within the mountains.
Whilst she knew from her own experiences throughout her life that it could merely be a trap prepared by one of her enemies, something about the message told her it wasn't; and she couldn't help but remain curious as to what this "meeting" was about.
Eostra turned to leave the clearing, until she heard the sound of heavy, armored footsteps trudging towards her. She turned towards the direction the noises were coming from, and raised her mighty trident as she took an offensive stance.
She waited a total of five seconds.
Then, out from the darkness of the forest, came the rough outline of a tall, bulky, yet surprising lean, figure. Although no definitive aspects of this being's appearance could give away its identity, the moment Eostra's eyes locked with that of the entity's, she knew immediately who it was.
The Dark Lord was a being of great power, so great that his strength perhaps rivaled her own. She didn't like beings that were on equal terms with her own advanced levels of power.
The Dark Lord didn't move from the darkness, almost making it seem as if the shadows themselves were clinging to his body, grafted their by some unseen force. All Eostra could truly make out were those piercing red eyes, eyes that had struck fear into the hearts of thousands who had met his gaze. Eostra was not one of them.
"I did not summon you," spoke the Dark Lord in a chilling tone. This confused Eostra, though did not surprise her, and she quickly realized the situation.
"Then you are here for the same reason I am."
Had she been able to see him, the Dark Lord would have been nodding.
"Indeed you are," spoke a new voice.
Eostra and the Dark Lord turned their heads, and before them stood a tall, intimidating silver and black being, wielding a menacing axe, and dressed in a dark cloak. This time, the arrival of this particular entity did take Eostra by surprise.
The being chuckled lightly. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is—"
"Millennium," spoke the Dark Lord in disbelief, "leader of the Shadow of Ages... but you cannot possibly exist. Everybody knows that the tales of Millennium are a myth. Stories told to the Matoran in order to scare them into working harder."
"So it would seem," spoke Eostra. "Though why do you summon us here. If the legends surrounding you are true, you possess a mighty army, and following the recent circumstances of Teridax's death, we all need to rebuild our empires."
Millennium simply smiled; a truly ugly expression. "That is why I summoned you here. This world is weak, whilst we stand strong and proud. I'm more than aware that once we reform our legions we will all attempt to claim this world as our own domain. However, our three mighty factions will no doubt clash in an effort to claim ultimate power."
"Then let it stay that way," cried the Dark Lord, the tone of his voice forcing the nearby rocks to crack. "Let the strongest empire stand over the others, and rule the world."
"True," spoke Millennium. "But a war between our armies would only result in huge casualties on all sides that would cripple our forces to the point where the Matoran and Agori could stage an uprising… and actually succeed."
Eostra spoke. "What are you proposing, then? What solution do you suggest to this problem?"
Millennium laughed hard, prompting Eostra to launch her fearsome powers of annihilation at the Shadow of Ages leader. This was followed by another blast of power from the Dark Lord, who attacked Millennium merely out of cruelty, as was his nature.
Millennium shrugged off the blast, and bombarded Eostra's mind with a powerful mental blast that shattered her concentration. The smile that had decorated Millennium's face earlier had vanished, and this time, he spoke in a much more menacing tone.
"The 'solution' I refer to is an alliance between our empires. We are all equals, and neither of us could truly triumph over each other in a battle without killing ourselves off in the process. No, if we unite and join forces, we could cause the rise and falls of civilizations on a whim, we could lay waste to entire cities effortlessly, and we could even conquer all those celestial bodies that exist beyond this world."
Silence followed Millennium's speech before the Dark Lord spoke up. "Very well. I hereby commit the vast armies of the Empire of Shadows to this alliance, with the single goal of conquering creation itself. Once this is done, we shall rule together as the universe's true and just masters."
"Excellent!" cried Millennium. "And I therefore commit the devotion and power of the Shadow of Ages to this cause with you, Dark Lord, and together, we will ensure the conquest of all reality itself!"
The two entities turned to face Eostra, her head bowed menacingly as she weighed her final decision in the depths of her twisted mind. This alliance is unstable; though it may suit my purposes until the time our conquests are complete. Once that is done; I will have no need of these two, and the art of betrayal shall be required.
I wouldn't try that if I were you," said the Dark Lord, who had been reading her mind lazily.
Millennium continued the dark being's speech. "We each are all-powerful in our own right; and betraying each other would only critically weaken our alliance to the point of collapse. Face it, Eostra: you need us, whether you like it or not."
"And therefore, we're the only beings you can trust," the Dark Lord added finally.
Eostra raised her head, and stared at Millennium and then at the Dark Lord, whose crimson eyes never flickered away from her. She then chuckled.
"Very well, then. I, Eostra Nihiltian, hereby ally the might of the Shadowy Ones and the Corpse Empire to the cause of this union. And I now decree that Spherus Magna, and the worlds beyond it, shall fall!"
The Dark Lord spoke up. "Excellent. Now let us part ways for the time being, we must gather our legions, and ready them for battle."
"Indeed," finished Millennium. "And once that is done, we shall come to this place one final time before our conquest, and once we have cemented our alliance, Spherus Magna shall submit before us. Because from this point onwards, we are no longer three different factions fighting over domination, but a sole indestructible force of unparalleled power. We are the ones who now decide reality’s fate. We are the ones who choose who lives and who dies. For we our now, and forever more... the Dark Empire! Now come, my... friends. The time has come for us to rewrite the course of destiny itself..."
Leviathos walked through a dust-covered hall, in a city that had once been called Atero, the location of the partially destroyed Arena Magna. So much had changed on their world since Millennium, Eostra, and the Dark Lord had taken over most of the planet in the past 100 years. All the inhabitants of the planet, regardless whether they were native to Spherus Magna or the Matoran universe, lived in constant fear of death from day-to-day, and were forced to hide out in the most remote places to stay alive.
In response to the takeover, Leviathos and several other beings had formed a resistance against the conquerors, and had their base made in the ruins of Atero, a place where no one would look for them. After all, who was going to look in an old arena, laid waste by an army of Skrall, for a group of rebels?
After arriving in the city, Leviathos and his allies had partially rebuilt Atero, and managed to stabilize the old building's structure. They had added a number of extra chambers to the original architecture and constructed a number of underground tunnels and emergency escape routes out of the city.
Leviathos walked into a room, where five other beings sat around a circular table. He knew these beings as the resistance's leaders. Decorating the walls surrounding them were the carvings of several great Glatorian: Ackar, Tarix, Vastus, and Certavus, to name all but a few. The room was famous, and was referred to by the Agori as the Wall of Champions.
Conqueror sighed. "Yes, but not anything good."
Leviathos looked intently at him. "Let me guess: they were overrun, and no one survived?"
Conqueror leaned back. "Absolutely correct."
"What of the attack on the Dark Lord's fortresses on borderline of the Northern Frost?" asked Leviathos.
"We managed to catch four of his fortresses by surprise, and used the sheer power of our numbers to claim three more," said the figure that Leviathos recognized as Shardak. "We've gained a foothold in the Northern Frost, though our scouts have discovered large contingents of Dark Empire soldiers, led by Makuta Treix, on the march to recapture their bases."
"I calculate we have an approximate chance of 64.3% of surviving the assault, with a 46% chance that Triex's armies will force us to retreat," added Ixtil.
"Excellent," cried Toa Jareroden. "That means we'll be able to loot their fortresses of anything valuable, resupply, and be prepared enough to tackle Treix's forces with devastating results. Once that's done, and with Treix's forces exhausted, I'll be able to lead my army through the White Quartz Mountains to the borderlines of the Black Spike Mountains, where we have chance of capturing that weapons-manufacturing outpost."
Many would have considered Jareroden unfit to be one of the resistance's leaders, despite being an experienced warrior. Perhaps this was mainly because the leading council was made up of only the most seasoned, cunning, and powerful warriors still fighting the dark beings that ruled over all.
However, the war with the Dark Lord and his allies had changed Jareroden. He had evolved from a simple Toa into a hardened veteran of combat. As such, he was considered a worthy leader, and following his success during the Fourth Occupation of Vulcanus, he was believed capable of heading the resistance with its other founders.
Leviathos turned to face the last resistance leader, who had yet to give a report. "And what do you have to share, Freztrak? Did you and your forces manage to smuggle those water stones out from Eostra's kingdom in the Great Jungle."
The former Skakdi warlord remained quiet for minutes that felt like hours before finally speaking.
"We only managed to steal eighteen stones. We originally left with at least fifty, though our caravan was ambushed by a bounty hunter named Nightwatcher. He took thirty of our water stones, and the lives of over a dozen of our warriors. We... we lost Mersery in the conflict that followed. He distracted Nightwatcher from killing us all by battling him, sacrificing his life to give us the time to return to Atero. Mersery knew what he was going against. He didn't stand a chance."
All the seated beings bowed their heads in respect for their fallen comrade.
Eventually, Leviathos broke the silence. "Jareroden, get your army ready to leave, it's a long way to the Northern Frost, and our troops up there will need all the help they can get."
The Toa nodded, and left the room in silence. Leviathos turned back to the rest of the leaders. "The times are darkening. The armies of our enemies are growing."
Shardak looked at Leviathos, and spoke the same words that a Glatorian named Gresh had spoke over a hundred years before. "Leviathos, do you think we can win?"
Leviathos sighed, and spoke the same words Tarix had spoke a hundred years ago. "No, Shardak, I don't think we can, all I know is that we have to win, or else... or else all is lost to the shadows..."
With that, the resistance leaders rose from the table, nodded to each other, and went their separate ways, each with their own matters to attend to. Had they possessed the hearing of a De-Matoran, perhaps they would have heard, thousands of miles away, the sound of the dark laughter echoing on the wind.
Two Corpsians stood guard outside of one of their outposts in the Great Jungle. It had been a relatively boring day; no one had come, save a few scouts and messengers from other areas of the world. No fighting had been waged in that area of the vast forest, some troops were thankful that they didn't have to risk their necks in the front, while others, such as the two Corpsian guards, longed to be out in the fighting. But, they had been stationed here following an "accident" with one of the Dark Lord's machines.
One Corpsian pointed a clawed finger into the morning mist. "Look, someone's coming."
The two black-armored beings crossed their spears, barring anyone from entering. A voice then pierced the fog, carrying more than a hint of insanity. "Don't worry, troops, it's just me."
The being stepped into view, and one of the guards spat out his name with distaste. "Merodos."
The insane Skakdi-Makuta nodded. "Bingo."
One of the Corpsians pointed to something Merodos was dragging behind him. "What's that?"
Merodos held out the slumped figure of a black and green Skrall. "Oh, this? This is one of the resistance lackeys I captured. His name is Korzor."
The Corpsians drew back their weapons. "You may pass."
Without another word, Merodos walked into the shadowed doorway. Once he reached a designated prison cell, he flung his captive unceremoniously inside. Once he was out of the room, Korzor raised his head, and activated a hidden comlink, just like the ones all the other resistance members used.
"Alright, I'm in."
A muscular black and gray armored Toa walked down a long, narrow corridor. His name was one ushered with fear and terror in every village and every hidden rebel base. He was known to rain death and destruction down on entire settlements without a single regret. He was known for butchering anyone who dared to stand in his path. And, finally, he was known for his lack of any social ties, any connections to any factions that could affect his loyalties.
It was for this reason the bounty hunter Nightwatcher had such a profitable job. Bounty hunting was dangerous work on this planet, even for him, but it ensured the highest pay. As the centuries had passed, more and more bounty hunters had perished, until only the most ruthless, merciless, and skilled bounty hunters remained to reap the rewards of the missions offered.
Nightwatcher entered a large chamber. The room was circular, and nearly pitch black. All that lit the room were small Lightstones embedded in the ceiling, generating only enough light to see the ground. However, as Nightwatcher walked before a flight of stairs that ascended to a high platform with a massive throne mounted on it, Nightwatcher could make out the rough form of Eostra Nihiltian.
She activated her Mask of Dread, hoping to humble the war-hardened killer before her vast and incomprehensible power. The mask had no effect on the fearsome bounty hunter. Eostra projected her mask's power to its full level, which would be enough to drive even the shielded mind of a member of the Order of Mata Nui insane.
"Don’t bother, your majesty. Your mask has no effect on me." Nightwatcher spoke calmly, with a hint of mockery in his tone.
Eostra shrugged. "May I question you as to how?"
"No," said Nightwatcher with a chuckle. "Call it... my little secret."
This was a statement new to Eostra. No one would ever dare to reject anything Eostra demanded for out of a fear of suffering pain greater than death, though Nightwatcher was a different subject entirely. For now, she tolerated the bounty hunter.
"Did you succeed?" she inquired.
Nightwatcher nodded, hurling thirty water stones out of a small bag.
"What of the rebels who dared steal them? Did you... deal with them?"
Nightwatcher didn't reply. Instead, he snapped his fingers and two Corpsians entered the room, and threw the body of Mersery onto the ground.
"I decided to keep this one's body intact as a trophy for you. I killed several other rebels too. Zyglak, Skakdi, Matoran, Agori. Their bodies were... in too many pieces to bring before you."
Eostra chuckled. "So... one of the key figures of the resistance is dead. Millennium will be most pleased that his old nemesis is gone."
"Ah, well that's nice to know. Now how about you stop rambling and start paying me. Seven thousand I believe I was promised; and I would prefer it now."
"In time, my murdering ally," replied Eostra. "But first, I want you to complete another assignment."
"A group of rebels were spotted walking through the village that connects my kingdom with that of the Dark Lord's. Three days before this, another group of organized rebels infiltrated my archives, and stole valuable information that is essential to my plans. I believe those resistance fighters are the same ones that were caught wandering through the villages."
"Who would I be going against?" asked Nightwatcher, who lazily added a fake yawn to introduce a false sense of boredom.
Nightwatcher thought for a time. Not exactly an easy hunt, but profit could be made from it. "I'll accept on the condition you double my usual fee."
"I'll increase your reward by a triple, though only if you bring all the rebels back to my fortress... dead preferably."
Nightwatcher smiled, and finished their conversation with four words that could possibly seal the fates of six individuals.
"You've got a deal."
This chapter was written by Varkanax39.
All was quiet as darkness shrouded Spherus Magna in a half-light. Nothing could be seen or heard, save the footsteps of a tall being.
His name was Tetrack, and he was once a ruler himself.
After Millennium's self-proclaimed takeover, Tetrack and a small group of his most loyal aides had survived and joined a small group of rebels. Now he was following their leader, a Toa known as Blast. He, Tetrack, and two other Toa were attempting to find a passageway into the Eostra's fortress.
"No Corpsian guards," Blast muttered under his breath. "Odd."
Tetrack was seriously considering crushing Blast to bits and taking the consequences for such an act of betrayal. It was extremely annoying for him, following a small, weak Toa into battle. Although Tetrack knew he needed Blast and his allies, at least for know, Tetrack knew that a fight between them was near.
The dark being motioned to one of his servants, a Makuta known as Kaluu.
"This way," he snarled. "Blast has found a way in."
Tetrack took a long breath, savoring every moment of conquest. Soon, every Toa who stands in my way will die, and I alone shall rule the universe.
Tenork turned to Neocrax, and asked him the same question the sixth time in as many minutes. "Are you sure you know the plan?"
The Rahkshi-headed Makuta sighed. "Yes, Tenork, after all the times you've asked me I think I should."
The Torshurrr pointed to a depression in the rocky land. "Good, once they get to there, our forces hidden in the riverbed can ambush them, and drive them back."
Neocrax tightened his grip on his daggers as the enemy approached the depression.
Gurren nervously toyed with his hand-gun. "How much longer?"
Rando whispered between clenched teeth. "Not long. Be patient, or do you want to run headlong to your death?"
All fell silent as heavy trudging sounded directly above them, and great shadows were cast along the ditch as the opposing army marched not three feet above them. Eventually, the time to strike came.
Rando leapt out of the ditch, yelling. "NOW! ATTACK!"
The many Toa leapt out of the riverbed, followed by Algor.
Meanwhile, Neocrax and Tenork raced down the hill and joined the battle. Neocrax launched a blast of laser vision, killing several Imperials and Shadow of Ages members. Tenork flung his torch, setting an empire soldier ablaze.
Gurren watched in horror as Algor was felled by a Shadow of Ages soldier's blade. "Algor! No!"
The Ko-Matoran fell to the hard ground, his lifeless body making a soft thud against it. Enraged, Gurren unleashed his entire arsenal on the enemy, utilizing his handgun, his shoulder-mounted laser, his beam rifle, his Thornax Launcher, his shield, and his two swords. The enemy fell in waves before him.
Meanwhile, Rando flipped about, slashing with his blade. He had numerous cuts and dents in his armor, but he ignored it, caught up in the rush of the fighting.
Eventually, the enemy was demolished, save their leader, a Makuta named Vicoran.
Rando walked to the slain body of Algor, picked it up, and called to the remainder of the squad. "Come on, we need to get back to Atero."
Before they got ten feet from the battleground, a tall, quadrupedal, black and silver being appeared in front of them.
Neocrax twirled his daggers. "Skorpix..."
The Elemental Prince chuckled. "I'm glad my name is known in your resistance. Now, you will all perish."
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
Shardak strode into the main arena of Atero. Following his council meeting, Shardak had been informed by a Toa known only as 95 of the completion of the resistance's large scale recruitment operation. New people made Shardak uneasy. Some were innocent beings who simply desired the chance for adventure and excitement, and lacked any real skills in combat. Some were shady characters plucked from the darkest corners of Spherus Magna, who couldn't be trusted, yet their powers and capabilities made them useful to Shardak's allies.
No matter, these new fighters were usually the first to have their heads removed, which wasn't Shardak's favorite thought to think about. He strode into the Arena Magna, standing atop of a podium in order to oversee the vast crowd before him. Shardak sighed before speaking.
"My name is Shardak. I'm one of the leaders of this faction. You, on the other hand, have no rank, no experience, and no idea as to what we're going against."
A Toa named Chronuva gulped hard.
"It is in the resistance's best interest to defeat our powerful enemies, yet there will be casualties, my friends. Battle shall never come too soon. Many of you may die fighting for this cause, whilst others may die in regret and guilt."
Shardak descended from the podium, and walked towards a vast training course that covered at least one quarter of the arena. "This training course will decide if you have the skill, power, and guts to survive the hardships ahead. The course won't kill you, though I can't grantee you'll all leave it in one piece."
A Skakdi warrior named Serhaktem sneered, looking at a Zyglak who looked all too eager for bloodshed. Another figure, Thornax, twisted a smile across his face, confident he could triumph over this practice course with ease.
Shardak sighed. "Very well, then. Take your marks. Three... two... one... GO!"
The warriors charged into the course. Several practice dummies emerged from the sandy floor as several other strange training devices retracted from the ground. Shardak walked back onto the podium. Beings of every kind were fighting to get into the resistance.
Zyglak, Matoran, Toa, Agori, and even a few Skrall as well. However, despite the fearsome conflicts that were taking place ahead, Shardak knew only a small collection of those warriors would make it through. It didn't exactly give the resistance a powerful boost of reinforcements, but it gave them the most determined and skilled warriors capable of fighting the Empire.
Far to the west of Atero, a patrol of dark soldiers strode through the rebuilt city of Tajun. Following Millennium, Eostra, and the Dark Lord's domination, they had authorized the reconstruction of the pillaged and ruined village of Tajun, which had been lost during a raid by a combined Skrall and Bone Hunter army during some war no one was bothered to remember.
Following the reconstruction of the city, it had served as one of Millennium's lairs and personal retreats during the early years of his rule. However, when Millennium began to favor his base in the Valley of the Maze over his one in Tajun, he began to pay less attention to the water village. Eventually it fell into anarchy, becoming a haven for murderers, exiles, bounty hunters, and thieves alike, resulting in it quickly transforming into a grimy crime underworld after a number Vortixx blacksmiths and rogue Nynrah Ghosts established a series of weapon factories in the city.
The leader of the patrol now wandering through these treacherous streets was known as Purberax, and his name was certainly something to be feared amongst the ranks of the resistance. After all, who wouldn't be terrified of, or at least unnerved by, a Toa of Shadow who specialized in the killing of his own kind. He was accompanied by a much larger warrior named Raptrix, a warlord originally from the Southern Continent. Although they weren't the best pair, they were effective nonetheless.
They stopped at their destination: a battered, crumbling apartment building, all of its windows blocked off by large, wooden shutters. Dismissing the rest of their patrol, Raptrix and Purberax entered the building and were quickly upon the first floor; which consisted of a long, thin corridor which led to a short set of stairs which, in turn, led to a wooden door. Purberax and Raptrix headed to the top of the stairs, looking at the door as a dimly-lit Lightstone flickered above them.
With great hesitation, Purberax knocked on the door. Raptrix grumbled behind, and Purberax could understand why. Their assignment was both dangerous, and costly. After a few seconds a voice could be heard from behind the door.
"Who is it? Name yourself and your business."
"My name... is not important,” began Purberax. “Though I, and my companion, identify ourselves as a warriors of the three who rule this world."
"You mean you're lackeys of the Dark Lord, Millennium and Eostra? What brings you to these parts? Soldiers like you are more likely to be shot and stabbed than be welcomed in these streets."
Raptrix spoke up. "We come here with a... proposition for you. Our masters require your talents."
"I see... though what for? Or do you already know the nature of my job."
"We require you services for a special assignment," continued Raptrix. "One that requires the natural skills of one such as yourself."
"I see," said the being behind the door. "Then you know the prices I charge for such missions. My line of work is treacherous, risky, and dangerous all at once, and as such, I always expect to be well rewarded for completing my assignments."
This time, it was Purberax who spoke. "Our masters offer you a total of fifty thousand. No greater, no less."
The being, chuckled. "That's funny. If you truly wanted my abilities on the battlefield, you would be paying me eighty thousand. I accept no less than what I ask for."
"Are you crazy?" roared Raptrix in disbelief. "Eighty thousand is what a single merchant can make 400,000 years! You're pushing your luck too far. Our masters will make sure you..."
"That's... enough, Raptrix," replied Purberax, calm as ever. "Let me rephrase my earlier offer: How about I give you seventy-three thousand for your services; and you fulfil our leaders' missions."
The being muttered something incomprehensible for a few seconds, as if he was considering the proposal. Finally, he spoke again.
"I stick with my earlier price: eighty thousand. The lowest I'll go is seventy nine thousand."
Purberax growled. His patience was now wearing thin. "I offer you a total and final fee of seventy seven thousand for your services, in addition to a decrease on the price on your head."
"What makes you think I want a price deducted from my death?" asked the being from behind the door.
"I like the idea that I'm considered a danger to your Empire, and besides, I like decent challengers to come and fight me every now and then. They keep my skills sharp, and my mind alert. Whatever makes you think I want things to change?"
"Because if you don't," began Purberax. "We're going to increase that price on you by 75%, and I'm sure my masters wouldn't mind me hiring mercenaries such as Nightwatcher to kill you. Face it, you either settle on what you've got, or you loose your life."
There was a long pause.
Then, finally, the sound of protection mechanisms unlocking could be heard from behind the door. Once the clipping and snapping sounds of the defense devices had vanished, the door opened, and out came the tall and powerful form of the famous hunter Janneus, adorned in his pitted and scarred emerald armor.
"Well what are we waiting for," asked the bounty hunter. "I've got a mission to complete, and a reward to collect."
"In due time," added Raptrix. "But first, you’re making a trip with us to the Valley of the Maze."
"For what purpose?" demanded Janneus.
"Why, for our masters to explain your mission to you, as well as to allow you to meet your new... partners."
"Partners?" inquired Janneus in a confused tone.
"Indeed," added Purberax. "We've got a lot to talk about, my friend."
This chapter was written by Varkanax39.
Varkanax strode confidently across the razed village of Tesara, his jet-black armor gleaming as the huge warrior watched soldiers of the Corpse Empire root out surviving Agori and Matoran and brutally slaughter them. The villagers had stood absolutely no chance against the armies of Varkanax, who had led his legions on a surprise attack around the back of the village, while the main Shadow of Ages force had cut down the defenders.
After the resistance was formed against Eostra and the other two entities who ruled alongside her, Tesara had become a base for multiple resistance fighters. Tesara had been given a chance to surrender to the Shadow of Ages, and refused. However, a small group of Agori had escaped the razed city, and taken many of the resistance fighters with them.
Varkanax was not looking forward to telling Eostra Nihiltian he had failed. He had secured Tesera, but failed to capture most of the resistance fighters. Only two Resistance members had been captured, and neither of them were very powerful. One was an Agori, a minor soldier. Varkanax had crushed him, watching as shattered bits of his armor scattered across the ground. The other was a weak Toa, who killed himself rather then let Varkanax read his thoughts. Varkanax let out a malevolent hiss. The resistance may have been suicidal, but it was brave to the point of insanity.
An Aspect of Corpse walked over to Varkanax. "We have rounded up all the Agori and disposed of them," it said in the nasal, emotionless tone common of Corpsians. "They knew nothing."
"Of course not," Varkanax said, switching to the same tongue. It was said that only Elemental Demons and Corpsians could truly utter those words correctly, as the tongues of other beings were not designed to speak such words of pure evil. The only two exceptions were Eostra and the Shadowy One known as Skorpix, who together had created the Corpsian race. "The resistance is not stupid. They knew we would come for them eventually."
Varkanax turned, and issued orders to a small, elite group of Corpsians, mostly Aspects, but with a few Annihilator of Corpse as well. "We will pursue them. They could not have gone far."
Turning, the hulking Elemental Demon led the Aspects and Annihilators away from the destroyed village of Tesara, where hundreds of Matoran and Agori had died because they would not submit to the might of Eostra and Millennium.
Galika, Tryx, Shika, Nalek, and Crystallus were journeying along a narrow chasm, trying to hide from the Corpsian armies. After the razing of Tesara, the remainder of the resistance fighters were forced to flee, realizing that they would be killed if the Shadow of Ages soldiers captured them. Two resistance fighters, Agori villager Invek and Toa warrior Crodak, had been captured and killed after the surrender of Tesara.
"Shadow of Ages soldiers approaching," hissed Galika quietly. "Hundreds. Varkanax and a small force of Corpse soldiers are coming this way."
Nalek cursed. "So Millennium is coming after us. He obviously doesn't want any of the resistance alive to warn the leadership of the resistance about the destruction of Tesera, or the planned attack on Vulcanus."
With the fall of Tesara, Vulcanus was the only place in all of Spherus Magna where the resistance could roam freely. They had spies in Tajun, however, the crime-ridden half-destroyed village was hardly a safe haven. The Valley of the Maze, the Great Jungle, and Roxtus were ruled viciously by Millennium, Eostra Nihiltian, and the Dark Lord respectively, and places no one could turn for help.
During the group's journey to Vulcanus, Nalek and the rest of the team had been led by the famed Toa Hydros following a successful raid on Eostra's libraries of secret knowledge. However, during their escape into the wastelands, they had stumbled into a small desert outpost, forcing Hydros, Nalek, and the rest of the team to kill the guards at the camp in order to prevent them from alerting the Dark Lord.
Knowing that warriors of the Empire of Shadows would be on their way to investigate, Hydros proposed to split up, with himself and two other Toa heading off to the west, intending to circle around and arrive at Vulcanus, whilst Nalek and the rest of the team had agreed to head off in the intended direction. The plan was to leave two sets of separate trails behind in order to confuse the Dark Lord's soldiers, forcing them to split up into smaller, much more manageable groups in order to track them down. As Nalek had anticipated, Hydros and the other two must have already reached Vulcanus at this point.
Tryx and Shika took up defensive positions, while Nalek prepared for the attack with his glowing sword raised. Shika and Galika readied twin Midak Skyblasters that they had taken from the corpses of Shadow of Ages gunmen.
A Copy of Corpse was the first to spot them. He barked a single nasal word to a tall, black-robed Aspect, then fell dead to the ground with a wound from a Midak Skyblaster to his head.
"Idiot!" hissed Nalek at Galika. "You've given away our position!" Corpsians turned as one and saw Nalek's glowing golden armor amid the rocks.
Another Aspect barked an order to a group of Shadow of Ages soldiers. The soldiers began to charge up the cliffs, ready to crush the forces that were trapped at the chasm. But Nalek's forces had one great advantage over those of the Shadow of Ages. They had ranged weapons, while the Shadow of Ages's soldiers were virtually unarmed, save typical spears. A few carried swords made of iron, and there were no ranged weapons in their force.
"All right," said Nalek, turning to his forces. "We go down, but we'll take as many as we can with us. Shika, Galika, and Crystallus, you all wield ranged weapons. As they charge, kill as many as you can before we all perish."
The Shadow of Ages soldiers charged, yelling battle cries that reverberated through the air as the Midak blasts, coupled with Cordak ammo, struck the soldiers dead on, flinging their corpses from the cliffs into the chasms below. "Fire!" Crystallus called as more Shadow of Ages warriors reached the slope's edge. Armor punctures found their mark as Shadow of Ages warriors fell screaming to their deaths.
But still more came, charging up the slopes. Crystallus turned, then was struck by a Corpsian's scythe. As he cried out when the Shredsteel pierced his body, Tryx flung himself at the Copy of Corpse, decapitating it in seconds and flinging its mangled body into the abyss below. Another Corpsian disarmed Shika, and a Shadow of Ages soldier turned and grabbed Galika from the throng. With Crystallus injured and Galika and Shika captured, the rest of the Shadow of Ages were able to climb up the slopes without fear of being shot down by Cordak bullets or Midak blasts.
"Charge." ordered Nalek grimly. This was their last chance. At least one of them needed to survive to warn Hydros of the attack on Tesara, and without Galika and Shika, their task would be doubly as dangerous.
Nalek and the remainder of his team charged into the fray, Tryx cutting down Shadow of Ages soldiers like they were bothersome insectoid Rahi. Nalek dodged a blow from a Corpsian, then cut down another Shadow of Ages warrior. The Corpse lord who held Shika was inches away, and Nalek dodged a blow from his scythe and cut down another Shadow warrior before whipping around and facing the black-robed Corpsian.
Blocking a blow, he grabbed Shika from his grasp and pulled her over the edge of the chasm. As he fell, the Corpsian lashed out with his scythe, cutting a deep wound in his side. Nalek winced as he impacted on a ledge far below the one he and Tryx had been trapped on. He and Shika clung on desperately, but he could not support them both and they fell into the chasm below until they landed on the ground below.
"Run!" he yelled to Shika. "Tryx, Crystallus, and Galika will hold them off! We need to warn Hydros!"
But as they ran, a thought nagged at him. Galika had seen another being with the Shadow warriors and the Copies of Corpse.
Where was Varkanax?
Nightwatcher peered through the shadows, watching as Shika and Nalek turned and fled from the Shadow of Ages warriors.
He had been tracking the Toa until they had split up. He had followed the group led by Nalek, realizing that he was walking into a Shadow of Ages trap. He had watched the battle and seen the capture of Galika and Shika, and Nalek's and Shika's desperate escape from the Corpse lord. Now, he saw another being, Varkanax, following the beings, and Nightwatcher pitied them.
I'll watch Varkanax crush these Toa, and if he fails, I'll finish them off. If he succeeds, I'll be off to Vulcanus.
Nightwatcher absolutely did not care who lived or died in this conflict.
Let the Toa fight the Dark Empire, and the Dark Empire fight the Toa. I alone will survive unscathed, and with a considerably larger amount of widgets.
Nightwatcher followed them like a shadow, proving his name was well-earned.
And far, far more power than anyone has ever dreamed of.
Tryx, Crystallus, and Galika formed a triangle, trying to hold of the oncoming Corpsians and Shadow of Ages soldiers, but it was becoming evident that they were fighting a losing battle, as they were gradually getting surrounded.
Crystallus yelled over the sounds of the conflict. "I don't think we can hold out much longer!"
Galika ducked under a blade swipe from a Corpsian, and slashed him across his face. "We have to rendezvous with Hydros!"
About five bio away, a Shadow of Ages soldier stood on a rock, armed with a plasma launcher. He looked through the scope, and aimed at Tryx, who was demolishing several Corpsians. The Makuta punched a hole in the chest armor of a Shadow of Ages soldier, and at the same time, he flung a Corpsian into a very sharp rock.
He turned around to see a bolt of plasma hurtling toward him, but it was too late. The Makuta screamed in agony as the plasma hit, almost immediately incinerating his armor. When the smoke cleared, there was no sign Tryx had ever stood there.
Crystallus tried creating ice barriers, but each time he did, they were shattered by Corpsians, or Shadow of Ages soldiers' weapons.
The Toa of Ice swung his blade, decapitating a Corpsian. "Galika, I can't hold them off much longer, get out of here! Save yourself!"
But, the message fell deaf on the Toa of Water's ears, as she had already been overwhelmed by Dark Empire soldiers, and knocked unconscious.
Crystallus kicked a Corpsian off of him, and sighed. "Well, I guess it's up to me then — AUGH!"
He doubled over in pain, after a Shadow of Ages soldier slashed him across his stomach, and crumpled to the ground. He braced himself for a hit, and when it came, unconsciousness was a blessing.
Two Shadow of Ages soldiers, each bearing the unconscious forms of Galika and Crystallus, trudged through the sand of the Wastelands surrounding Roxtus; the Dark Lord's"current base of operations.
The soldier carrying Galika peered through the mist. "Going to this place always gives me the creeps."
The soldier carrying Crystallus muttered to himself. "Me too, what's up with all the mist?"
The other soldier shrugged, almost dropping Galika. "How would I know?"
Eventually, they reached the skull-like structure of the city, and it's shadowy entrance held no welcome. They walked in, and took a moment to look around. Apparently, the Dark Lord had done major renovating inside the massive city, as there was no sign Skrall had ever resided there. The skeletal forms of the Empire of Shadows' soldiers could be seen scurrying here and there, either creating new war machines or gathering for a siege. The city was extremely advanced, as alien technology could be seen everywhere, while on the other hand it was barbaric, as masks and other trophies of conquest could be seen adorning the walls.
They continued walking, and eventually reached large, Protosteel doors, with the symbol of the Dark Empire on it, and guards stood on either side of it.
They crossed their weapons, barring the two Shadow of Ages soldiers from entering. "Halt! Who dares enter the realm of the Dark Lord?"
The Shadow of Ages soldiers promptly answered. "We are soldiers of Millennium, and we have two Toa captives." They showed the guards the unconscious forms of Galika and Crystallus.
The guards lowered their weapons. "Alright, you may enter."
The metallic door opened, and a dark room illuminated by dark red Lightstones could be seen. The two soldiers walked in, dragging the Toa behind them. Their hearts froze with fear, as two blood-red eyes opened.
"What is your business in my realm?"
One of the soldiers gulped audibly. "W-we have two captive T-Toa, my lord."
The ghost of a smile appeared on the Dark Lord's lips. "Excellent; now, I have no further use for you..."
Before they had time to react, they felt their heartlights shutting down, and in seconds, they were dead.
He called to two Imperial soldiers. "Clean this up, I cannot abide a mess in my throne room. Also, take these two Toa to the prison cells."
The soldiers nodded, and went to their tasks, quickly, as they knew that failure to do so would be seen as incompetence, and incompetence would be met with great punishment. Once they were finished, they nodded to their master, and left.
Once they were out, the Dark Lord leaned back in his black throne.
Millennium and Eostra think they have power, but they are wrong, I am ultimate power. Soon I will have no further use for them, and they will be dealt with, and I alone shall rule...
Far away to the south, in the village of Vulcanus, Raanu strode down one of the empty streets of his tribe's settlement. Alongside him stood the powerful form of Toa Hydros, his battle-scarred armor gleaming dully in the orange light of the evening. Raanu knew who he was, though that didn't mean he was happy to see him.
"Why should I let your kind take root here?” he demanded. “Why should I put my people in danger by letting you give Vulcanus unwanted attention? We're under enough pressure as it is."
Hydros sighed. He was never the best at negotiating, and Raanu was a remarkably stubborn person when it came to decisions. Because of that, it would require extra effort and patience to sway him. However, he could understand the reasons behind the Fire Agori’s worry. After the Dark Empire had taken over, the Fire Tribe had become an important factor in the mass production of weapons and other tools due to the skill the fire villagers expressed in the art.
Several of the best mask makers, crafters, and weapons-smiths had been forced to leave their homes and travel to Vulcanus in order to aid in the work there. Trade with Iconox had been left open, and convoys carrying a combination of Exsidian and Protosteel would enter the village regularly. Raanu himself had retained command over the Fire Tribe, though everyone knew that he lacked any real control over the tribe, as his decisions were often "recommended" to him by members of the Dark Empire.
Nevertheless, he remained the village's elder, and he would lead the Agori and Matoran as best he could.
Finally, Hydros spoke again. "Look, I know... It's not easy being a leader. Trust me, I've had my fair share of leading groups against power-hungry tyrants, though that's all the past, and this is the present. The resistance would really appreciate it if you lent us any form of shelter here in your village. I am certain people such as Ixtil and Conqueror would be eternally grateful for your help. I-"
"You expect me to give into a few charming words," snapped Raanu. "You are greatly misguided. My people are already at risk by you and your two companions being here in the first place,"
Raanu sighed as he pointed at Hydros' two Toa companions, Lesovikk and Bomonga. Raanu turned, his eyes gleaming like a furious explosion, and slowly started walking away.
Hydros was losing his patience. If his discussions with Raanu did not reach a suitable conclusion by the time Nalek and the others got here, then by the Great Beings, he prayed that the Dark Empire would not find them here.
Suddenly a thought came to Hydros' mind, a thought that could possibly turn the tables in this debate.
"Wait," Hydros called out to Raanu.
The Agori stopped dead in his tracks and turned his head.
"What if we organize residence in the underground tunnels of Iron Canyon? I'm sure the resistance can expand them enough for us to make a base in it. And from that point on, during the periods that the Dark Empire convoys aren't occupying Vulcanus, my warriors can walk freely inside the village until our scouts report enemies headed this way."
Raanu turned to face Hydros, took three strides towards him and looked the Toa dead in the eye. There was a long pause before he spoke again.
"Very well," he said in a cold tone. "I will approve of this... little arrangement, though be warned, Hydros. If the Empire's forces find you here, it will be your people who suffer, not mine."
Hydros knew this would be a tricky situation to live with, but he knew it wasn't going to get any better. With a heavy heart, he voiced his final three words on the matter.
"It's a deal."
"Good," muttered Raanu. "Now when are your other warriors going to arrive?"
"Oh, you mean Nalek and his companions," inquired Hydros. "They'll be here before dawn. I doubt they'll have ran into too much trouble on a mission as easy as this."
Korzor sat in a damp cell. For any resistance fighter who lacked a plan, this would be a dreadful situation. Though Korzor was sharper than most warriors of his kind, and as a result, was prepared for every eventuality. He was a member of the Elite Warrior class, and therefore he was one of the most powerful Skrall within their ranks, and because of that, one of the most respected Skrall still alive.
Korzor looked at his Corpsian guard, who stared coldly at him from the other side of his cell, any emotions having been deprived from its face. Korzor was going to have to change this.
"What are you looking at?" he asked.
The Corpsian didn't reply.
"Answer me, and turn that hollow shell you call a head away from me; the sheer magnitude of its ugliness is driving me mad!"
Like before, the Corpsian didn't reply.
Korzor chuckled before he changed his mood. "You know, I once knew an Agori just like you. He was from Iconox, I believe, and he ended up in a cell in Roxtus one day, where he betrayed his whole species just to save his own backside. He expected the world to go ‘round the way he wanted, when he never knew how the future would play out for him, which is why..."
Korzor slowly opened a small compartment in armor around his waist, and pulled out a small, coin-sized disc. Abruptly, he lunged at his guard, the disc skidding across the ground and through the gap in-between his cell's bars. It hit the Corpsian's foot, prompting the creature to stare down and look at the coin in confusion.
To its surprise, a small bulb built into the device was flashing, and before the Corpsian could realize what was going, the disc detonated, melting the cell door and sending the Corpsian reeling backwards.
Korzor leapt out of his prison and wrestled the guard's sword from his grip. "Which is why you have to die," whispered Korzor calmly.
The Skrall lowered the blade, and in that one instant, ensured his jailer would never rise again. He sprinted down the corridor, ignoring the pleas of fellow cellmates to free them. All that mattered was what was in the lower depths of this fortress, in its basement. Finally, he reached a large, bolted door. Korzor eyed it for a second, and recognized its lock, one which required a series of codes to be unlocked. He began tampering with the mechanism, even as the footsteps of Corpsian guards sounded closer in his direction.
Korzor knew he had to be careful. This lock was one of the finest in existence, having originally been discovered by the Dark Lord in the Great Being's hidden laboratory in Tajun. If Korzor made one mistake in trying to unlock the device, he knew all the gears and mechanisms would melt within in it, preventing all entry into the chamber.
The footsteps grew louder.
Korzor tampered with the gears for a few more seconds until…
"Yes," he whispered to himself.
The lock opened, and Korzor dashed inside. He closed the door behind him, and the lock immediately reactivated itself and generated a random new code as Corpsian warriors hammered their claws on the door.
Korzor turned around, and his jaw dropped in shock. For there, right in front of him, beyond the platform he was standing on, was a massive, uncompleted, replica of the robotic head of the gigantic robot that had challenged Mata Nui approximately 100 years ago, suspended above a huge bottomless pit. The leaders of the resistance had named the mind that controlled the robot "Teridax" back in the day.
The upper half of the head was uncompleted, allowing Korzor to stare at the head's inner contents. All he saw was a series of gears and mechanisms connecting to a large circular dome. Korzor assumed that the device would act as the core processor of the robot. Suddenly, Korzor heard two voices echo throughout the massive chamber, prompting Korzor to retreat into the shadows.
Two figures strode past him, one an engineer of the Veiled One Empire, the other none other than Merodos himself.
"The processor's motor functions still appear to be acting up," began the engineer. "If we attach the head to the rest of it's behemoth of a body, it will suffer severe malfunctions to the point of total collapse."
"We still have a schedule," replied Merodos calmly. "We need to finish this project before the Dark Lord comes to retrieves it and shuts us down. We're running out of time."
"Then get some more," snapped the engineer, "If the robot is fully activated and the motors in its cranium fail, it may rebel and gain independence. So I suggest you go to your master and ask him to expand our time slot."
Merodos didn't speak. Instead, he responded by grabbing the engineer by the neck, slamming him against the nearby wall, and then suspending him over the platform they were standing on. The engineer whimpered in terror, flapping his limbs uselessly as he tried to avoid falling.
"Now you really shouldn't talk like that," Merodos chuckled. "Otherwise, I may just accidentally loosen my grip on your neck, and accidentally watch you fall to the bottom of this pit to your death. Now, this is what you're going to do: You're going to fix this "motor function" problem, you're going to finish this sad, little face, and then you're going to watch it kill everything and everyone. Is that too much to ask of you?"
"N-no sir,” spluttered the engineer, his words reeking with fear. “I will increase our working efforts by triple of what it is now. The robot will then be completed on the assigned time to not only conquer Spherus Magna, but the countless worlds beyond it!"
"Good," answered Merodos coldly. "Now, get back to work!"
Merodos lifted the engineer high in the air, and threw him hard onto the dull, metal platform. The engineer swiftly climbed to his feet, and fearfully ran off to return to his work.
Merodos sighed light, a smile creasing across his face. "I really do love my job," he said as he walked off while his insane laughter echoed through the chamber, leaving a worried Korzor to ponder on what Merodos and his dark masters had in store for the rest of Spherus Magna.
Jareroden trudged through a blizzard in the Northern Frost, with about a hundred or so resistance soldiers behind him. He had ran through his plan at least seven times in his head: they were to intercept Treix's forces while they assaulted a Dark Empire base captured by the resistance, then head off into the Black Spike Mountains.
He climbed over a large hill, and surveyed the scene before him: hundreds of Dark Empire soldiers, with assorted war machines, assaulting a fortress about the size of Vulcanus, with resistance fighters fighting bravely against them.
The Toa had hoped they could arrive at the fortress before Treix, so they could rest, and resupply, but apparently, his hopes were denied.
Jareroden turned to the resistance soldiers. "Alright, soldiers, we have to get down there, fast, or else our forces down in that fortress are doomed. Now, for victory, for freedom!"
All the resistance soldiers gave a hearty cheer, raised their weapons, and charged down the hill. Jareroden's forces raced down the hill, eventually reaching the foot of it.
Jareroden cut the line of a catapult, making it collapse on itself, killing several of the skeletal Empire of Shadows soldiers.
The Toa spotted Treix through the mist, and raced at him, almost slashing him, had the Makuta not leapt back just in time.
The Makuta chuckled. "Well, well, well, Toa Jareroden, one of the leaders of the resistance, this was most...unexpected, but, you must die either way."
Treix activated his chainsaw, and with a roar of rage, charged at Jareroden. The Toa leapt up over Treix, and kicked him in the back, sending his enemy stumbling forward.
The Makuta immediately regained his composure, and slapped Jareroden across his face, hard. "You fool! You seriously expect to win this battle? This war? Well, you are sadly mistaken."
Jareroden dodged away just in time before Treix bludgeoned him. "You're wrong, Makuta, we will win, and freedom will be restored to this world, and your Dark Empire will be destroyed."
Treix grabbed Jareroden's foot, and slung him into a nearby rock, almost splitting the rock in two. Jareroden slumped to the icy ground, half conscious. He blinked, and looked up to see Treix looming over him, saw raised. "Now, Toa, your annoyance will end, permanently."
Jareroden's eyes widened, as time seemed to slow down as the saw descended. The Toa flung his blade upward, and heard the sound of ripping armor when it hit. Jareroden opened one eye, and saw his blade, sticking right through Treix's stomach area. Jareroden pressed a button on the hilt, and electricity flowed through the blade. Treix screamed in agony, and fell back.
Jareroden smiled. "Over twenty thousand years, and this blade is as good as ever."
Treix extracted himself from the snow, clutching his abdomen so his Antidermis essence would not flow out. "Toa,” he spat. “So foolish to attack a Makuta..."
Treix spread his wings, and flew through the air, shooting laser vision at Jareroden. Jareroden dodged most of the blasts, and activated his Mask power, sending one blast slamming back into Treix's chest. The Makuta spiralled through the air, crashing into the snow-covered ground. He got up, and smiled ruefully at his scorched chest plate. "Tsk, tsk, tsk, so persistent. Let's take this to the next level, shall we?"
Treix launched a blast of chain lightning at Jareroden, who did a back flip, causing the bolt to miss, and electrify several Corpsians. The Makuta snarled in anger, and fired a shot from his Nynrah Ghost Blaster at Jareroden, who barely evaded. The Toa of Psionics turned his head, and used his telekinesis to lift a catapult, and hurl it at Treix. The wooden structure slammed into the Makuta, disorienting him.
Jareroden chuckled, and started to circle Treix. "What's wrong, scum, getting rusty?"
Treix growled. "Don't push your luck, Toa."
Jareroden leapt above Treix's head, and slashed his wings, rendering them useless. Treix spun, and dug his claws into Jareroden's chest. The Toa of Psionics gave an agonized yelp, and fell face-first into the snow.
Treix put his foot on Jareroden's back. "What's the matter, Jareroden? No clever retorts? No rambling on about how your resistance will win? Very well, I suppose you must die then. It will be enjoyable taking the pleasure away from Benjarmin."
At the mere mention of his hated enemy's name, Jareroden gave a muffled yell of rage, and unleashed a telekinetic blast, sending Treix flying several kio into the air. When he eventually slammed into the snow-covered ground, he found Jareroden's blade at his neck.
Jareroden's former mood had deserted him, and his face was stone cold. "That's impossible; he's dead."
Treix chuckled. "Oh no, you're far from correct; he's as alive as you are."
The Toa pressed his blade to Treix's throat, partially piercing it. "Where is he?"
Treix looked into Jareroden's eyes, cunningly. "Now, why exactly would I tell you?"
Jareroden pressed even harder on Treix's throat. "Tell me, or you might lose your head."
Treix's eyes narrowed. "Fine, he's in a Dark Empire base far into the Black Spike Mountains. But now..."
Treix launched the blast of shadow he had been charging up, sending Jareroden flying through an ice wall, and skidding to the edge of a cliff.
The Makuta walked up to his prone enemy, and picked him up by the throat. "I have had just about enough of you!"
Jareroden kicked Treix in the stomach, making the Makuta slacken his grip on him just enough so that he could squeeze out. Jareroden clashed his blade against Treix's, causing a clang to ring through the air and for sparks to fly through the air. Jareroden use telekinesis to crush Treix's right arm and chainsaw. He yelled out in pain, and fell backward, and almost off the cliff.
He spat at Jareroden. "I thought Toa don't kill."
Jareroden held his blade to Treix's forehead. "The old rules don't apply anymore, Makuta. Now, it's kill to survive."
Treix leapt up, and slammed his fist into Jareroden's jaw. Jareroden gave a groan, and stumbled back, as Treix pounced. In a wild desperation, the Toa swung his blade, knocking Treix away, and to the edge of the cliff. Jareroden would never know why he reached out for Treix. Maybe he wanted to save him, or maybe he just wanted to make sure he was dead, but either way, he was too late. Treix tumbled into the abyss, but he couldn't fly out, as Jareroden had severed his wings, and he was too weary to regenerate them.
Treix gave a final wail of dismay as he tumbled into the darkness. Jareroden stood there for some time, watching. Eventually, he turned away, and arrived back at the battlefield, to see the resistance had won. Jareroden walked to the commander of the fortress, a Toa of Iron named Zercks.
Zercks clanked his fist against Jareroden's. "Good work, Jareroden. After you defeated Treix, their forces surrendered, and we were easily ably to slay all of them."
Jareroden put his hands behind his back. "Good, now, I must go off into the Black Spike Mountains."
Zercks looked at him, confused. "Why?"
Jareroden answered quickly. "Treix told me Benjarmin was in a fortress in the mountains."
Zercks sighed. He, along with almost everyone else in the resistance, knew Jareroden had a bitter rivalry with Benjarmin. After the destruction of the Matoran Universe, everyone assumed that the Makuta of Tersvranem had perished in the chaos. With Treix's revelation though, it would seem he had survived, and had allied himself with the Dark Empire.
Zercks clasped his hand to his head. "Jareroden, you have a commitment to the resistance; you can't go chasing rumors."
Jareroden clasped his blade even tighter. "I have to try. I promised myself tens of thousands of years ago I'd kill him."
The Toa of Iron sighed once again. "Fine. If you're so intent on killing him, I can't stop you."
Jareroden signalled to the remainder of his squad. "Alright, were to head to the Black Spike Mountains immediately." He spoke to himself under his breath. "I have a score to settle with Benjarmin."
Zercks watched them march off, and thought to himself. He's so intent on killing Benjarmin. How can he know if he tries, it could be his downfall?
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
Janneus paced back and forth inside a small room. Connected to this room was a large door. Behind him stood Purberax and Raptrix; warriors of the Dark Empire.
"Can we get on with this already?" hissed the mercenary. “My level of patiences are exceedingly low at the moment.
Raptrix growled nastily at Janneus. He had experienced just about enough of him during their journey to the Valley of the Maze, and now his patience was wearing thin.
Purberax spoke up. "We can, and will gladly, my friend. However, that will only ever occur after our masters have finished negotiating with their new ally."
Janneus let a laugh escape his lips, despite the lack of any comical meaning in Purberax's words. "They may be your masters, Toa, but they're not mine. My patience is wearing off, and people usually end up dead when that happens."
With that, Janneus stormed passed Purberax and Raptrix and burst through the nearby door, prompting the two to follow after him in protest. As soon as Janneus entered the next room, he stopped dead in his tracks. For now he stood in the central chamber of the Valley of the Maze, the Great Beings' laboratory, but that didn't seem to matter to him.
What mattered was the towering behemoth of a being standing in the center of the chamber, surrounded by Millennium, Eostra, and the Dark Lord. They turned to face Janneus, and after a second, disregarded him and returned to their discussions as if the bounty hunter was nothing more than a lonely, old Ussal crab.
"We insist you combine your forces with ours," said Millennium. "With your power and resources in our hands, the rebellion will fall before us, allowing our order to be restored."
The being whispered something incomprehensible before laughing to himself aloud. "I care nothing for the resistance. They pose no threat to me, or my empire. They are little more than Scarabax insects scuttling around my feet."
The Dark Lord spoke in his chilling voice. "But they will become a problem for you. You've been sending your warriors on missions to attack their hideouts merely for sport for decades now. Because of that, they will target you, and they will kill you."
"Then I'll prepare my forces for the upcoming battle," snapped the entity.
"That being an even better reason for you joining us. The Dark Empire could back up your armies," added Eostra.
"Face it, you either with us, or against us," continued Millennium. "If you refuse this opportunity, well... I'm sure you wouldn't mind if you allowed my agents to leak information about the strengths and weaknesses of your fortresses to the resistance."
The being stared at the three rulers for only a few seconds before he made his mind up. "Very well, I'm with you... not to say that I'm happy about it."
"Good," replied Millennium. "But before you go, take these design plans with you, they may prove useful if you wish to create these war machines."
The being snatched the parchment from Millennium’s hand and eyed it for a second. "Odina Drones?" he inquired.
"Yes, my friend. Robotic warriors of great power,” answered the Dark Lord. “We found the schematics for them in the ruins of an abandoned Dark Hunter base, indicating the Shadowed One had planned to use them to combat us. That is, of course, before we wiped him and his allies out entirely.”
The being eyed the three dark lords menacingly, grunted, and then walked out of the chamber, passing Janneus, Puberax, and Raptrix on the way out.
"What in the name of Mata Nui was that colossal?!" demand Janneus.
"The Element Lord of Technology," replied Purberax. "A being we've been trying to get onto our side for a very long time. So, my masters, it would seem your negotiations were successful?"
Millennium shot a fear-inspiring glance at Purberax, before walking up a flight of stairs to sit down on a large, ornate throne. Since his departure from Tajun, the Valley of the Maze had become his personal palace and stronghold.
The Shadow of Ages rattled his claw against his chair’s armrests. “The Lord of Technology has indeed submitted to us; and he and his armies will prove useful pawns in our plans for the resistance. But alas, that is not why I have summoned you. Is this the bounty hunter we have requested for?"
"Yes, your greatness," answered Raptrix. "We found him in Tajun as you said we would."
"Excellent," said Eostra. "Millennium, I think it is time we bring in Janneus' companions for his assignment."
Millennium nodded, and with a wave of his hand, dismissed Purberax and Raptrix. He then slammed his fist down on the arm of his throne, and suddenly, a set of twin doors opened, allowing four beings to walk through. Each was well armed, pitted with numerous battle scars, and utterly terrifying in their own respects. Janneus knew them as his chief rivals in the bounty hunting underworld, and each were considered in their own right some of the greatest killers on all of Spherus Magna.
He knew their names too. The first one Janneus had seen enter the room was the fearsome reptilian creature known as Proto-Beast, an ex-Dark Hunter who had mysteriously disappeared for a few centuries, before reappearing during the madness of Teridax's reign, during which he had entered the bounty hunting business.
The next being who came forward was the warrior codenamed Lethal, another former Dark Hunter of great ruthlessness and power, who had gained his universal reputation as the leader of the renowned mercenary band known as the Hunters' Brigade. A master assassin and killer, he was one of the last surviving members of the Brigade known to be active.
After him came the famous hunter Raduke, an honorable and experienced warrior of the nearly extinct Lepidian species, a fact which only served to add to his already compelling aura of mystery. He was known as talented thief, and his skills had led him to build up a respectable reputation.
The last being to pass through the door was the treacherous Zeverek known as Skorr, a bounty hunter renowned for his double-crossing nature and for his reliance on his state of the art weaponry. Famous for his mighty greed and corruption, yet capable skills and ruthlessness, Skorr had become one of the most effective mercenaries in world.
The bounty hunters strode into the center of the chamber, their faces expressing no fear towards the leaders of the Dark Empire. If a little reluctantly; Janneus joined the four in the center of the room. Millennium gazed at them for a second before noting a problem.
"Where's Nightwatcher, Eostra? You promised to have him as the leader of our bounty hunter team."
"There was a... complication," she added. "Important information was stolen from my archives by a group of rebels led by Toa Nalek and Hydros. I sent Nightwatcher to aid my forces in recovering that information after they razed Tesara."
Millennium frowned. "Did you have Varkanax amongst this legion of yours?"
"I believe so. He was the leader of our strike force against the jungle village."
"Then I believe there is no need for Nightwatcher to be among them. His services are more valuable here."
"It's too late now, Nightwatcher has already gone to aid Varkanax and retrieve his reward. He may be up for hire again in maybe a week or so. You know what he's like... so calculating, so scheming."
“Can we not hire Evuk instead? Is he not available?”
“Regrettably, that is case. He has signed up with the resistance, and I suspect he will remain in their employ for the rest of his career. I...”
Eostra's words were suddenly interrupted by a blast of lightning focused up at the dome-like ceiling, the sparks and flares dancing across its smooth surface in a violent manner. Several guards on the higher platforms were instantly electrocuted and perished. When the beam of energy abruptly ended, Proto-Beast lowered his clawed arm to his side.
Lethal decided it was his turn to speak. "If we can get back to business, your majesties, what would you like us to do?"
The Dark Lord strode to the center of the chamber to confront the hunters, his dark cape never exposing even a trace of his true form. Once he was still, he spoke, and instantly, the bounty hunters felt the voice of death whisper down their spine.
"The resistance has proven to be a great annoyance to our plans in recent years. The time has come for them to be permanently eradicated. They have been very clever when it comes to avoiding our spies from tracking them. Every scrap of information is now valuable to us. Even those wild rumors whispered by the Bone Hunters are useful to us."
"What's the pay?" asked Raduke in a bitter tone. These fellow bounty hunters were not the sort he would ever associate himself with, meaning the reward would have to be great if the Empire wished to receive his assistance.
"The Empire will pay a total of forty thousand Widgets for your collective services, which will be split fairly amongst you once and only when you have completed the mission. Essentially, if you succeed, you will be paid eight thousand each."
Janneus smiled. If Purberax and Raptrix kept their mouths shut, he knew he would be getting an extra seventy-seven thousand reward, which they had originally offered to him. No doubt they would forget the whole payment ordeal until Janneus himself reminded them.
"You all will be teamed together for this mission, as this mission is of the utmost importance to us, so we would prefer it if you didn’t try kill each other. Since Nightwatcher is not present to lead your group, we have selected Lethal to lead your team."
Skorr grunted silently in annoyance. He and Lethal were old rivals from their past associations with the Hunters’ Brigade, meaning that this mission would be a particularly painful one if he had to submit to Lethal's orders. Still, the payment was too great to refuse, so Skorr decided not to voice his displeasure.
The Dark Lord continued his speech. "In addition, I, and my fellow rulers, have assigned you an extra warrior to aid you, who will represent the Dark Empire. His name is Shadowhawk."
At that point, a figure emerged from the shadows and walked to stand beside the Dark Lord. His very posture radiated with power.
Proto-Beast laughed. "You've failed to answer one question, though: What exactly is our mission? You don't expect us to go running around killing people, as fun as that sounds, without any goals, do you?"
The Dark Lord let the ghost of a laugh echo throughout the spacious chamber; and when he spoke again, his words vaguely echoed back to the same ones Trinuma had said to Vezon.
"No. No, I do not. Your mission is to attack and cripple the resistance itself at its weakest point, and this is how you're going to do it."
Gurren jumped away from Skorpix's Shadow Hand and stabbed out at the Elemental Prince. Skorpix reared up on two legs, and slashed his sword across Gurren's side. Gurren winced in pain and blocked Skorpix's next strike.
Skorpix saw a green blur out of the corner of his eye and whirled around. Rando landed on top of the Elemental Prince and smashed his blade down hard on Skorpix's head. Gurren leapt at Skorpix again, spearing the dark one through his wing.
Skorpix roared in pain and smashed his undamaged wing against Gurren, flinging the Toa to the ground. Gurren blocked his next blow, and the Elemental snarled in frustration. Rando stabbed his sword through Skorpix's side. Skorpix whipped around, his eyes blazing in pain and fury, and Rando knew he had made a potentially fatal mistake. Skorpix's savage teeth tore him apart, and Rando fell, dying, to the ground.
Gurren stabbed outward wildly, but was unable to hit the Elemental. Skorpix flicked his blade from his hands the way a Makuta would swat a bothersome Rahi, and speared the Toa through the shoulder. Gurren raised his other hand, but Skorpix raised his other blade and skewered Gurren's arm to the end of the sword. Gurren winced in horror and pain, and Skorpix smiled darkly.
"I could kill you both, right now." Skorpix said. "But I think it would be more satisfying to let you live, wounded horribly. It will show how futile the power of the resistance is compared to the might of our Empire."
"You'll...never...win..." Gurren managed to get out, but his words were hesitant and faltering.
Skorpix smiled again. "Is that so, little Toa? There will be battles, there will be wars, and there will be cataclysms, but when the apocalypse is over, the Dark Empire will still be standing, and your puny, insignificant little resistance will be nothing but a small, half-remembered blight on our history! Remember that."
Gurren tried to stand, but Skorpix slapped him across his face and he slipped into unconsciousness. Tenork flung himself at Skorpix, and the Elemental Prince cut him down with a single strike from his blade. It was not a fatal wound, but it was still serious. Neocrax whirled around and speared the Elemental through the side, where Rando had injured him. Skorpix stared at Neocrax hard, and a Shadow Hand flung him to the ground.
Neocrax stood up, twirling his daggers. "Your powers of shadow have no effect on me."
Skorpix hissed evilly and tore a deep gouge in Neocrax's armor. The Makuta whipped around and saw Skorpix's sword stabbed through his hand.
"So many ways to kill, but only one Makuta," Skorpix mused, raising his second sword above his head. Neocrax suddenly unleashed a large blast of power, flung directly into Skorpix's face. The Elemental snarled, in rage more than pain, and stabbed his sword out at Neocrax, but the Makuta had vanished. Skorpix saw Tenork, his body covered in scars, grab the wounded Makuta and race away into the undergrowth.
Skorpix let them go. He knew they would never make it alive to the resistance's base alive in Atero. Besides, he still had plenty of other resistance warriors to slay as well, and he still had these two Toa to return to Eostra Nihilitian.
Soon, Skorpix thought. Soon we will attack Atero. And their insignificant resistance shall crumble before our might.
Galika opened her eyes. She was in a cell, with Crystallus and a particularly foul smelling corpse of a Skrall. She tried to stand up, only to find that her leg had been injured in the previous battle, preventing her from standing up.
She crawled over to Crystallus, and shook him awake. "Pssst! Crystallus, wake up!"
Her voice was barely more than a whisper, as she didn't want to alert the guards, but apparently it was loud enough to wake Crystallus. "Ugh, my aching head."
Galika's voice was urgent. "Shhh, keep your voice down. There are Imperial guards right down the hall."
Crystallus nodded grimly. "Do you think we could use our elemental powers to break free?"
Galika frowned. "That might be a problem."
Crystallus tilted his head, confused. "How?"
Galika pointed to bracelets around their wrists. "These bracelets have elemental inhibitors, making it impossible to access our powers while their on."
Crystallus sighed. "Let me guess: they confiscated our weapons too?"
Galika nodded. "Correct."
The Toa of Ice sat down miserably. "So, now what?"
Galika sat down next to him. "Until help arrives, we wait."
Crystallus sat bolt upright. "What?"
The Toa of Water sighed. "Look, there is thousands of Imperial soldiers in this city; there's no way we could defeat them all. So, until someone rescues us, we're stuck here."
Just then, a guard opened the door, and grabbed Crystallus by the arm. "You two, come with us."
Crystallus squirmed in the guard's grip. "Hey! Where are you taking us?"
The guard smiled wickedly. "Interrogation."
Sovnoron strode across the deck of a warship forged from Protosteel, with the banner of the Dark Empire flying at the mast. He had been told by the Dark Lord that there was a resistance base on a small island in the Great Sea, and he had told Sovnoron to destroy it. He had, of course, accepted, knowing that earning the Dark Lord's wrath for disobeying would be quite... undesirable.
He turned to the being at the wheel, a tall, jet-black Corpsian. "Helmsman, how far from the island?"
The Corpsian kept his unblinking eyes set towards the eastern horizon. "My estimate, seventeen nautical miles."
Sovnoron chuckled. "Good, we should get there within the hour."
He turned to two Empire of Shadows soldiers, and barked out orders. "You two, alert the soldiers below deck to prepare the cannons."
The two soldiers nodded, and went to their duties. Sovnoron turned away, and walked to his cabin. He shut the metal doors behind him, and activated a holoprojector.
The Dark Lord's image appeared on the screen. "Ah, Sovnoron, what news?"
Sovnoron cleared his throat. "Master, we are right on schedule. We most likely should arrive within the hour."
The Dark Lord clasped his hands. "Good, good, I expect another report once the battle is over. Ending transmission."
The image fizzled out, and was cut off. Sovnoron reclined in his chair, and closed his eyes. He would wait until the time came.
About half an hour later, a knock sounded on his door. "Lord Sovnoron, it is time."
Sovnoron stood up, grabbed his machete, and walked out the door, without speaking a word to the servant. He walked out into the gathering night, and looked to his left and right, and saw his two other ships along side him. Even above deck, he could hear the clamor of the entire army preparing for an all out assault. He saw the approaching coast of a small island that was mainly covered by a dense jungle.
He turned around, and climbed to the crew's nest of the ship, pushing a nearby soldier off the deck to a fatal fall.
"Now, PREPARE FOR BATTLE!"
Meanwhile, in the wastelands of Spherus Magna, a band of bounty hunters strode through the region of Sandray Canyon in the shimmering night. After their meeting with the leaders of the Dark Empire, the group had journeyed to Tajun to resupply before continuing their mission.
The leader of the group, Lethal, strode with confidence through the canyon. After he and his companions had accepted the mission at hand, Eostra had revealed in hushed tones the location of the resistance's headquarters, Atero. Under normal circumstances, no one would have known the location of the resistance's base, though through the information passed on by a spy within the resistance's ranks, the Dark Empire had learned of the location of their base.
With a little help from a battered, old Skrall warrior named Branar, Lethal and his team now knew the location Atero. Suddenly, Proto-Beast reared his head up, his senses on full alert.
"What's that smell?" He inquired.
Lethal and the others took a moment to inhale the aura of the canyon, and they knew they didn't need Proto-Beast's keen senses to smell that horrid scent.
"Ugh! That’s disgusting," roared Janneus.
"Smells like a corpse to me," added Raduke. "Proto-Beast, can you tell us in which direction the scent is coming from?"
Proto-Beast nodded, and inhaled the air. After a minute, he raised his clawed arm, and point to the eastern section of the canyon.
"Over there, I believe," he said.
"Someone should take a look," said Lethal. "Perhaps we should..."
Before Lethal could finish his sentence, Skorr soared into the air, and passed by the warriors at a stunning speed. Using his powerful wing blades, he flew towards the direction Proto-Beast had indicated, before angling his wings for a landing. After a moment he called back.
"I think you may want to take a look at this."
The mercenaries charged forward, expecting to see something revolting or utterly disgusting to be in front of Skorr. When they reached the Zeverek, they saw what they had imagined, but not in the way they had expected. Because there, lying in a large cave carved in the face of Sandray Canyon, was a dead Skopio, its organic body already decaying whilst its powerful legs lay spread out across the sand.
"A Skopio?" inquired Janneus. "What is it doing here? And how did anything have the power to kill it?"
Shadowhawk and Raduke strode forward, standing right in front of its jagged mouth.
"It would appear the creature was entering its old age," said Raduke. "Though its wounds don't consist with those expressed by a beast that would die naturally."
"You haven't answered the question," said Skorr. "How did it die?"
Suddenly, a loud roar echoed throughout the canyon, a roar that matched the one made by the feared Tahtorak dragons.
"I think that gives us our answer," said Shadowhawk. "That Tahtorak must've killed the Skopio living here and taken over its territory. Judging from the Skopio's wounds, the old beast didn't go down without a fight."
The Tahtorak roared again.
"Well that's nice to know. How about we leave before the beast eats us too," proposed Janneus.
"I completely agree," said Proto-Beast. "Let's go."
And so, the bounty hunters set off again, carefully making sure they didn't attract the Tahtorak's attention. After several hours of walking, the group reached their target's base, and smiled as the morning sun rose over the clearing and shimmered on the ruined city of Atero.
Lethal chuckled, and two words escaped his lips that indicated the start of the great battle yet to come.
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
Tetrack, Blast, and Kaluu walked carefully through Eostra’s fortress. The corridors of the underground passages were empty, and no Corpsian guards were present. To most this would be relieving, though if you were as clever as Tetrack you would know something was wrong. Knowing Eostra, he expected her to have had, at least, a small contingency of Corpsians patrolling these underground routes.
At that point, the rough outline of a door could be seen in the distance. Kaluu smiled wickedly, and readied his claws for combat.
When the door was in clear sight, the trio stopped. Tetrack turned and gestured to Blast, who raised his Scythe of Creation and fired a blinding, yet silent, barrage of energy at the Protosteel door. The door was disintegrated in seconds.
They walked through the bare hole into a dimly lit room. Blast scanned the chamber for several seconds before raising his hand to point at a lever built into the far wall. Kaluu nodded, and in the fraction of a second, had teleported to the lever and pulled it. In that instance, lightstones embedded in the ceiling brightened to their full potential, allowing a dull orange-colored light to lift the darkness from the room.
At last, thought Tetrack with a grin. The Vault.
As Tetrack and Blast had calculated, the unused underground tunnels had lead them directly to the lowest level of Eostra’s fortress; a level which only contained one large room. This room was the Vault, a chamber which hosted some of the most treasured artifacts ever known to exist, all of them divided into a number of columns.
Tetrack strode down one of the isles, passing by numerous dust-covered treasures. On the left he saw the Staff of Darkness, the weapon Makuta Teridax had used in his conflict with Takanuva.
Decorating a life-sized mannequin on the right, were the pieces of the mysterious Golden Armor, which had been worn by the famous Toa Tahu during the great Battle of Bara Magna. According to legend, when the Dark Empire first began its conquest, Tahu had helped mount the first resistance efforts against it along with many of the warriors of Spherus Magna. This resistance fell swiftly, and Tahu and most of the Toa Nuva were lost in the process.
Tetrack passed by more relics of lost times until one more emerged in front of him at the end of the isle. It was wired directly into the wall, and roughly resembled a Toa canister. Upon closer inspection, however, Tetrack realized it was not. The width and dimensions of this canister did not match those required to make a Toa Canister, and the metals that made up this one were too weak to suit a real canister’s purposes.
Tetrack turned to a bank of machinery mounted on small control panel. After fiddling with the keys and switches for a few seconds, a sharp hissing noise erupted from the canister, and a thin sheath of metal retracted from the canister to reveal an even thinner sheet of glass, a green aura radiating from its inner contents.
Tetrack strode up to the canister, and attempted to make out the silhouetted figure hidden behind the glass. Although the being’s features could not be distinguished, Tetrack knew in an instant who it was, and what this canister actually was.
“It’s a stasis pod,” whispered Tetrack under his breath. The grin on his face grew wider. He turned around to face Blast, who stood by the spot where the door to the vault had once been.
“I’ve found him,” said Tetrack. His voice betrayed no emotion.
In an instant, Tetrack sensed a being standing behind him, and when he turned; his gaze met that of Kaluu’s. The Makuta spoke.
“Are you certain it’s him?”
“Indeed,” replied Tetrack in a voice no louder than a whisper.
Knowing what needed to be done, Kaluu turned to the stasis pod’s control panel, and after raising one of his clawed hands, shattered the atomic structure of the machinery, effectively disintegrating it. Disintegration was a fast and quiet way dealing with obstacles on these kinds of missions. Suddenly the glass layer of the stasis tube retracted into the wall, allowing stasis gas to spill out. Tetrack covered his mouth to avoid breathing in the fumes whilst Kaluu, on the other hand, remained still, as he had no need to breathe.
When the fog cleared, Blast strode up to Tetrack’s side and watched as the figure contained within in the tube moved his body muscles for the first time in 100 years. When his form could finally be made out, Blast smiled and said.
“Welcome back to the world of the living… Toa Fairon.”
The Toa of Light stared at the three resistance fighters in confusion.
“Ugh. Tetrack? Blast? What happened? How long have I been out for?” he asked.
“Last time I checked, you’ve been in stasis for 100 years,” answered Kaluu.
“100 years?!” asked Fairon, alarmed. “You mean to tell me I’ve been napping for a century?!”
At that second, the lightstones in the ceiling turned a dark crimson, and began flashing repeatedly. Following this was a loud siren, and all doors connecting to the rest of Eostra’s fortress instantly locked themselves off.
Blast cursed under his breath. “We’ve got to go, now!”
As swiftly as they had arrived, the four resistance fighters charged towards the hole in the wall. They escaped into the tunnels, running furiously as Corpsian soldiers pursued them. Eventually, their footsteps died out, and the group stopped to rest.
“Well, that was something,” said Fairon. “How long will the journey take to return to Atero?”
“On foot, it would take weeks,” commented Tetrack. “Though if we somehow gain some form of transportation like a Thornatus, then it may take mere days.”
“Too bad you won’t be living long enough to return to your hidden base,” said a new voice.
Kaluu turned to look at their unseen enemy, and snarled sinisterly when he met his opponent’s gaze. For there, standing atop of a lean boulder, was the feared Skrall assassin known as Sawrall. Growling next to him, was the vicious canine Rahi known as Gardorax.
Sawrall chuckled in a menacing tone. “Goodbye, fools. Enjoy your death, and have a nice day.”
Toa Soalaz strode through a battered, filth-covered street in Tajun. Had it not been in his nature to conceal his emotions, he would have shuddered in disgust in consideration as to what atrocities were committed regularly in this decaying, urban city.
The ironic thing was, this was that he was waling through one of Tajun’s more pleasant streets. The Toa of Ice coolly passed by a patrol of Dark Empire soldiers led by Makuta Vicoran, being careful not to catch his attention. The Makuta had only been sent to Tajun a day ago to aid in the "basic patrol duties," which was code for: "Scour the streets for any possible resistance fighters."
Ever since the resistance had managed to make successful negotiations with a pack of Vorox led by an exiled Glatorian named Malum, the Empire had doubled its presence in numerous local villages and towns after Malum had begun attacking the Empire's desert patrols. Soalaz wasn’t sure how much longer the Glatorian and his savage friends would be able to continue ambushing the Empire’s forces before being rooted out and exterminated, but at least, for now, they were playing their part in Resistance’s plans.
However, due to Malum's actions, half of Tajun was now dominated by the Empire presence, whilst the other half remained crime-struck, with the infamous gang known as the Blood Vines having recently gained substantial power in the region.
Soalaz’s thoughts were shattered when his destination entered his view. Without expressing any emotion, he approached it. It was a large, and noticeably old cantina, with pitted walls and a severely ruined paint job. In Tajun, this place was a cross for every kind of person; resistance fighters, bounty hunters, Empire soldiers, and even a few refugees.
To the people of Tajun, this place was a hot spot when it came to gossip, and all the latest rumors and tales could be found here. It was for this very reason why this tavern had been given its now iconic name: The Smuggler’s Grove.
Soalaz passed through the doors, and surveyed the room before him. Crudely made furniture, carved from wood and plant fibre, littered one half of the room, whilst a small, mock arena dominated the other. The people perched on the chairs stared at Soalaz for a few seconds, before returning to their doings.
Soalaz strode passed the numerous brutes until he found his target, who was slumped in a relaxed manner on a chair in the far corner of the room. When he looked up, a smile instantly formed on his face.
“Soalaz! Good to see you, old friend,” said the being Soalaz recognized as Chameleo. Soalaz’s dead-cold persona, however, didn’t change at the sight of Chameleo.
“Good morning, Chameleo. Do you have any information for me?”
“Plenty,” said the Reptisapean. “Please, have a seat.”
Soalaz sat in the chair Chameleo had gestured to, and clasped his arms together on the table, whilst staring his friend in the eye. When the resistance was formed, Chameleo had been one of the first to join them, and was soon sent by Shardak himself to infiltrate Tajun’s crooked society and serve as the resistance’s personal spy there; with direct instructions to report any valuable information he caught whiff of to an agent of the resistance.
“Well, what I’ve got to say isn’t much, but it may be useful. According to rumors whispered on the streets, the Dark Empire is in middle of negotiations with the gang known as the Blood Vines. It’s said they’re trying to convert the crime group into their allies, though I don’t know how far these ‘friendly talks’ between the two factions have gone.”
Soalaz grumbled in annoyance. “That could prove a problem for the resistance’s operations in Tajun,” he said. “I’ll report this to Ixtil. If we’re lucky, any underground operations attempted by us to prevent these negotiations from going through may ruin any hopes of an alliance. Have you got anything else for me?”
“Well I know a group of Empire soldiers recently encountered a cloaked warrior in the northern districts of Tajun whilst performing a night patrol,” began Chameleo.
“Not many of them survived the encounter, and those that had, have been taken away for mental rehabilitation. When Empire forces arrived in the area to investigate the scene, the only thing they found, other than the corpses of the patrol members, was a message written on a wall saying The Blood Summoner has returned. Whoever this killer is, he’s certainly caused a stir within the more senior ranks of the Empire, particularly for Makuta Benjarmin.”
Soalaz nodded. “Hmm, this person could simply be a rogue Empire soldier, or a vengeful assassin of some kind. Whoever this hunter is, I’d like you to keep me updated on his activities or any sightings of him.”
“Sure thing,” said Chameleo, if a little nervously. “But I do still have one thing left to tell you.”
“Which is?” inquired Soalaz.
Chameleo hesitated for a moment before speaking.
“Roughly two days ago, a band of bounty hunters passed through Tajun with an Empire soldier asking for information on the location of Atero. Whilst there weren’t many locals who could offer anything, an old Skrall beggar named Branar offered to give the location to them in exchange for a few widgets. After pointing them in the right direction, they left without a word. I-I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad sign.”
Soalaz didn’t reply; his brain was too busy calculating the goal and motive of the bounty hunter team. A group of bounty hunters, and a soldier of the Empire, he thought.
Goal: Locate the resistance to make an alliance? No, unlikely, not with a soldier of the Empire among them. Attack our fortress in Atero, indefinitely; or is there possibly something more to that plan? If they’ve got bounty hunters, then they must want something we have, something valuable. Weapons? No. Vulcanus already are supplying the Empire with plenty of them. Artifacts? No. Again, Eostra already has plenty of those in the V ault of her fortress. That eliminates all the major reasons for an attack on Atero, what else is there? Think, think, think!
Suddenly it hit him. And when he realized the motive of the bounty hunters, he couldn’t help but widen his eyes in shock. The resistance's archives!
Soalaz turned to face Chameleo. “I’ve got to go,” he said as he got up and ran out of the tavern.
When the morning had reached its end, Soalaz had reached the outskirts of Tajun when Harlen and Heehvan emerged from their hiding spots.
“Whoa! Slow down there,” said Heehvan. "What's the hurry?"
"Is something wrong?” asked Harlen in a curious tone.
“Get on your Sand Stalkers,” started Soalaz. “We need to get back to Atero immediately.”
“Why?” asked Heehvan.
Soalaz turned to face the Toa of Fire. “Because if we don’t, then the resistance’s most powerful artifact will fall into the talons of the Dark Empire. And if that happens, all hopes for freedom will fall. Now go!”
With that said, the three Toa jumped onto their Sand Stalkers, and rode off into the heat of the morning sun.
Hydros paced back and forth just beyond the gates of Vulcanus, barely being able to contain his high levels of impatience. Where are Nalek and the others? he thought to himself. They were supposed to be here before dawn. Several hours had passed since Hydros had estimated the arrival of Nalek and the others to Raanu, and since they hadn’t arrived yet, the establishment of the resistance’s new base in Iron Canyon had been delayed.
If they come up to me saying they were ambushed by wild Vorox or Vorahi, then they’ll be facing not only my frustration, but that of the entire resistance.
Suddenly, two black dots appeared on the horizon line. Hydros couldn’t make them out, but he could distinguish them as two living beings. He readied his sword for battle. For all he knew, those two could be soldiers of the Empire. After a few minutes, he could make out the shapes in more detail, and eventually, he could recognize the forms of Toa Nalek and Shika.
“Nalek, Shika,” he said. “What is the meaning of this delay? And where’s Tryx, Crystallus, and Galika? What happened to them?”
Nalek struggled to speak over his heavy panting, and his initial words were gurgled.
“What are you saying?” asked Hydros.
Now it was Shika’s turn to speak.
“W-we were attacked by the Dark Empire. A legion of Corpsians and Shadow of Ages soldiers caught us off guard. We left Treix, Galika, and Crystallus to fight them off, though I don’t know what’s happened to them. No matter, the Corpsians are now marching as we speak towards Vulcanus to not only burn it to the ground, but to kill us so as to prevent us from sharing the information we stole from Eostra’s libraries with the resistance.”
There was a pause.
“No,” Hydros managed to say in a gasped whisper. “If they’re coming to wipe us out now, not only will the resistance lose Vulcanus’ support, but we’ll never be able to tell the others of what we’ve learned.”
“Indeed you won’t,” said another, sinister voice. Hydros, Nalek, and Shika turned to face the new speaker, and when they met his gaze, their hearts dropped.
Nightwatcher chuckled, his emerald eyes gleaming in the sunlight.
“Good afternoon, imbeciles. My name is Nightwatcher. I have been hired by Eostra Nihiltian to kill you, and as a result, you have two options. You can either let me kill you now, or you can make a futile attempt to defeat me until Varkanax and his Corpsian legions arrive. And they may not be as merciful as I am.”
Nightwatcher then raised his sword menacingly, and energy flashed and crackled from its tip. A thin smile appeared on his helmet as he stroked the edge of his blade.
“Last words, anyone?”
This chapter was written by Varkanax39.
Shardak surveyed the training center battlefield. Three Toa had fallen almost immediately, two to a raging Zyglak and one to the being known as Thornax. Chronuva had just escaped the blade of a Toa known as Vaerak, and quickly assessed the situation. Two other beings were locked in combat near to him. One was a tall ex-Dark Hunter, the other a powerfully built Glatorian.
Suddenly, a tri-bladed scissor slashed out of the darkness, laying open his shoulder. Chronuva winced in pain and whirled around to face his attacker, the Toa known as Corridax. Shardak watched as the former Toa disarmed the Toa of Air, then winced as Chronuva was sent flying through the air and crashed against the walls with a sickening crunch.
The Zyglak suddenly appeared behind Corridax. Before the Toa could even realize he had won, the Zyglak's claws smashed him to the ground, where he lay motionless.
Shardak saw the Skakdi Serhaktem engage another Toa, a tall Toa of Stone, in combat. His eyes moved to another area of the battle, where a former Blood Vine gangster had shot a small Matoran to the ground. Shardak saw the being known as Evuk throw the Blood Vine so hard he smashed halfway through the wall. Shardak realized he would require extensive healing, and moved over to the fallen ex-gangster.
As he bent over the fallen form of the Blood Vine, Shardak suddenly felt a tingling feeling of dread. He saw a Skakdi fell a tall Toa, and more Skakdi down three more combatants. Shardak saw a Toa fall dead, crushed apart at the hands of a tall, emerald armored Skakdi.
Dead? They're not supposed to—
Shardak suddenly saw that the Blood Vine had stood, and had raised his gun, ready to plunge back into the battle. Shardak was about to offer a warning when he looked down and saw the Blood Vine lying dead at his feet.
Two of them! Shardak suddenly realized what had happened. They had infiltrated Atero. This "training session" had provided the perfect opportunity for them to win the war. Shardak saw the Blood Vine whirl around and fire in the same motion. Shardak saw two shots strike his armor, one injuring him badly. There was a third shot, but Shardak had already fallen, badly wounded, on the ground.
The Skakdi who had killed the Toa beckoned to the Skakdi legion. "The Toa overseer was a high-ranking member in the resistance. We can control the base from here. Lock it down. Let them think that Shardak has gone insane. Then we shall strike a decisive blow for the Dark Empire!"
As the Skakdi raced to obey, Dazrak, a brown-armored warrior, and Slaar, a crimson armored Skakdi, split away from the group, looking unhappy to be separated from the main force. The rest of the Skakdi turned and awaited their leader's next command.
The tall, emerald Skakdi was using Shardak's controls at the podium. "Lockdown. Sequence 81939746." he said, using the password he had gained from a traitorous member of the resistance. "Seal off each room for full defense. Sequence 34132894. Allow entry of all individuals accompanying the bearer of this item. Sequence 55674325."
The Skakdi lord turned back to the massed Skakdi.
Now, Skakdi, in the name of the Empire! Attack!"
Leviathos was walking through the corridors when he heard the fortress go into lockdown. Doors were closed, shut tightly and locked.
Grabbing his portable controls, the Noctian realized the signal was coming from the training room, where Shardak had been stationed.
This is a time of peace, for now. What has...
His thoughts were cut off as a large group of newer recruits came charging toward him. One, a Toa of Stone, spoke first.
"Leviathos, Shardak has been captured, possibly killed!"
"What has happened?" asked Leviathos, suddenly alert.
"The Skakdi," replied the Toa. "They came charging out of the training center, screaming war cries and attacking us. They slaughtered two rooms full of innocents before killing our soldiers. They've locked down the entire fortress and are killing more of our allies!"
"Come with me," said Leviathos. "I can override Shardak's controls, but I must be nearer to the point of origin. How far away are the Skakdi? How many?"
"At least thirty, sir, along with at least twenty Blood Vines. and they could be anywhere by now. They were last seen on the second floor."
"Come." said the Noctian, his mind racing.
The Empire could not have infiltrated us. And even if they could, why make a move now?
Leviathos raced toward the stairway that led to the second floor. As he saw the corpses of three Matoran, it hit him.
Distraction! This attack is a decoy. I was played for a fool. The real attack is coming from-
Leviathos had no time to finish the thought before the Skakdi were upon them. Green, Ebon, Tan, Sapphire... they were everywhere, hacking and stabbing and shooting down the Toa. Leviathos counted at least thirty Skakdi, and no Blood Vines. This was not the full army, then. There were still a few Skakdi and Blood Vines to deal with.
Leviathos saw the Toa of Stone fire three times before falling dead to the ground, and watched a massive red Skakdi smash two Toa's heads together, killing them both. Leviathos flung himself at the Skakdi, crushing his armor plates. The Noctian tore and hacked at the Skakdi's armor, but his opponent matched him blow for blow.
With a screech of desperation, Leviathos tore the Skakdi's head from his shoulders with his teeth. The head flew one way, the body the other. Before the Skakdi had time to regroup, Leviathos beheaded two Skakdi pikemen. A Skakdi soldier scored a blow across his torso, and two more spears punctured his shoulder. Leviathos fought his way up the staircase, and his group followed him, and despite their massive losses, made the Skakdi pay for every death.
Leviathos lost track of time. All he could remember was cleaving through the Skakdi, cutting swaths in their ranks, simply slaughtering them. Corpses littered the ground, Toa and Skakdi alike.
Leviathos felled a massive ebon Skakdi, and then surveyed the battlefield. The tide had turned against the Skakdi, and the Toa had reached the second floor, but at a terrible price. Only six Toa were still standing, and two were badly wounded. Only fourteen Skakdi were still fighting, and at least twenty were dead.
Leviathos saw the Skakdi crush three Toa who were trying to fight their way up the stairway, killing one and wounding the others. The three other Toa were holding their own against a formidable force of five Skakdi warriors. The Noctian realized that more Skakdi were charging up the stairway, ready to join the others. Leviathos smashed through their ranks with a roar.
A crimson armored Skakdi's heat vision scalded his body, and a bolt of lighting fired by two white and blue armored Skakdi struck him dead-on, wounding him badly. Leviathos crushed two Skakdi to pieces, and tore another in half with his teeth. The two lightning Skakdi let loose another bolt of electricity before he could reach their third warrior, sending his body flying through the air and smashing against the wall. Leviathos saw another Toa fall. Rage lent him strength, and he charred the lightning Skakdi, ripping the legs out from under one and flinging the other down the staircase. He landed with a horrible crunch, and lay unmoving below.
The Skakdi were barbaric, deadly warriors. But with more than half their number dead and the rest badly wounded, the survivors knew when to withdraw.
"Retreat!" called an ebon-armored Skakdi, and the Skakdi warriors raced to him, where they counted their numbers. Six warriors were still fighting-fit, while three others could be pushed, if needed, to fight. The rest were dead or too wounded to continue, and the Skakdi abandoned them, scattering into small groups and disappearing into the second floor.
Leviathos counted his own warriors. All were dead, save four badly wounded Toa, three crippled Intellians, and two other Toa. They had paid a terrible price for victory. And for what? The Blood Vines were still out there, and the fortress was still locked down. And worse, the real attack could come at any moment.
"Come." said Leviathos to the two Toa. "We have to warn the rest of the resistance. The doors will open for me."
In a small, darkened corridor, the emerald armored Skakdi, followed by a small group of four Blood Vines and two ebon Sakdi, crept silently down the passage.
"Stay silent," the Skakdi hissed. "And keep an eye open for Leviathos or other rebels. I don't trust my forces to deal with them completely."
The Skakdi commander had split his forces, leaving the main body of his force to deal with the Toa and Leviathos. The Blood Vines had stayed on the first floor, slaughtering the rest of the trapped rebels. He, as well as his elite Skakdi and Blood Vines, would attend to the most important job of all: the signal.
"The signal has been readied, Sir. Shall we fire?" asked one of his Skakdi guardsmen, interrupting his leader’s thoughts.
"Yes" hissed the commander. "Launch it."
Serving the Empire was only the first step. He would gain control of this world himself, once both the rebels and the Empire were destroyed. He was, after all, a Piraka. He would let them play each other off until only he remained to rule reality.
Yes, thought Zaktan. I will rule this world.
And farther away, the bounty hunter Janneus received the signal. The signal that meant only one thing:
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
Conqueror roared as he skewered the armor of three Skakdi, and hammered another. Behind him, Freztrak had entangled a trio of Blood Vines in a set of tendril-like vines, and swiftly retracted them back into the ground. The gang members didn’t have time to even scream. Conqueror turned to face the former warlord after stabbing the very last of their foes.
“This invasion is an embarrassment to Atero’s security! Let these fools know how we treat intruders.”
Freztrak nodded slowly. “Where are the other resistance leaders?” he asked.
“Ixtil’s barricading the chambers we have recaptured, and Leviathos is facing off against the main Skakdi force. Shardak has been captured, and is being held as a hostage as we speak.”
“I will go and retrieve him,” began Freztrak. “He would surely be an important factor in repelling this invasion force.”
“Oh I don’t think you’re going anywhere,” said another voice.
The two commanders turned around to see a lone green armoured figure carrying a crossbar, and wearing a matching wide-brimmed hat. Freztrak gestured to two resistance fighters behind him, and they instantly came forward. One was a Vohari, the other a Toa named 95.
“Identify yourself,” barked Conqueror, power crackling from his staff.
“Me?” asked the warrior. “Why, I am merely a humble Rotaxian hunter, striving to live a humble life.”
“A bounty hunter?” asked Freztrak warily, in a tone mixed with curiosity and uneasiness. “Let me guess, Janneus, is it not?”
“Oh yes entirely,” replied Janneus. “And I must say, I’m a being who’s lived a most interesting life.”
“We don’t care about your--“
“I once lived on the planet of Gigas Magna, you know,” he began, cutting off Freztrak.
“I was among the thousands recruited into the army of the Great Being Brominax when he learned of the Dark Empire’s conquest of Spherus Magna. Oh, you should have seen it then. The Brotherhood of Gigas Magna itself was even willing to forge an alliance with their sworn enemies to attend this new threat. Even Tetrack Nui himself left to join the war, even having his deteriorated mind restored to its original, brilliant state through the combined efforts of Brominax and Slicer themselves.”
Conqueror knew of this tale. During the 100 years of leading the resistance, he had learned all about Gigas Magna and its inhabitants; though had never learned why they had come to aid the people of Spherus Magna.
“However, there were, of course, complications. Our forces were gobsmacked at the strength of the Empire, and eventually, we were decimated and scattered to the winds. But that is ancient history, and my involvement back then does not matter now. All that matters is my mission here and now.”
“And what is this ‘mission’ of yours?” asked Freztrak. “And may I inquire as to how you learned the location of our base?”
“Oh that was easy,” replied Janneus, smiling wickedly. “The Empire told me.”
Conqueror widened his eyes. “Guards get him! Stop him before he can get inside the city!”
95 and the Vohari nodded, and charged at Janneus. The Rotaxian’s smile widened as the Vohari plunged at him. Janneus dodged the attack and battered it with his shield. The Vohari was back on its feet in an instant, and snarled viciously. It was about to lunge a second time, when it suddenly collapsed to the ground, dead. Janneus eyed its body for a second to see a mark in the side of its head.
Skorr, he thought.
A short distance away, Skorr watched the battle, perched atop a large rocky outcropping with his Plasma launcher. Too easy, he though to himself, as he looked down the scope.
Conqueror roared and charged at Janneus, only to be tackled to the ground by a large, reptilian being with sharp claws and a menacing gaze.
“Proto-Beast?!” asked Conqueror in a tone of utter confusion.
“Good morning, Zarak. It’s been so long since I last saw you on Metru Nui, prior to my banishment to the Pit. Now if you don’t mind, me and my partners have an object to retrieve.”
Conqueror rose to stand in a menacing stance. “Over my rotting corpse, Protodilian,” he replied.
“Very well, then,” answered the ex-Dark Hunter, as he charged forwards as he fired twin bolts laser vision from his eyes. Conqueror dodged the blasts, before parrying his staff with Proto-Beast’s talons.
In another part of the battle, Freztrak clashed furiously with Raduke, whilst 95 challenged Janneus. Neither side seemed willing to concede.
As 95 pushed forward, Jannues couldn’t help but laugh. “I admire you puny efforts, Toa, I’ll give you that. Though even as we speak, our mission is being completed.”
“What are you talking about?” the Toa asked in confusion, as he attempted to try and focus a burst of life energy at his foe.
Three resistance soldiers, who had arrived to enter the fight, fell dead as bolts of power struck them in the head; victims of Skorr’s legendary sniping skills.
“You heard me,” snapped the bounty hunter. “I, and my four other comrades are merely diversions. Our mission borderlines completion even as we speak.”
A gust of air erupted from Janneus’ palm, sending 95 reeling back into the sand.
Jannus strode forward and stood over the Toa, perching his head menacingly at him.
“And there’s nothing you can do about.”
Meanwhile, Lethal and Shadowhawk crept through a dark corridor, their shadows twisting in the darkness.
“Brilliant,” began Shadowhawk. “Truly, brilliant. I never believed bounty hunters had the tactical edge to plan such complex schemes.”
“Well, in that case, you sorely underestimate our kind,” snarled Lethal. He had decided he did not like Shadowhawk, though that was no surprise. After all, he hated anybody who refused to show him proper respect.
As they continued to walk down the corridor, it soon became apparent that Atero’s lower levels were not heavily guarded. Zaktan had played his part well in distracting the resistance.
Lethal and Shadowhawk continued to walk down through the corridor, until an exposed room entered view. A room that was considered one of the most, if not the most important room in all of Atero. This chamber was the archives, an area where the resistance held all their greatest weapons and artifacts. In many ways, a similar version of the Vault in Eostra’s palace.
Lethal and Shadowhawk strode in, not particularly sure what they were meant to retrieve.
“Eostra labelled the object we are meant to retrieve as Mask 34861,” whispered Shadowhawk.
“Start searching in that section over there, Lethal. I’ll cover you.”
Lethal nodded and strode into the archive section. All these ancient items had been placed within massive filing cabinets. Each draw was with a number on its surface. The bounty hunter scanned the numbers for several seconds until he found the right one.
“I’ve found it!” called Lethal to Shadowhawk as he opened the draw.
“Excellent! What is it?”
Lethal did not reply.
“What is it, Lethal?”
He still did not reply. Had Shadowhawk been able to see Lethal, he would have seen him staring shockingly at the contents of the draw. Then he chuckled.
“Lethal… what did you find?!”
“I can now understand why the Empire went to such great lengths to get this mask.”
“Why? What is it?”
Shadowhawk would never hear a reply. All he would ever remember seeing, was Lethal sending a punch in the face that forced him into the dark void of unconsciousness. As his body slumped to ground, Lethal looked at the Deity mockingly; in one hand his blaster, the other, the legendary Kanohi Ignika. Dormant within that mask, was the spirit of Mata Nui himself.
“Apologies, servant of the Empire,” began Lethal. “Though, I’d rather take my chances returning to Eostra with a wild Tahtorak dragon, than go back with you and allow you to take all the credit.”
Without another word, Lethal left the archives, laughing as he activated an alarm that would summon resistance fighters to the scene to capture the betrayed Shadowhawk. The blame would be put on him.
In the training arena, Shardak lay on the ground, clutching his wounds. He had been chained to one of the far walls of the area, where he had been left to die, guarded by two Skakdi warriors. Suddenly, a winged, crimson-armored being materialized before them. Beside him, stood a bizarre, armed robot. The Skakdi instinctively raised their tools to attack, only to lower them when they identified the beings before them.
“Makuta Harponok!” cried one. “What brings you here?”
“I was sent here to retrieve your… burden.”
“Who, this guy?” inquired the other guard, gesturing to Shardak.
“What’s so special about him?”
“Don’t question me, fool, unless you want your life to meet a very painful end.”
“Of course, Sir,” replied the guard.
“Millennium and the others require this fool for their plans. If he has suffered any permanent damage in any way, believe me, you will be answering the call of death itself.”
“V-very well, Sir. Will that be all?”
Harponok didn’t reply. Instead, he shifted his gaze upon the robotic being standing beside him.
“Nevotnor-411, retrieve the resistance leader.”
Without even expressing a gesture of acknowledgement, the robot strode forward, and cut Shardak loose, slinging his unconscious form on its back.
And then without another word, the pair were gone, leaving behind the two bewildered Skakdi.
Lethal walked into the sunlight as he exited Atero, staring at the battle before him between his fellow mercenaries and the resistance.
Without even bothering, he called out one word. “Skorr!”
In an instant, the Zeverek was behind him, a result of his quick teleportation. Lethal acknowledged his presence, before barking out another order. “Bounty hunters, regroup on me!”
Janneus, Raduke, and Proto-Beast nodded, disengaged from their fights, and were soon standing beside Lethal.
Conqueror, Freztrak, and 95 got to their feet.
“Goodbye, old soldiers,” Lethal started. “Thank you for making our mission that much more interesting, but now, we really must get going. Skorr, NOW!”
Before Conqueror could realize it, Skorr had pressed a button on his teleportation gauntlet, and in an instant, the mercenaries were gone in a flare of blinding, white light.
“NO!” Conqueror roared in anger as he slammed the pommel of his staff into the ground, which sent out a faint tremor.
“Whatever they’ve stolen, it’s valuable to us. And when this battle’s over, the resistance is going to personally eliminate each and every one of those hunters.”
He turned to look at Freztrak and 95.
“Well, what are you waiting for, you two? We’ve got an invasion to repel, and an empire to crush!”
Far away to the north, Makuta Benjarmin scanned his chamber. His mission was nearing completion. Shardak had been placed in one of his fortress’ dungeons by Harponok and Nevotnor-411, as planned. All he needed to do was await the arrival of his… guests. Suddenly, the holographic projector in the center of the chamber flickered on. The image of Raduke fizzled in.
“Ah, Raduke, at last. My patience has finally paid off. Tell me, have you succeeded in your mission?”
“Indeed,” began Raduke. “We are on our way to your fortress as we speak.”
“Good,” replied Benjarmin. “I will greet you with your reward upon your arrival.”
The hologram flickered off, only to be reactivated seconds later by another incoming transmission. This time, the Dark Lord’s general, Sovnoron, appeared.
“Sovnoron? What business do you have with me?”
“I am here to check the progress of the plan,” he replied. “I need to know the exact stage we are on before my attack can commence. My fleet is almost in position.”
“The bounty hunters have retrieved the Ignika, and are on their way here. Shardak has been captured. Merados has reported the Empire’s new Great Spirit robot will be completed on schedule. And Varkanax and his legion have already decimated Tesara, and are moving onto Vulcanus. What more do you truly need to know of our progress?”
“Hmmm. Very well then, my attack can commence at this stage. Good luck, Benjarmin. You are going to need it.”
With that, Sovnoron’s image faded out, leaving Benjarmin to merely plan ahead of time for the bounty hunters’ arrival. Suddenly one of his servants entered the chamber.
“Master, your scouts have reported Toa Jareroden on the march through the Black Spike Mountains. He, and his legion, will be here in a matter of days!”
Benjarmin rose from his makeshift throne. “Excellent! Prepare my warriors for the upcoming battle. I want to be ready for Jareroden’s foolish invasion. And when he falls, the Empire will rule!”
This chapter was written by Varkanax39.
Ixtil watched as six Toa of Fire felled the last of the Skakdi invaders. One Skakdi was blasted down in a raging fire, another was beheaded, and the third was stabbed through the heartlight.
Good. Thought Ixtil. Another chamber recaptured.
The Skakdi had split their forces, their main invasion force was attacking the defenders on the second floor of Atero, though they had suffered many loses, according to the Toa that Leviathos had sent to Ixtil with a message of victory. While the Skakdi continued their assault on Atero, Leviathos was freeing the first floor and attempting to put down any remaining Skakdi resistance below. Shardak's status was currently unknown.
We need to win this battle in exactly 10.51 minutes. Ixtil calculated. Or the Skakdi will escape us with whatever they have come for. Logically, the main force of the Skakdi will be destroyed by the armies in Atero, but it is only a distraction for whatever the Empire really is doing.
"Those were the last of them." The six Toa reported.
"Excellent" said Ixtil. "Now, we will join the Toa defenders who are fighting the main Skakdi force."
The Skakdi commander Vezruk was annoyed.
The Skakdi invasion force had been completely decimated by Leviathos' forces. They numbered barely twenty, and the majority of their numbers were new recruits, who had fled from Leviathos' legions in the levels below Atero. Now, to continue Zaktan's plan, they would be forced to attack the defenders above the staircase, which numbered thirteen, all-powerful Toa, rogue Makuta, and other beings who could only be classified by the Skakdi as beings.
We can still win the battle. Vezruk thought. But they have the height in weaponry, while the majority of our Skakdi are armed only with spears and claws.
Of all the elite Skakdi commanders who had led the invasion force into Atero, only Vezruk, Darvath, and Sh'laath remained. All of the others had either been killed in the initial skirmishes, and the others were slaughtered in the battle with Leviathos.
Above, Vezruk could see the defenders were massing. He would have to order his people to attack now, or loose the edge.
Suddenly, a volley of missiles thudded against the staircase, which exploded into flames. It would seem the resistance had managed to regain control of at least some of their automated defenses.
Vezruk snarled. "Skakdi, attack!"
Ten of the barbaric warriors, all armed to the teeth, charged up the staircase. The more lightly armed unit led by Darvath charged next, followed by Sh'laath's group, primarily consisting of badly wounded Skakdi. Vezruk felt a jolt of excitement run through him. This was what a Skakdi lived for, this was why their race was powerful and warlike. Battle gave him a thrill like no other.
More missiles followed the first, skewering two Skakdi who stood behind Vezruk. More Skakdi were wounded, and the other Skakdi in Vezruk's group raised their shields, and the projectiles thudded harmlessly off the metal. Vezruk felt his arm weaken as his shield took two blasts and began to melt. A third missile struck the shield, and the shield exploded into fragments of metal.
Flinging the useless shield aside, Vezruk and his eight warrior Skakdi struck the enemy like a raging tide. Vezruk's gleaming Ebon armor was hit by three blades and dented as he tore the head off a Toa. The enemy numbered in thirty, and had the height and the advantage of the automated missile systems. Another missile struck an Ebon-armored Skakdi in the head, felling him, while another Skakdi was run through by a Toa's spear. Vezruk saw that Darvath's unit of seven Skakdi had been attacked by a group of spear-fighting Toa. A Skakdi pikeman behind Vezruk fell onto the staircase as three missiles crushed his skull.
This can't go on. Vezruk thought. We have to win now.
Vezruk tore another Toa apart, then tore off another's arm. Three more Toa rushed at him, two attacking the three surviving members of his group, another attacking him. Vezruk killed the Toa easily, then attacked another Toa in a raging whirlwind of daggers and spears. Vezruk saw the Toa fall, his body falling away from the Skakdi warlord. The other Toa stabbed a Skakdi through the shoulder, then speared another through the side. One wounded Skakdi fell to the ground and was speared through the head, the other fell backward, disoriented. The Toa stabbed again, catching the Skakdi in the back. The Skakdi turned, ready to plunge his spear through the Toa's head, and the Toa speared the Skakdi in the back again. The Skakdi fell back, and the Toa stabbed the spear through the Skakdi's body.
Vezruk ran the Toa through, and the surviving Skakdi from his group stabbed the Toa through the neck.
Suddenly Vezruk saw the missiles. The struck the Skakdi dead on, killing him instantly as his body fell to the ground. Vezruk snarled in rage, abandoning the surviving Skakdi on the staircase. Sh'laath and three other Skakdi were fighting on the edge of another cliff: one that overlooked the old arena of Atero, the Arena Magna. Vezruk watched as a Skakdi warrior speared one Toa through the chest and flung another Toa's horribly mangled corpse to the ground. The Skakdi now numbered less than thirteen now, as most of the Skakdi elite had been destroyed. Vezruk watched as two more Skakdi fell to the arrows that had killed mast of the invasion force.
Vezruk saw now that the Skakdi were nearly defeated. Sh'laath was still fighting, guarded by three Skakdi pikemen. Darvath's command still fought with the Toa, but only three remained other thAn the commander. But Vezruk would not give up. The Skakdi would all fall, but they would take as many Toa as they could with them. With a roar of rage, Vezruk clawed a Toa apart, then slashed another to the ground. The Toa now numbered fifteen or less, but their archers were still causing damage. Vezruk saw another Skakdi from Darvath's command fall dead, and saw a blast of plasma strike another Skakdi on the cliffs above. Vezruk tore into another Toa, felling him before he could attack even once. The Skakdi warlord called orders to the two Skakdi who still fought the Toa on the cliffs overlooking Atero. Sh'laath killed another Toa, then was shot in the shoulder by one of the Toa's missiles. The Skakdi commander fell backward into two Toa, who stabbed their spears at him. Sh'laath smashed one to the ground, and the other stabbed at the Skakdi, striking a blow to Sh'laath's leg. Sh'laath disarmed the Toa easily, then slew him with a blow to the head.
Vezruk turned away from Sh'aath, watching as the two Skakdi pikemen stabbed three Toa to the ground. They were only wounded, but were hurt too badly to continue fighting. One of the Skakdi stabbed a Toa through the neck, and the other drew a dagger and stabbed it through a Matoran guard. Vezruk felt some of his confidence return. While the Skakdi's losses were mounting, they could still destroy the Toa.
Then Vezruk heard a Matoran's voice, at the head of a large group of warriors. Ixtil led at least eight Toa, as well as ten or more Matoran guards. Vezruk saw the archers begin firing, and saw a shattergun fire, destroying one of the pikemen. Vezruk dodged the next missile, and the other pikeman was struck in the shoulder. He raised his weapon, vanishing into the mass of Toa. Vezruk decapitated a Toa, and dodged another shattergun blast as he searched the battlefield for any Skakdi survivors.
Sh'laath's soldiers, emboldened by Vezruk's attack, had been caught in the open, directly in the firing line. One Skakdi was struck in the chest and killed instantly. The other raised his spear, and readied to attack. Sh'laath knew the attack was doomed, and was about to call a retreat when a throwing spear appeared out of nowhere. Sh'laath ducked, and the spear slew the one remaining Skakdi in her command. She watched as the Skakdi soldier fell beneath the Toa's charge, and speared a Matoran guard to the ground. The Toa attacked, and Sh'laath managed to escape instant death, the shatterer striking another Matoran and killing him. The Skakdi had managed to fight her way to Darvath, where the other Skakdi still fought the Toa spearmen with his two soldiers. They had finally gained a victory, but had been pushed back by the Toa. Darvath's soldiers were fought to the edge of the cliff, and one fell, slain by a Toa's spear, the other was stabbed through the shoulder by a spear and fell to his death over edge of Atero.
Sh'laath ran to Darvath, who had been nearly overwhelmed by the Toa reinforcements. The Skakdi warlord had been stabbed in a hundred places, yet still he fought. Sh'laath tore apart a Matoran guard. The Toa fought the Skakdi warlord to the edge of Atero, their corpses lying scattered across the battlefield and slowing him. Sh'laath stabbed another Toa, then turned to face another Toa. Ixtil raised his weapon, a Plasma Uzi, and launched its firepower directly at Sh'laath. With a scream, the female warlord collapsed over the edge of the Arena Magna.
Darvath fought on, cornered and badly injured, then fell beneath three Toa spearmen. He fell to the ground, pinning Vezruk to the earth with him. The two Skakdi who still fought had been cornered and would soon be killed. Vezruk saw one fall just as a Toa ran him through. The warlord's eyes glazed as his claw, and dealt the Toa a blow to the head. The Toa's spear fell from his hands. Vezruk's claws had speared just as deeply as the Toa's spear was stabbed through the warlord's heart. Both Toa and Skakdi fell to the ground, one atop the other.
That blow finished the battle completely as the Skakdi survivors fled. Two fell dead immediately, the other collapsed, mortally wounded, to the ground.
The battle of Atero was over. Ixtil strode silently through the battlefield, trying to count the number of casualties. Below, the weakened, defeated Skakdi had surrendered. Above, the Skakdi invasion had been completely destroyed.
Ixtil turned to see Leviathos approaching him, and breathed a sigh of relief. With Leviathos on their side, the resistance was 20.371 times more likely to succeed defeating the Empire.
"We eliminated the majority of their forces" Ixtil reported. "Did you remove the Skakdi below?"
"Yes, they were all slain. What shall we do with the Skakdi prisoners?"
"Barricade them in a chamber below Atero. They are less likely to escape from the hold, than from Atero itself."
"How likely?" Leviathos asked.
"Exactly a 72.9% chance of…" Ixtil began, but Leviathos cut him off.
"Okay, I'll take them to the hold." Leviathos turned away from Ixtil and issued orders to the surviving Toa.
We have won this battle. Ixtil thought. But there are still an uncounted number of Blood Vines loose in Atero, and Shardak is still held prisoner. The odds of the resistance repelling this invasion are still fairly even.
But there were two factors Ixtil was not aware of.
One: Zaktan and the Skakdi who were still free in Atero. Two: the bounty hunters, who had now just stolen the most valuable artifact in resistance's possession.
And only Mata Nui could know what their employers had in stall for the rest of the universe.
Nightwatcher and Hydros’ swords locked again, clashing against each other for a mere second before another move was made; another punch, another kick, another swipe. Despite the devastating blows being dealt, Hydros still managed to keep going. Had Nightwatcher been a lesser being, he would have snarled, but judging from his obvious superiority over his foe he had no need to.
Cold eyes of the brightest emerald connected with his enemies’, almost lazily avoiding looking at his own blade’s lightning-fast movements to increase his aura of fear. Despite the fearsome power of Nightwatcher, he couldn’t seem to shatter his foe’s strength, his willpower, or his morale.
Hydros was a great warrior, there was no a doubt in that, but to still stand tall and proud against an enemy more powerful than himself unnerved him. Nightwatcher hadn’t been unnerved in millennia. Perhaps it was because of the Toa’s experience that kept him together, despite receiving unimaginably painful blows.
Perhaps it was because he was a fool, too willing to sacrifice himself for a cause that was long since lost. Or perhaps it was because – Nightwatcher had tried to keep this possibility concealed in the back of his mind for as long as possible, but found himself unable to do so anymore. Perhaps it was because Hydros knew that he represented and stood for everything Nightwatcher could no longer be. Noble, just, righteous, and whole. He was like another reflection to him, the same way Leviathos had been years ago.
As those words echoed in his mind, the faint image of Toa Charon took form in his imagination: A Toa who now no longer walked across the plains of the world, having been consumed completely by the personality of Nightwatcher.
The bounty hunter growled at the image of his former self, and utilized the combat form of Vauhti to cut through Hydros’ defenses and send him reeling. In another swift, almost careless motion, Nightwatcher spun around to dispatch the forms of Shika, Nalek, Lesovikk, and Bomonga.
The Toa Hagah of Earth was the first back on his feet, but reacted too slow as his enemy fired a fatal bolt of Shadow at him, bringing him to his knees, and killing him instantly.
Suddenly, Nightwatcher felt a faint blast of fire hit his back armor, and turned to see Hydros rising from the weathered ground. Lazily raising his sword, Nightwatcher fired a bolt of energy that sent the mutant Toa tumbling back into the sands.
He felt a twitch on his shoulder as his Girahk scuttled across his armor. Extending his hand, Nightwatcher let the Rahkshi scuttle into his palm, and then onto the ground.
“Deal with the other Toa,” he whispered. “Hydros is mine.”
Girahk scuttled away obediently, in a form no larger than a Scarabax Beetle, before growing to a tremendous size of eleven feet tall. The Rahkshi turned to face Nalek and the others, and let a chilling roar escape its lips before charging at them.
Nightwatcher chuckled before turning to face Hydros. “Sorry for the delay. Those imbeciles needed something to take their mind off our little farce. Now, where were we?”
With surprising speed, Hydros leapt to his feet and charged at Nightwatcher, punching him in the face and forcing him back a step. Nightwatcher laughed as he shifted his jaw from side to side. “Nice move, fool, that almost hurt. Now, how about I skip the pleasantries, and bring about your crushing, painful dea—“
Nightwatcher would not finish his sentence for obvious reasons. After all, no one could possibly bear speaking when one had a ball of searing, burning flames encompassing their head.
Nightwatcher tried dissipating the flame ball, only to be knocked off his feet by a powerful gust of air that extinguished the fire, and sent him flying into a boulder. Hydros smiled as the sound of a delicate crushing noise reached his ears. Nightwatcher fell on one knee for a mere second to catch his breath, only to be sent flying high into the sky by a fist of pure rock that had emerged from the soil, grabbed him, and flung him into the sky.
Righting his body in mid-air, Nightwatcher let himself fall to the ground, and crush barren rock beneath his heel, as he almost elegantly landed on his feet.
“It seems I need to adjust to the situation of this battle,” said Nightwatcher sinisterly, distaste and anger echoing in his words. “Lets start again.”
Before he knew it, Hydros could see Nightwatcher charging at him at a dazzling speed, bringing his blade into a plunging motion as he stabbed at Hydros' body. The Toa fell to the ground, and Nightwatcher readied to bring the blade down into Hydros’ chest.
"This is the end, Toa." Nightwatcher said casually. Hydros could see Varkanax's massive form appearing from the mountains, at the head of a large group of Veiled Ones. Girahk had downed Shika, wounding the Toa badly, and Lesovikk's corpse lay, badly mangled, at the Rahkshi's feet.
"You'll never be able to defeat me." Hydros snarled. "You can kill us, but you can never kill our will to fight."
Nightwatcher's sword paused midair.
"We are not that different, Nightwatcher." Hydros gasped. "Leviathos knows us, he told us about you, and we all know you're not as ruthless as you pretend to be."
Nightwatcher had heard enough. "Then let those be your last words, Toa."
Nightwatcher’s blade speared down into Lesovikk's corpse, draining every bit of power from it. Every last drop of energy the veteran Toa had possessed. Hydros tried to stop Nightwatcher, but the bounty hunter felled him in an instant. Falling to the floor, Hydros kicked out one more time, but Nightwatcher had drained much of the power from his body. Nightwatcher felt the power burn through him, and he readied to release –
A massive amount of white-hot light exploded from Nightwatcher's body, and the Toa, the Veiled Ones, and Varkanax were struck by the shockwave as it decimated the Corpsian legions. Hydros struggled to remain conscious. It was only the great durability of his body that kept him so. He should have known Nightwatcher would do this: Drain the energy from his body, as well as the little left of Lesovikk's, and use it to release this shockwave. It was merely luck that Lesovikk's body had little energy left in it, limiting the effects of the blast. But Hydros had predicted Nightwatcher's strategy long ago, and had devised a winning plan to defeat not only him but Varkanax as well.
When the blast had ended, Hydros' blurry vision could make out the rough form of Nightwatcher, a jet-black arm leaning against a boulder as the bounty hunter panted wildly. Summoning all the remaining strength he had left in his pulverized body, Hydros jumped to his feet and charged at Nightwatcher, only to be grabbed mid-charge by the throat. Hydros' sword clattered to the floor. Nightwatcher's grip tightened.
"You have tricked me!" growled Nightwatcher, angrily. "You delayed my burst until Varkanax and his legion arrived. I have not been tricked before, imbecile. Now you will suffer a torment a hundred times worse than death itself. Goodbye Toa Hydr– "
Nightwatcher's speech was abruptly cut off by the unique sensation of the ground shifting beneath his heels. He had felt such sensations many times in the past, whilst carrying out some of the more dangerous missions for Tetrack Nui and the Gigas Magna Empire, but not one like this. Suddenly, the ground beneath his heels collapsed, drawing Nightwatcher deep into a dark chasm. Hydros back-flipped to solid ground and sealed the underground tunnel off and scanned the battle scene. Nightwatcher's Girahk had been forced back a few feet, relying on its staff to stand up. Shika merely lay on the floor, breathing heavily, with Nalek standing beside him, using his mysterious powers to try and heal him.
Hydros rushed to his side, and used his Cryo-Vision to freeze Nightwathcer's pet, before it could reach them. He then turned to look at Nalek. "How bad are his injuries?"
"Too severe to detail. That Girahk must have stabbed him so deep he penetrated his organic tissue. There's no telling how long he has unless we get him treated by an experienced healer."
Hydros turned at the sound of a chilling roar. Atop a nearby hill, he could see Varkanax struggling to his feet, the beast gazing at what was left of his once proud legion. Before Nightwatcher's shockwave, his legion had numbered in about ninety-eight troops. Now, he only had about sixteen; all weakened and wounded horribly. His army had taken most of the blast. Varkanax rose to his feet. He knew he could not destroy Vulcanus at this rate; his legion was too crippled to do so. Barking an order at his troops in his race's dark tongue, Varkanax and his forces turned and departed, indicating a sign of retreat.
Hydros let a sigh of relief escape his lips. It was finally over, or at least, so he thought. Suddenly, Nightwatcher burst out of the ground, sending debris and chunks of earth everywhere. Hydros rose to his feet menacingly, staring deep into the bounty hunter's dark green eyes that seemed to blaze like the sun itself. Then, suddenly. Nightwatcher turned away and outstretched his arm, sending out a beam of energy that shattered Girahk's icy prison. The Rahkshi roared, and leapt high in the air, slowly shrinking down to the size of a Scarabax Beetle, before landing lightly on Nightwatcher's shoulder. The battered assassin looked up at Hydros.
"This isn't over," he said in a tone resembling a mutter, and with that, he vanished, his form fading and dissolving into the background appearance of the wastelands.
"Where's he gone?" asked Nalek. "What's he up to."
"Nothing," replied Hydros. "He's retreated with Varkanax and I suspect he will be among his remaining forces."
"Well, what does this mean now?" asked Nalek. "What does this battle mean to the resistance?"
"I think..." began Hydros. "I think it’s a sign that times are changing. That our conflicts with the Empire are escalating. Nalek, I think this is a sign we are going to war. Our small conflicts with the Empire are over. The time for political arguments and minor battles have passed, and fully-fledged warfare is overshadowing us now. Like the cloud of death itself."
He then turned to look at Nalek, noting the worry in his eyes. "Come now, Nalek. We need to get back to Vulcanus and find Raanu. He may be able to find us a healer for Shika."
Nalek nodded, and hauled Shika on his back, and soon, he and Hydros were walking towards the gates of Vulcanus. They did not speak. They did not raise their voices. They did not bark out their opinions; all that was irrelevant now. Only one thought burned through their mind: could the resistance really wage war against an evil that has ruled all reality itself for 100 years?
Tetrack's lime green eyes flashed menacingly at Sawrall, whose face was decorated with a mocking smile. Beside him, his canine Rahi Gardorax growled menacingly, scrapping one of its razor-sharp claws against a rock.
“I must admit, I wasn’t expecting a warrior as elite as you, Tetrack, to be doing such dirty work for the resistance. What happened to Tetrack I know? The Tetrack who once ruled the Gigas Magna Empire?”
Tetrtack snarled viciously, his sinister eyes reflecting his partial insanity. Whilst Slicer and Brominax had succeeded in healing most of the mental damage done to his mind, they had not completely healed Tetrack’s insanity.
“What? No comeback? No retort from the disgraced emperor? You disappoint me, Tetrack. But I cannot allow you to leave this region with Eostra’s… pet Toa. He has knowledge that should never fall into your hands. Now… will you relinquish Fairon or not?”
In a swift motion, Tetrack raised one of his chainsaws to indicate he would not. As a sign of acknowledgment, Kaluu readied his claws, whilst Fairon allowed the energies of Light to swirl at the tip of his lance, whilst Blast charged his scythe.
“Very well then,” said Sawrall coolly. “Gardorax, take those three, though keep the Toa alive. Eostra wants him in good condition. I’ll take Tetrack.”
With unexpected speed, Gardorax leapt into the air and tackled Kaluu to the ground, even as Fairon and Blast stabbed at its back. With a light chuckle, Sawrall turned to face Tetrack.
“Well, your Greatness, it would seem the tables have turned. But enough of the talking, let’s draw this out.”
With a roar of rage, Tetrack charged forward, his chainsaws blazing wildly. Meeting his challenge, Sawrall ran at the massive Kodax, locking their blades together as their great battle began. Tetrack stabbed out, his chain about to impale Sawrall. Sawrall managed to dodge with the speed of a Doom Viper, then stabbed out at Tetrack wildly, stabbing the Kodax over and over with his swords. Tetrack was massive, but Sawrall was fast, and it took all of Tetrack's power to strike the Skrall. Sawrall managed to dodge the blow, then one of Tetrack's wildly swinging chainsaws struck him a blow to his chest, flinging the Skrall backwards. Sawrall readied to strike at him again. Tetrack whirled around, and saw that Gardorax had overcome Fairon. With a barbaric screech, Tetrack charged at Sawrall, and the two beings readied to battle to the death.
"Tell me, Toa, what is your resistance's plans?" Benjarmin asked Shardak, his voice silent and deadly.
The Toa stood very still, tied to a post made of a strange, gleaming substance. He braced himself for another round of pain. Three Rahkshi, all carrying water, flung it over the Toa. As soon as the water touched the pole, Shardak would be shocked as electricity shot through his body. More water poured from the ceiling of the fortress, and Shardak convulsed as the shocks of lightning struck him over and over. The pain was excruciating.
"We- only have one base." He said. "Your Skakdi will eliminate us."
"Liar!" Benjarmin snarled. He glared at the Rahkshi, and the mechanical beings drenched Shardak again, and more water struck Shardak, and the Toa screamed as the pain tore him apart.
"Now, will you answer me? Who is following me? Why are you leaving rumors that the Blood Summoner is stalking me? WHAT DOES YOUR RESISTANCE WANT?" He screeched. He spoke again, his voice quieter. "Tell me, Toa, and I will make your end painless."
"I'll tell you nothing, Benjarmin." Shardak managed to get out.
Benjarmin's face contorted into a mask of rage. "Do you need more convincing, then? Rahkshi, flood the room, and increase the electricity! Then he will talk!"
Water poured from the ceiling and rose from the floor, striking Shardak over and over, waves of pain traveling through his body. Words cannot describe the pain that Shardak felt. He could barely hear Benjarmin's laughter. Shardak screamed and screamed, and finally he sank into a half-conscious state, the pain becoming too much to take. He could barely hear himself speak through the red haze of pain.
"You'll kill me before I tell you what I need to know, Makuta."
Benjarmin smiled. "Then I will make your end as painful as I can, Toa."
Benjarmin raised a small control. The electric pole flared even brighter as water drenched Shardak once more.
The Toa couldn't speak anymore. He couldn't even scream. He could barely feel the pain running through him. He was lost in a world beyond pain, beyond terror, and beyond death itself. As the screams and roars died out, Benjarmin walked forward, and wrapped his clawed hand around Shardak's throat. The Toa chocked hard as Benjarmin tightened his grip.
"Since you are unwilling to answer any of my questions, I will ask another: What do you know of the Kanohi Ignika?"
Shardak muttered something under his breath, his body's motor functions almost completely hindered. "I wear it you fool. Isn't that much obvious?"
"Yes, we know you are in the possession of an alternate Ignika. That version is not the one my masters desire. What do you know of the true Ignika? The one from this universe?"
Shardak didn't reply.
"Don't pretend you don't know anything, Shardak. The Empire knows the Ignika was in the resistance's possession. We had a team of bounty hunters recover it during the Skakdi raid. Your resistance fought them off, but were unable to capture the mercenaries. Now... tell me what do you know of how to use the Ignika?"
Shardak didn't reply; too consumed by the numbness of his body to even speak. Benjarmin frowned.
"Throw him in a cell. I'll interrogate him later."
With that, two Corpsian guards and at least one sentry of the Empire of Shadows dragged Shardak out of the room.
He had dealt with many hostages before; whether they be members of the Hunters' Brigade, Exiled Ones, Bounty Hunters' Guild, Society of Guardians, Fallen Six, Hand of Mata Nui or even the Brotherhood of Unity. But none of them had ever quite put up the fight Shardak had. That's what worried Benjarmin. If the resistance was actually this willing to oppose the rule of the Empire, then warfare was inevitable.
The resistance obviously wouldn't let "legal enforcements" such as the Razing of Tesara, the Fourth Occupation of Vulcanus, the Conquest of New Atero, the Onslaught of Iconox, the Kodax Massacre, the Deity Purge, the Skrall Degradations, the Sacking of Creep Canyon, or even the mysterious Great Being Rebellion be tolerated any longer. Could it be possible this would actually evolve into a war? And if so, were current operations like the Seizure of Vulcanus and the Atero Termination the first steps of a true conflict?
Somehow, Benjarmin suspected that the resistance and the Empire had always been at war. In every known conflict, the resistance had somehow been involved, even during events as unrelated and obscure as the Noctian Negotiations, and the Fall of the Guild, both of which had almost nothing to do with the resistance. These "preludes" may well have possibly become the building blocks of a true war. If things really continued the way they were heading, the official political debates between the resistance and the Empire would truly escalate into a true war.
Suddenly Benjarmin's musing were shattered by the sound of multiple footsteps echoing from his throne room above. The bounty hunters are here, he thought to himself. He slowly walked up the long plight of stairs connecting his throne room to the dungeon. Well then, let us see whether war is truly destined. After all, after my decision is made, nothing will ever be the same again.
Rando and Gurren sat chained to the steel chairs of the passenger’s seat of Skorpix’s personal Airship. Their bodies were bound by elemental inhibitors, their weapons stashed away in a guarded locker on the far side of the room, and their very minds being probed at this very moment for the valued information of the resistance.
Yes, indeed. Their predicament was not very good at the moment.
Skorpix stood not far away from them, staring out of the thin glass window that stretched across the deck of the bridge. This airship was small, and was designed for speed and quick transportation. He turned to a small, metal table beside him, and fiddled with numerous refined pieces of technology, all designed for torture. Taking a short, rod-like knife, Skorpix lightly placed the tip of the blade on Rando’s hearlight, and pressed a button that sent a violent voltage of electricity circling through the Toa’s system.
Rando screamed at the top of his lungs in pain whilst Gurren lurched and wriggled violently in his seat in an effort to break free. He couldn’t bear to see his long-time war comrade in pain. After a few seconds, Skorpix deactivated the rode, and watched as Rando’s head dropped down, his body completely numb.
“YOU!” Gurren roared. “What did you--?!”
“I merely disabled him,” replied Skorpix coldly as he cut off Gurren’s words.
“This is a mere appetiser of the pain that is yet to come. A little something to whet your appetite. I want to know all of your secrets. And I want them now.”
“You’ll never break us!” growled Gurren angrily. “You’ll never make us slip.”
“I expected such a reaction from you,” remarked Skorpix as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“That is why I plan to take you before Lady Eostra: Divine Ruler of Bota Magna, Empress of the Dark Empire, and War Queen of the Four Veiled One Dominions. Her methods of torture make my own ways look cute, sweet, and cuddly. Believe me, she has way of making fools like you talk.”
Skorpix was interrupted by the approach of a Corpsian guard, his crimson eyes glancing intently at his superior.
“General Skorpix. You have a special guest waiting for you in your private chambers. He requests your presence immediately.”
“Name him?” inquired Skorpix. “Who dares claim to have the authority to demand for my supreme presence?”
“Why, General Dredzek, of course,” replied the Corpsian, a flicker of surprise in his voice. “He wishes to speak to you on matters that are not for my ears to hear. He mentioned, that it was a matter of most urgency. That it involved talk on a future Imperial… stratagem against these rebels.”
“I see,” said Skorpix calmly. “Guard, watch these two rebels, and double-lock the bridge. I dislike the thought of them having the ability to escape my clutches, and knowing the reputation of this particular resistance, it would be best to double the security.”
“Yes Sir. I shall carry out all your tasks immediately, Sir.”
But Skorpix had already left. The Corpsian then turned away and left to carry out his task, leaving Gurren and Rando alone with the few Corpsians and other Imperial soldiers piloting the vessel.
Slowly, Gurren raised his head, and looked over to Rando.
“Pssst! Rando? Can you hear me?”
Seconds ticked passed before Rando finally raised his head and looked over to Gurren, the strain at performing such a simple motion obviously being painful. Despite this, Rando still managed to smile weakly with a witty, yet sad, look on his face.
“I hear you Gurren. Loud and clear,” he whispered. “You gotta a plan to get out of here?”
“Just one,” replied Gurren. “Just give me a moment.”
Time passed for several moments, before Gurren heaved forward violently, screaming as his body flared with bright electrical energies, obviously burning his body. Two Corpsian guards charged forwards, and turned a dial on Gurren’s chair to cut off the electrical energies being channeled into his body.
Gurren screamed before he fell limp. Rando looked on worriedly, obvious concern twinkling in his eyes.
“What was that?” rasped one Corpsian as he suspiciously raised his weapon — a Vortixx Rhotuka Battle Axe.
“There must’ve been a short circuit from one of the ship’s power cables. Must have caused the elemental inhibitors to temporarily overload themselves and backfire. We should probably go and check out the situation.”
The other Corpsian nodded, and left with his companion. The bridge was now only filled with Imperial soldiers solely trained for piloting. They had not been educated sufficiently in combat. As Rando looked on in an unnerved manner, he caught Gurren look up at him and wink mischievously.
“What was that about?” whispered Rando.
“I focused my elemental energies inwards, rather than outwards. Instead of firing them out, I channeled them into myself. The elemental inhibitors then attempted to drain the power out of my body, but they instead caused them to flare up, and make it look like they were actually overloading. Now those Corpsian idiots are going to deactivate the inhibitors for one second in order to reboot the power cords.”
“When do the inhibitors go down?”
“Six seconds. Counting down.” And so the two Toa waited.
Five seconds passed.
Suddenly, Rando and Gurren burst out of their bonds with the biggest elemental blasts they could muster. The pilots of the small airship instantly lurched backwards as they searched for the commotion, though they were all sent flying through the thin, glass window behind them by a gust of powerful air courtesy of Rando. The stunning blast hit the control systems of the bridge, instantly crushing them, and causing them to shut down.
Instantly, the alarms sounded. Rando suddenly lurched as the mighty vehicle rocked downwards in a violent manner, as the vessel lost all sense of coordination, steering, and direction. Gurren ripped open the weapons cache, and pulled out his numerous weapons, and chucked Rando his swords.
“Let’s get out of here!” he roared. Rando didn’t need to argue on that.
Charging forward, the two Toa dived out of the cockpit’s exposed view port, and soared down into the skyline below, as gravity finally claimed their bodies.
Meanwhile, far above, Skorpix and Dredzek unsteadily lumbered into the cockpit with the sounds of sirens ringing in their ears. Their transport was due to crash any second. Corpsian soldiers sprinted into the room, all desperately (and rather uselessly) trying to reactivate the dead piloting instruments. The alarms continued to ring loudly through the long, empty corridors of the ship.
“What did the two fools do?!” snarled Dredzek viciously, as he primed his claws.
“They obviously escaped, as I expected them to,” said Skorpix calmly. “They must have dived out the window and taken out the pilots.”
“What do we do now?!” roared Dredzek. “I’m not going to wind up burned to death in this inferno because of two Toa!”
“We follow them. Because I know exactly where they are due to land.”
Dredzek perched his head inquisitively in a bird-like manner.
“Exactly where their ground-based allies are currently walking.”
And with a set of smiles on their darkly ugly faces, the two Imperial generals faded out of existence just as their airship crashed down to be consumed by a grand inferno of fire.
Rando and Gurren freefell through the skyline of Spherus Magna. It was a unique experience falling down to possibly imminent death at such a high speed. They were roughly 120 meters up from the ground. They were now falling at a speed greater than a Toa wearing the Kanohi Kakama, Great Mask of Speed.
“So what do we do now?” asked Gurren curiously, almost as if the fact they were freefalling through the sky was the least of his troubles.
“We angle ourselves towards the area Neocrax and the others should be in. If I’m right, they should be in that area over there. Near Skrall River”
“Well we’re going to make a pretty theatrical fall if we go down like this. Can’t you just use your powers to cushion up our fall?”
“Can’t,” replied Rando, as he squinted his eyes t try and make out Gurren better. “I used what was left of my elemental powers for that escape on the bridge. My powers requiring recharging! Now hold on, Gurren. This is going to be a VERY bumpy fall.”
Gurren was almost satisfied with that answer until he realized one thing.
“Wait? Hold onto what?!”
Neocrax and Tenork limped through the undergrowth of the Skrall River forest. It had been several hours, almost half a day, since they had faced their defeat at the hands of Skorpix, and now it was well into the late afternoon. Tenork groaned as he staggered through a puddle of deep, squelching mud. Neocrax didn’t feel much better, and even he felt to stop and evaluate the situation.
“What’d we do now?” asked Tenork drearily, the signs of battle and exhaustion being prominent on his features.
“With Rando and Gurren captured, our chances of being captured by an Imperial patrol have doubled. Those Corpsian search squads are relentless you know!”
Neocrax sighed, and turned to face his companion.
“I don’t know, but I do know we need to find a hideaway soon before we do get captured. Skorpix has already predicted our travel route, and has sent his goons to ambush us. Perhaps it would be best to set up camp for a couple of—”
“Look out below!” screamed a strangely familiar voice from above.
Neocrax and Tenork looked up into the sky, and their eyes widened as they dived out of the way of Rando and Gurren’s collision course. The two Toa fell through the treetops, crashing through the thick branches at high speed, before crumpling on the ground with a loud smash.
Neocrax and Tenork raced over to the sight where Rando and Gurren had crash-landed. Their fall had resulted in a massive crater being formed right into the hard, weathered ground. Drifts of steamy smoke snaked from the violent formation in the ground, giving off the feel that something catastrophic has going to emerge from the crater.
As Neocrax and Tenork cautiously approached the foot of the crater, the battered, dusty forms of Gurren and Rando emerged from the pit, both groaning and wheezing considerably loud.
“Rando? Gurren?” inquired Tenork. “How’d you escape from Skorpix? I thought he had you two captured. We saw him take you two back to his Airship vessel.”
“Simply put it, we made a very loud escape,” replied Rando in a manner that made it look like he was almost half-listening to the Torshurrr. The veteran Toa of Air dusted down his arms and legs, then turned to face his two fellow comrades.
“It’s time we leave. We may have escaped Skorpix, though we escaped his clutches only barely. We need to make our way to one of our more secure resistance hideouts.”
“And which one do you have in mind?” asked Neocrax in a slightly irritated tone.
“We have hundreds of hideouts all over the planet. Maybe even more than that. Which one do you want us to head to?”
Rando smiled daringly. “I know just the one…”
And with his team’s new destination in mind, Rando led his team off into the wilderness. Only they wouldn’t be heading through the route the Empire had predicted they’d travel through, oh no. They were going to take a long and treacherous route off into the Northern Frost.
A shadowy figure drifted through the streets of Tajun, like an avenging phantom. The night had yet again fallen over Spherus Magna. The figure had left a trail of victims behind him in the last century, but not a soul alive had been able to connect the murders up until now, when he had left the message unmasking his return. Had Serrakaan had even a shred of emotion, he would have chuckled, but his empty, black heart found itself unable to do so. He had been waiting in the shadowy slums of Tajun for years now, watching the universe unfold.
At first, he had thought the Dark Empire was the real threat; the true danger to his power. But as time past, he had learned that they were not. They were merely the front for a greater evil that lay in the darkness, waiting to be stirred from a deep slumber to plague existence once again. Serrakaan knew what this great threat was, but he knew it would be futile to combat it. He knew of the Empire's efforts to keep it at bay, but knew they would fail. And he knew the resistance would soon wage war, and the devastating effects they would have on those efforts.
He knew what was coming: the storm of eternal darkness. And when everyone else lay on the floor dead, Serrakaan swore to still be standing high; and when that moment came, he would be powerful enough to challenge the darkness. But until that time came, he would remain here. In Tajun. Purging it of the weak and building up his strength. Because he knew that his day was coming; and knew that the day was approaching more rapidly than anyone could even possibly imagine.
As silently as he had come, Serrakaan allowed himself to blend in with the shadows of the weathered streets, his movements never changing, his plans for the future never altering.
Jareroden trudged through thick mud, each step seemingly sapping more and more strength out of his weary body. His troops felt his pain, and in the depths of their minds they begged for rest. But Jareroen was determined to meet his old foe, and bring him down no matter what it cost. However, he knew he could be walking straight into a trap. Benjarmin was no fool. He was not only cunning, ruthless, intelligent, and perceptive, but he was also in the possession of a truly brilliant mind, one that had been wasted on corrupt ambitions.
But Jareroden knew the Makuta had to be stopped. He MUST be stopped. Many of his troops would have deemed him unfit to command in these circumstances; for leading a conflict with a vengeful mind rather than a calm one could be fatal. But Jareroden knew that Benjarmin could only be stopped by him. He had studied his foe as the years had passed, and had learned all of his tactics, all his tricks, and had even learned how he thought.
Through the mist of the night, a strange fortress could be made out, built against a large cliff face. Large, ancient spires towered from the fortress, their designs giving off a false organic impression. Reason would tell Jareroden that this fortress extended deep within in the mountain, and would also tell him this was Benjarmin's lair.
In a mere day, Jareroden knew that lives would be lost, and wounds would be drawn. But until then, the troops would rest, recollect, and remark on their lives before entering battle. Jareroden could not speak for them, but he knew with all his heart that he could assume that they would all go forward for their beliefs, and prove to him that the rule of the Dark Empire must come to an end. For now, they rested. But tomorrow, everything they had come to know would never be the same ever again.
This chapter was written by Jareroden97.
Dawn was breaking over the Black Spike Mountains. It's first yellow rays shone over the pointed mountain-tops, casting a pinkish hue over the many-towered fortress of Makuta Benjarmin. Jareroden's troops were walking about their encampment, gathering their weapons, armor, supplies, and many other things that would be important in the coming siege.
Jareroden stood on a rock that overlooked the valley which held the fortress. He took a breath of the fresh morning air. He knew that this might be the very last dawn he would ever see. He knew when he set foot in that dark fortress, it might be the very last time he ever saw the open sky, smelled fresh air, felt the clean soil beneath his feet. But overall, he thought of Galika. He knew that they might never see each other again, and this was a saddening feeling. But he would gladly give his own life to hinder the Empire's plans, even if it was only momentary setback for them.
Jareroden turned to his gathered soldiers. He knew that many, if not most of them would die in the battle. He gave a small speech to rally them.
"My fellow soldiers, my friends, this will be the last battle for many of us, but I know all of you would willingly give your lives to defeat the Empire just as much as I would give mine, so I give my sincerest thanks to you all. For we are about to enact something not even the darkest warrior in the Empire’s leagues could ever do: courage. Oh, the cowards that sit on the throne call us suicidals, but they have no concept of traits such as bravery and honour and love and joy! Just remember those words, my friends, remember those words when you put your life on the line on the battlefield, because those are the words that draw the line between us and the tyranny of the Empire. Now, we charge onwards. For the downfall of our oppressors, and the freedom of all!"
All of Jareroden's army cheered, and unsheathed their weapons, and charged.
The Protosteel gates opened, and out poured Corpsians and Slayer X2 robots, along with many other Imperial servants. The two armies met in the center of the bowl-shaped valley. The clamor of swords and shields striking each other arose in the former morning stillness, along with the sounds of various forms of artillery being shot.
Jareroden cut his way through the enemy ranks, occasionally using his power over telekinesis to send about a dozen at a time fly into the air. He eventually made his way to the fortress gates, and with a great heave, opened them, and as soon as he was in, he shut them.
He walked through the darkness, searching around the fortress. What guards he saw he quickly dispatched before they had time to raise the alarm. He eventually reached a gigantic, spiralling staircase, which went up at least one thousand feet. After more than half an hour climbing he finally reached the top, and approached a black, iron door, with Benjarmin's mask imprinted on it.
Jareroden pushed it open, and stepped into the dimly illuminated chamber. For a moment, there seemed to be no life, until a deep, sinister voice rang through the chamber.
"Hello, old friend. It has been far too long."
Jareroden turned to face his hated enemy, who had seemingly materialized out of the shadows.
The Makuta chuckled. "I am happy that you came here, as now I can kill you much easier, and not take so much time in doing so."
He unstrapped his blade from his back. "Now, are you ready to die?"
Jareroden grabbed his blade. "Only if you are."
Benjarmin let a cold laugh depart his lips. "You've lost, Jareroden. Atero has fallen. The bounty hunters have recovered what they paid to find. The Skakdi have ravaged you forces. Shardak has been captured. Rando and Gurren have been defeated by Skorpix. And Varkanax is no doubt wiping out Vulcanus as we speak. You have lost, Toa. Lost with no chance of winning."
Jareroden was speechless. Atero had been attacked by bounty hunters and Skakdi? Shardak had been captured? Rando had failed? Varkanax was preparing to wipe Hydros and the others out at Vulcanus? the Empire knew the resistance would be at its weakest when the bulk of their forces were split up into small groups, and by striking at them separately would surely eliminate them. And now the resistance was going to pay the price.
"Regardless, if the resistance does survive your masters' plans, then you know what that will mean: War. Official political debates will breakdown between our factions, and we will both be declaring all-out war. And it will give the resistance no greater pleasure than to begin their war with your death."
"Very well then, Toa. Make your last move."
The two then charged at each other, and their blades met.
The two clashed their weapons against each other's again and again, and again. Jareroden leapt over Benjarmin's head, slashing him on the shoulder as he went. Benjarmin's response was blasting him with shadow, which sent him slamming through it. Jareroden got up, groaning and coughing, and saw Benjarmin approaching him. He stood up, and the battle continued. They started down the stair never letting their guard down, each anticipating the other's blows.
About halfway down the steps, Benjarmin began speaking. "Did you ever learn what really happened to your old team?"
About a decade ago, Jareroden's team (besides him and Galika) had vanished under mysterious circumstances, and were never found.
Benjarmin smiled. "I shall take that as a no then. So... I shall tell you: I had a covert squad of our soldiers capture Taro, Treedaka, Sayna, and Korasaunt, who were knocked unconscious, and taken to a cave deep in the White Quartz Mountains."
"I saw to their executions."
Jareroden's stomach lurched when he heard the word executions.
Benjarmin could sense Jareroden's insecurity, so he continued.
"First, I saw to the death of Korasaunt. I took out a special ice dagger in my possession. I stabbed him right in the stomach, and injected ice into his very being. He was shivering all over, his armor slowly taking on a blueish color. I stabbed it this time right into his forehead; it froze him solid. When I could tell he was completely frozen, I swung my hand, shattering him."
"Next I took care of Sayna. I strode up to her, and stabbed her in the chest, and I slowly rotated the blade, and when I withdrew it, a fair amount of organic tissue came out with it. I then raised my blade, and let it fall again, having it rip through her neck. When I was finished, Sayna's head was only attached by a thin strand of neck."
"You should have seen Treedaka crying and sobbing during and after I killed Sayna, so, in an act of mercy and pity, I decided I would end his misery. I went to him, and first cut his arm off, then stabbed him in the abdominal area. I then slashed from his left ribcage to his right shoulder, and his head and neck area fell to the ground."
"Then, only Taro was left."
"I slashed him all over his body, then slowly cut off all his armor. Once that was out of the way, I chopped him clean in half. His body hit the ground, and he looked up at me, his eyes blazing with hate. My foot then descended on his head, and a very satisfactory crunching noise issued."
Jareroden could not take it any longer. He screamed in rage, and hit Benjarmin with a near Nova blast of telekinesis, which sent the Makuta flying through the wall of the tower. Benjarmin fell through the air, and slammed through the roof of the main building. He fell through one floor, then another, then another, and even more, before he finally hit the basement; the prison facility.
He looked up, to see Jareroden falling toward him. He blocked Jareroden's descent with his sword, and then continued to fight him. Jareroden ran up a wall, kicked off of it, and scored a deep whole in his chest armor. The two continued in their vicious fight, making their way down the cell hall at the same time.
Inside of one cell, Jareroden saw the unconscious form of Crystallus. Benjarmin was gradually realizing that he was losing.
Jareroden panted, and walked to Benjarmin. "Give up yet?"
Benjarmin smiled darkly. "I have one more trick up my sleeve."
Benjarmin reached inside one of the cell, and, by the throat, pulled out--
Jareroden gasped. "Galika!"
Benjarmin placed his blade at her throat. "What a touching reunion. Now Jareroden, lay down your weapon, or..."
He pressed his blade tighter on Galika's throat. "She dies."
Benjarmin chuckled. "Now Jareroden, what will it be?"
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
Far away in a towering fortress, the Element Lord of Technology sat on his iron throne, contemplating his final decision. The decision he was weighing was a great one. Either fully pledge his empire’s support to Eostra, Millennium, and the Dark Lord, or maintain his neutrality and almost certainly be obliterated by their armies.
The Technology Lord turned his massive head to his side table, reaching out to it with his mind, and activated a projector built into its metallic structure. A three-dimensional image of an Odina Drone protruded from a silver disc, and numerous readouts materialized, pinpointed on certain parts of the robot's diagram.
The blueprints of the once fear-inspiring robots had originally been salvaged by the Dark Hunters from a wrecked warship of the Gigas Magna Empire. They had kept hold of them for many years, though had lacked the proper resources to actually mass-produce the Drones. When the Empire wiped them out, Millennium had uncovered the plans, and had spent the next decade or two trying to decode the locking codes attached to the schematic’s disc. Obviously, he had only recently succeeded in breaking the lock.
The Element Lord turned to one of his Baterra bodyguards. Not long after the Restoration of Spherus Magna, he had managed to come across the Baterra in the Black Spike Mountains, and asserted his dominance over their robotic minds.
“Download these schematics into the master computer,” ordered the Technology Lord. “I want at least 400,000 Odina Drones mass produced by nightfall.
The Baterra silently acknowledged the command, and left the room to carry out its task. Now alone, the Element Lord leaned against the backrest of his throne, and rattled his armored fingers against one of the arms.
War is coming, he thought to himself. Endless war, that may never end. And when the Empire and the resistance have destroyed each other, I alone will stand to take their places as the supreme power in the universe!
Spinorak stood atop a mountain ledge standing beside another warrior named Kental. Before them, Gurren, Neocrax, Tenork, and Rando trudged through a canyon-like ditch. They had been tracking this group for a long time, and had watched as Skorpix had battled them, and let them live. In the book of the Dark Empire, that meant the general wanted the resistance fighters to live for a little longer. In Spinorak's eyes, that time was up.
The Makuta gestured to Kental. “Eliminate them, leave no survivors.”
The murdering warrior nodded, and raised his weapons. Spinorak chuckled as shadow energy silently crackled from his fingertips. The pair were about to launch themselves at the group when a set of powerful arms pulled them back.
Startled, the pair twirled around with lightning speed, only to come face-to-face with Skorpix, his crimson eyes gleaming with power. Behind him, the form of Millennium’s personal general and second-in-command, Dredzek, materialized.
“General Skorpix. General Dredzek,” whispered Kental. “Why do you disrupt our hunt? We were under the assumption that you wanted us to eliminate the targets”
Skorpix glared at them sinisterly. “War is coming, Kental. Not a violent tantrum or political stand made by a group rebels unsatisfied with their role in life, but real, true warfare. Atero has withstood the Skakdi invasion, Vulcanus has not been burned, and Benjarmin has openly engaged Toa Jareroden. Conflict is due, and we need to prepare.”
“But why not kill these fighters now,” asked Spinorak. “Would it not be best to limit their numbers early.”
“Don’t test our patience,” snarled Dredzek. “It would be a foolish strategy to have our legions scattered over the planet to eliminate small pockets of resistance groups, whilst the bulk of their forces sit in Atero waiting to strike us while our guard is down. No, if war outbreaks we need our armies to be assembled. Meaning we can crush them in one swift, elegant blow.”
“Then what do you propose we do with this lot,” asked Spinorak. “Do we let them slip away?”
Skorpix didn’t need to answer that question.
“Head to Eostra’s territory,” began Skorpix. “Our forces are being assembled there. The public’s fear of the Empire will be maintained by the lowly law enforcement squads.”
The two generals then turned away, and began heading on their way.
“Where are you two going?” asked Kental.
Dredzek turned to Kental and smiled, his dark skull twisting at the strange gesture.
“We’re leaving to give Benjarmin... a fighting chance.”
And then, in a brilliant flash of light, they were gone.
Somewhere else, Conqueror brought his staff down on the old, marble table of the resistance’s council chamber. Any arguments or debates being held were dropped and forgotten. Freztrak, Ixtil, and Leviathos looked up to face Conqueror’s menacing, yet calm face.
“Squabbling like this will not get us anywhere,” he roared. “We need to deal with this matter now. With Jareroden occupied, and Shardak missing, it will be much more difficult to spearhead any efforts of retaliation and investigation into the Empire’s activities.”
“Judging from the tensions between the Empire and the resistance, I calculate there is approximately a 97.8% chance that the fragile, and uneasy truce we have have with the Empire will break down, and actual conflict will commence.”
“We’ve always known that conflict would come,” began Leviathos. “After all, isn’t that the very reason we formed this resistance? To fight? To win?”
A silence followed Leviathos’ words, the resistance leaders obviously considering their meaning. Finally, Freztrak piped in.
“We should assemble our forces,” he began. “We must gather Tetrack, Hydros, and Rando’s units before our opportunity to strike is too late. We...“
Freztrak’s words would never reach the ears of his friends, too quiet to be heard over the noise of the large iron door behind them being slammed open. Standing in the doorway was a Toa of Ice, a Toa of Fire, and a Toa of Radiation. All looked exhausted and heavily drained.
“Soalaz, Heehvan, Harlen,” said Ixtil, surprised. “You have returned, but we have much to tell you. Atero has been…”
“Invaded?” inquired Harlen. “Attacked, raided, assaulted? We thought as much. Chameleo’s information pointed towards that much."
“Information?” inquired Leviathos. “What information did Chameleo have to offer?”
“It would seem the Skakdi’s attack on Atero was a mere diversion. A diversion the bounty hunters took complete advantage of. The Skakdi were merely intended to distract Atero’s guards, not actually conquer them.”
“Then what was the objective of the bounty hunters?” demanded Conqueror. “What was their purpose in all of this?”
This time it was Soalaz’s turn to speak. “They were headed for the archives.”
“The archives?” retorted Freztrak. “Whatever for?”
“I believe they knew what was down there.”
“That is not possible. There is approximately a 99.9% chance that they would have any knowledge of our possession of the Kanohi Ign--”
“I’ve checked the archives,” Heehvan said, cutting off Ixtil. “It is no longer there. All we found was one of the Empire’s servants, Shadowhawk, unconscious on the floor. Apparently, he was the soldier assigned to accompany the bounty hunters, and was obviously betrayed. We’ve placed him in one of our more durable cells.”
Silence followed Heehvan’s words. After several seconds, Leviathos broke the quietness.
“You three are dismissed, the council has much to discuss.”
Soalaz, Heehvan, and Harlen bowed their heads respectively, and turned to exit the room, only for the door slam shut and lock just as they were to pass through it.
Conqueror looked at his other leaders in confusion. “What is the meaning of this? None of your are using your override controls are you?”
The resistance leaders shook their heads.
“Then what is...?”
Suddenly, a holographic image of Zaktan materialized on the large silver plate built into center of the table.
“I believe I am the cause of the commotion, Conqueror.”
“Zaktan?!” spat Leviathos, surprised. “How can you be here? You were killed by Teridax according to the accounts of Helryx and the Toa Hagah.”
Zaktan chuckled. “I suppose he... underestimated my capacity to survive, but now back to business. I am in the Atero control room. All security and lockdown systems are at my command. Every door, every window, every exit has been barricaded under the terms of the “Extreme Protection Protocol.” None of your warriors are leaving Atero anytime soon.”
“I sincerely doubt that,” replied Ixtil. “To have total access to Atero’s control systems, you would require the bypass controller of a resistance leader, which you do not have. The E.P.P. order can be overridden by the command of any resistance commander.”
Ixtil tampered with his control for several seconds, his surprise gradually increasing as the device refused to acknowledge his command.
“I believe the possibility of me possessing Shardak’s override control escaped your logical thinking, Ixtil. And now that it’s hooked up to the main security banks, I can now lockdown Atero.”
“We can still bypass these doors,” began Conqueror. “If at least three resistance commander activate a certain code at the same time, we can override any lockdowns.”
“I have taken that into account,” snarled Zaktan. “But I am utilizing Sequence 66432789, which, when combined with Atero’s security systems, means that any successful override attempts against doors and entry points will automatically lock down again in nine seconds. Believe me, it’s going to be a long time until you reach the control tower. Readouts of Atero’s foundation position the tower on the other side of the city.”
Silence followed before Zaktan continued.
“And that means I will have plenty of time to prepare myself for your arrival. Unfortunately I cannot access the full might of Atero’s inbuilt defenses, though I can still access some of them. A few intruder detectors here, a few auto-turrets there, and it will take you at least a day from now to reach me. And I doubt you will want to damage any of your hand-crafted mechanisms.”
Leviathos had heard enough. “No matter, Skakdi. You will fall.”
Zaktan holographic face turned to eye the Noctian before breaking out into sinister laughter. Levaithos growled as he pressed a switch on his control that cut off Zaktan’s transmission.
“Get your gear, my friends,” he said, in a surprisingly calm tone. “We’ve got a Skakdi to catch.”
Elsewhere on Spherus Magna, a single being walked through an empty corridor. To his left and right, were a number of empty, dust-covered cells, their iron doors still creaking as a gentle breeze whispered through them. All of them brought back numerous memories. Painful memories at that. Memories, of sickness, and fear, and weakness, and…
The being let the thoughts retreat back into the depths of his mind before they threatened to overwhelm him. He remembered this place far too well. Ankum once had a saying: “If the tides turn against you, remember the lessons of the past. The memory of those long lost days will make you confront your actions, consider them, and make you challenge your life with a new approach.”
Verex would have smiled. Ankum was a wise and good friend, a friend who had valued the meaning of peace in a way none had ever seen before. He was long since gone. The villagers of New Endolise had perhaps been the most ill-prepared beings for the war with the Dark Empire.
They were caught in the crossfire, and many of them fell. With even Toa Akatark understanding Ankum’s worries for his people, the Endolise Tribe had retreated from the war in order to continue living their isolated, nomadic existence, though continued to aid the Society in any way they could. Five years into the Empire’s reign, Ankum had passed away from a combination of old age and battle wounds.
Verex and Inzek had sat next to him in his final hour; and as Inzek had wept, not even Verex could calm her. Only Ankum himself had smiled and reassured her, telling his daughter to stand tall and strong with a brave face. His death was peaceful and painless, and Inzek decided to take on the responsibility of leading the inhabitants of New Endolise.
She had asked Verex, Ranzesk, and Drex to stay with them, but they had refused, the three friends being unable to live in peace whilst the world of Spherus Magna was falling around them. Verex had promised to one day to return to New Endolise; on the day the Empire would fall, though that promise had been made a long time ago. Perhaps too long ago.
Verex had followed Hydros and Conqueror to Atero, where he had stood with his companions and watched the founding of the resistance.
Verex had fought against the Empire with all his might in those early struggles, earning him a respectable position among the resistance’s ranks. Ranzesk and Drex had followed him every step of the way, helping him throughout his numerous ventures. Even as the war raged, the three of them remained close friends. However, Drex and Ranzesk had been instructed to take part in an investigation in the Bota Magna, and had been forced to part ways with Verex roughly ten months ago, leaving him to fight his battles alone with Hydros.
Verex continued to walk down the corridor until he stood before a massive set of twin doors. Pushing them open, Verex entered the room and shivered as more memories resurfaced. He had expected entering Skirvex’s private chamber would have that effect on him, for it was here that he was enslaved, forced to attack Inzek, battled with his own will to resist Skirvex’s orders, and watch as he had prepared to strike the female huntress down.
But that was also a long time ago. Now, the room was empty; and dust-covered, a sign that the Gatherers had not attempted to reclaim their old fortress. Verex’s mission was a simple one: Conqueror had long since suspected that the Gatherers had survived the collapse of the Legion of Shadows, and had personally instructed Verex to search their old bases and hideouts for any evidence that would confirm this rumor. So far, there had been nothing. Nothing to suggest Verahk was still out there.
Verex strode to the other side of the room and pushed open another door to continue his search, only to find a towering, black and silver armored monster standing in the way.
“You!” Verex growled. His red eyes suddenly blazed furiously as he stared at the sleek being before him.
The creature chuckled. “Verex, my friend, fancy seeing you here? I honestly did not expect to see you again.”
“Skip the pleasantries, Zevrahk,” barked Verex bestially. “What are you doing here? Is the Empire up to something? Or are you just doing some dirty work for what’s left of the Legion.”
Zevrahk continued to chuckle. “You should know I wouldn’t serve the Empire, Verex. And the Legion is long since gone, as much as I regret to admit it. Our forces were scattered to the winds when the Empire betrayed us, our edge broken like the back of a Rahi.”
“Then what are you doing here?” asked Verex, who had by this time unsheathed his sword.
“Verahk and Kylla disappeared not long after the Legion’s fall. Not even the Empire knows what happened to them. I have been spending the last century traveling the world to find them. My efforts, so far, have been wasted, and I have come here to see if the Gatherers still exists, in hopes that if they should, they may know something. Obviously, they are just as much a relic of the past as the Legion is.”
The blades of Verex’s shield began to spin wildly.
“Sorry, Rahkshi, though I might have to put myself between you and your master.”
Zevrahk let out a chilling laugh. “Whoever said I was your enemy, Verex? In fact, I am quite the contrary. No, I want to help your little resistance.”
Verex’s shield began to rotate much slower, until it stopped spinning entirely, though Verex’s sword remained in place. He looked at Zevrahk in a mixture of suspicion and confusion.
“Indeed, reptile,” replied Zevrahk.
“Think of me as… a loose associate. Your resistance has the edge in this war. The Empire is disciplined, and strictly organized. The resistance is not, but has greater warriors, better hideouts, and better tactics. The Empire relies too heavily on overwhelming brute strength, which has allowed you to gain a foothold several times. However, you need someone who knows how to best combat the Empire. How to best manipulate them.”
“And what do you gain from this?” inquired Verex, suspiciously.
Zevrahk laughed. “Nothing that will affect the resistance’s stability, Skrall. All I need is a confirmation from you that I will receive a suitable rank and position.”
There was a silence for several seconds. Finally, Verex sighed.
“Very well, creature. You will have what you wish, but be aware that some, such as Hydros, will not tolerate any mistakes made by you.”
This time, Zevrahk returned Verex’s menacing stare with one of his own. “Then I will make sure I don’t make any flaws in my… service. Now come, Verex. Its time you show me where the resistance’s ‘hidden headquarters’ truly is.”
This chapter was written by TheSlicer.
A fiery cauldron of pure rage rose up inside the Toa of Shadow's body as he approached the massive metal fortress. Modeled after several of the great bastions of the past, Nightwatcher once again recognized a jumbled mix of architectural styles, all for purposes of either pure attack and defensive power or simply intimidating attacking armies.
The obelisk-like towers of a black-colored enhanced form of Protosteel were those of the Gigas Magna Empire, the almost impenetrable design of the thick walls taken from the Noctxia Guardians and Brominax's Resistance, as were the designs of the hidden energy cannons that were positioned along the walls. Too many to count were the small details that had been lifted from the Dark Hunters, Order of Great Beings and Brotherhood of Makuta. The best of each organization, each of which had once staked its claim on the universe; a completely invincible base.
How naïve they were.
He reached the first layer of gates, thick and imposing as they rose above him, though not so thick and not so high that he couldn't see through them with his X-ray vision. A lime-armored guard from a species that had never taken a name for itself but was instead remembered by the name of the most famous of them all—Ehlek—approached him, raising a hand as Nightwatcher towered over him.
The guard's collected look revealed nothing of his emotions, which in itself was enough to annoy him; he liked seeing beings' fear on their faces. Of course, he could sense his fear through the aura field, but this was different.
“Stop immediately,” the guard said. “This is a forbidden area. Please identify yourself or—”
“I don't have time to be threatened by little fools playing soldier,” Nightwatcher spat. The venom in his voice alone was enough to make the guard step back a few paces. “I have an appointment with your leaders.”
“Identify yourself,” the guard repeated, though he looked more frightened now, “or I shall be forced—”
The rest of his sentence was drowned out by a blast of flame which made the guard cry out in horror. He tried to step back, away from the pillar of fire that was emanating from Nightwatcher's hand, but to no avail. The cry became a scream, and then faded into silence as the guard's incinerated, lifeless corpse fell to the ground.
Immediately, alarms began to sound, but the bounty hunter ignored them as he pulled back his hand and punched through the solid wall. Deliberately and slowly, he continued forward as the alarms grew louder, his pace measured and even but by no means calm. He was angry, and when Nightwatcher got angry, someone always had to pay the price.
As he approached the next line of defenses, a row of Vortixx guards came to his attention. Their armor a cold black that seemed to shine in the light of the moons, they eased out of ready position within half a second and fired without hesitation.
Plasma bolts ripped through the darkness, strong enough to turn a Toa to ashes, but Nightwatcher didn't stop. He allowed them to smash into him, unhesitating as he strode forward. They did him no harm, and only increased the mounting energies within him as he came forward, which continued to build inside him until they were like a bomb waiting to be detonated. The Vortixx guards seemed to realize this, and were wise enough to retreat as he continued.
The plasma cannons on the walls did not activate; Good, Nightwatcher thought. At least they learn.
The second wall he encountered was that of the fortress itself. It was perfectly smooth, and it appeared peaceful in the darkness. But the peace was deceiving; probably, inside, hundreds of beings were readying themselves to stop him. It mattered little to Nightwatcher, of course; there was nothing inside there that had the slightest chance of stopping him. Especially not now.
He didn't stop at this wall either; instead, he simply stepped into it as if it were made of water and not the hardest known substance in the known universe. As he pushed forward, his body filled the gap where the wall had been, and a few moments later there was a Nightwatcher-sized hole in the titanic base's wall. He didn't bother sealing it; no doubt, someone would attend to that, assuming he didn't bring the fortress down during this meeting.
An orderly line of several dozen guards from a motley collection of species rose up to meet him as soon as he reached the other side, again blasting him with several particle weapons of different types; clearly they wanted to see which one had the greatest effect on him. Again, he walked calmly through the firestorm, stepping past them as if they weren't there.
They didn't fall back as he turned and began to walk along the corridor towards the Imperial throne room, instead following him and continuing to pelt him with energy blasts. Momentarily, he considered killing them all, but the matter was rendered moot when, on an unseen signal, they hurried away.
Thus he was left alone and unhindered as he moved down the corridor, black as night — the lights, not as protected from the energy blasts as Nightwatcher, had been pulverized — with most of the walls blown out by the force of the attack upon him, and approached the massive twin doors that reminded him so much of those of Tetrack's Empire.
But this was not the Gigas Magna Empire. This was the Dark Empire, the most powerful force in the known universe since the time when the Zormacht had created the Great Beings and left for the stars beyond. This was the ultimate power in all of reality, capable of crushing all those who had ever opposed them.
Of course, they had never had to deal with him.
The smallest twitch of his wrist, and the twin doors were ripped from their hinges, blasted back into the hall towards him. He ignored these just as easily as he had ignored almost everything else, stepping through the wreckage into the circular chamber. To his mild surprise, the Lightstones in the ceiling were still there; he had assumed that the Emperors would want a darker atmosphere than usual for a meeting of this nature.
"Greetings, Nightwatcher," hissed Eostra quietly. She was sitting in the black throne at the top of the platform, her hands clasped together on her knees. On her Kanohi Salek was a ghostly smile that would have chilled the heart of almost anyone but the being she was addressing. "I bid you welcome."
The twin doors lifted themselves back up, placed themselves into their hinges, and slammed shut, leaving them alone in the Imperial Chamber. Nightwatcher stood motionless as stone, staring up at the being on the high end of the ladder.
"Eostra," he said in a low, rumbling growl, "I see you brought friends." All traces of calm had vanished from him; although he had barely moved, it seemed his body was filled with tension and at the same time a furious energy. He was not so much as pretending to be in the least lazy, as he had been while toying with Toa Hydros.
For once in his life, Toa Charon was being deadly serious.
Two figures arose out of the darkness behind the Elemental Prince, silent as they carved inky paths through the darkness around them while they stepped forward. Three pairs of red eyes stared unblinkingly down at the bounty hunter, making clear an unspoken challenge.
"You failed to kill Toa Hydros." It was Millennium speaking this time, his voice not just as cold as ice, but as cold as the void itself. "Why?"
"I was not given enough time to finish him in a... satisfactory way," Nightwatcher spat. "Now he will meet a hopeless end fighting vainly against Varkanax's armies, instead of a noble and far more interesting end at my hands. He is rather courageous, after all, and has earned the right to die quickly, an opportunity I am sure will not be offered him now."
"You know what we mean." The Dark Lord's powerful voice boomed out of the spot where his mouth should be. "Hydros should have had no chance against you of all beings. You prolonged the conflict, and just when you released the shockwave, Varkanax just happened to arrive, correct?"
"I will not deny," said Nightwatcher with cold distaste on his lips, "that I prolonged the conflict. Nor will I deny that I waited until the last moment to use a shockwave against him. But that was all part of the plan, of course."
Millennium interrupted with a cry that would have been a roar had it not been so eerily quiet. "You obliterated Varkanax's forces! And you left Hydros alive!"
"A regrettable amount of collateral damage, nothing more," said Nightwatcher. He knew the moment was mere seconds away, but remained as still as ever. "You know me. Collateral damage is to be expected."
"You failed in your mission."
"Only because you called me here. I assure you, had you allowed me to, I would have finished my plan and finished him off."
"Plans?" Eostra spoke again. "Let me make this simple for you. We make the plans. You carry out our plans. Your failure was not part of the plan."
"It was part of mine."
"No more plans," she said. "You have been useful to us in the past, Nightwatcher, but now you are becoming inconvenient. And like any tool that becomes inconvenient, you must be disposed of."
The three leaders of the Empire started slowly down the steps.
"I have not betrayed you," hissed Nightwatcher.
"That is no longer of importance," said Millennium. "It does not matter to us anymore whether you have betrayed us or not. We have chosen to eliminate you, and now we shall."
A slow grin began to spread across the Toa's face as the leaders of the Dark Empire approached him. They were very close now, only a few bio away...
"You summoned me here because you wanted to dispose of me in person," said Nightwatcher. He gripped the handle of his spear, clutching it tightly as he raised it in a mock salute. "You believe that you are the only ones powerful enough to kill me and trustworthy enough to be sure to finish the job." The moment of battle was coming, was slipping ever closer.
"Try as hard as you want," Nightwatcher spat, "try as hard as you can, try until your Empire has fallen... You can't get rid of me. The three of you have made a very bad mistake.
"A fatal mistake."
"Don't be so sure," yelled Eostra, in earnest this time, and she lunged at Nightwatcher, launching bursts of Annihilation power from her hands. The two others followed, Millennium coming left, the Dark Lord from the right. In a sudden flash of light, the cataclysmic battle exploded into action.
The clash of the titans had begun.
This chapter was written by Jareroden97.
Sovnoron strode down the gangway of his flagship down to the ground below. Cannons and all sorts of other artillery boomed through the clear mid-morning day.
The Empire had recently caught wind, via several of Eostra's spies, that the rebels were hiding the legendary Kanohi Avohkii: the Mask of Light. Such a mask could cause catastrophic troubles and setbacks to the Empire's plan. The Dark Empire wanted that Mask. Now.
The clang of swords could be heard as the two sides met, and screams were also evident. Several Resistance fighters raced towards him, weapons ready, but Sovnoron cut them down without hardly even looking.
He advanced down the stone pathway, his cold, sinister, blood-red eyes set upon the Protodermis and stone fortress. His silver-black armor was shining in the sunlight.
He reached the gates of the mighty building, and with three strikes of his machete he carved out an opening to climb into the inner-fortress with.
The courtyard was shaded by steep walls, and inside there was array of peacefulness.
The ghost of a smile appeared on Sovnoron's fanged mouth. Not for long.
Sovnoron walked into the fortress building itself. He reached a hallway, and went down it, slaying anything that stood in his way.
He was on about the eighth floor, when he heard a heavy footstep behind him. He coolly spun around, to see the large form of Shadowsnake behind him, brandishing his weapon.
"What is you and your army's business here, Imperial filth?"
Sovnoron responded in a powerful, commanding tone. "I am Sovnoron, high general of the Dark Lord, the supreme commander of the legions of the Empire of Shadows, the mastermind of this assault, and, unless you take me to the mask you are keeping here, your murderer."
Shadowsnake began circling Sovnoron, and Sovnoron did the same. A moment that seemed like a century passed by as the two combatants slowly circled each other.
Shadowsnake made the first move. Twirling his blade above his head, he charged.
Sovnoron smiled, and readied his blade. This is going to be fun.
Jareroden stood, facing Benjarmin. He was faced with a grave ultimatum: either lay down his weapons, or Galika would be killed. Silence reigned.
Eventually, Jareroden sighed, and spoke. "Fine... you win." He laid down his blade. "Just let her go..."
Benjarmin chuckled, and released his grip on Galika. She fell to the ground with a moan. Jareroden was at her side immediately. He grabbed her hand, and began to help her up.
Seizing the opportunity, Benjarmin hefted his blade, and swung it at Jareroden's back. The Toa of Psionics barely had time to spin around and block Benjarmin's sword with his own before it would have killed them both.
Jareroden looked over his shoulder. "Galika! Run!"
Galika hesitated. "But..."
"No questions! Just GO!"
Galika turned and ran. She ran until she was out of the fortress and on a hill overlooking the battle going on below her.
She spun around at a voice behind her. "Well, look at what we have here. Toa Galika, Toa of Water. I must say I did not expect to see you here. Oh well, it shall be quite a joy killing you anyway.
The voice belonged to none other than... "Dredzek..." Galika whispered, her voice concealing none of her fear.
Dredzek slowly advanced on Galika, who slowly backed away until she was right on the edge of the cliff. She had absolutely no weapons to defend herself with. She was as good as dead against the Makuta.
Sure, she could use her Mask power to heal herself of some wounds, but she knew that she could not survive against her adversary.
She leapt over Dredzek's head, and slammed her foot into his back, and gave a yelp of pain as it hit. She fell backwards to the ground.
Dredzek gave a chuckle. "Pathetic. I expected more, even from you." He raised his claw for the kill. "Embrace death."
Galika shut her eyes tight, preparing for the end. She waited, and waited, but nothing happened. She opened them, and saw the large form of Lesorask battling Dredzek fiercely.
He called over to Galika. "Toa, get out of here! I'll hold him off!"
Galika nodded and ran back to the battlefield.
Lesorask turned to where Dredzek was, only to find that he was gone. He heard a gentle scrapping noise behind him, and by the time he turned, it was already too late.
Once Galika arrived on the field, the battle was dying down, and it seemed that the Resistance would win. Galika picked up the blade of a dead soldier, and joined the battle. It was over in minutes.
The Resistance drove back their enemies and slew almost all of them. When the battle was over, Galika remembered Jareroden. She raced back to the fortress, closely followed by several soldiers. They reached the prison area, and found Jareroden, his armor battered and in some places completely torn off.
But, he was alive. Unconscious, but alive. As she knelt beside him, using her mask to heal as much as she could, a soldier ran up to her. "Sir, we have explored the entire fortress, but we have found nothing. All the machines, prisoners, and everything else are gone, along with the Makuta."
"As well, we have found Lesorask dead where he engaged Dredzek. He and Skorpix are gone, and we assume they came to buy Benjarmin the time to get everything out."
The soldier then left, leaving Galika alone with her unconscious friend.
This chapter was written by Varkanax39.
Conqueror dodged the Blood Vine's massive sword and watched as Freztrak stabbed him through his side. For a moment, the Blood Vine remained upright, then fell to the ground. Behind him, Leviathos and Soalaz had slain two other Blood Vines, one stabbed through the throat the other torn apart by Freztrak and Leviathos. Conqueror watched as the two other beings joined them at the next doorway. Only then did Conqueror dare to speak, glancing at the small communications device he carried with him.
"Ixtil, we've reached the sixth door. We've just finished off three of Zaktan's pets. More may be coming, but with so few of his minions left, I doubt he'll risk losing more. Where are you?"
"We've just apprehended two of Zaktan's servants in the training center, apparently they were a rear guard. Harlen and Heehvan are attempting to interrogate them. They're not talking."
"They will, when I... meet them." Conqueror growled. "What other traps does Zaktan have in store for us?"
"I am only relying on my memory at this present moment, though considering Zaktan has complete control over Atero's security systems, then he must be utilizing the six hidden traps in the next hallway, and the five others that are currently not active but can be triggered with Sequence 21768. I do not know if Zaktan knows how to operate them, but be on your guard. Once you pass through two more doors, you will enter the arena itself, then you are free to proceed on and eliminate Zaktan."
Conqueror almost sighed. They'd spent nearly all afternoon chasing Zaktan and disabling the traps and Blood Vines he'd sent to slow them down, and while they'd made progress, they were still a long way from reaching Zaktan's fortress. The control tower was built like a fortress, with many defenses. And now they were all in the hands of one insane Skakdi.
"Anything else?" He asked Ixtil.
"Nothing, but... My sensors indicate that a large group of Zyglak, probably twenty, are moving slowly toward you."
"Zyglak?" asked Conqueror. "But that's impossible! In order for them to break through, they would need-"
"A resistance commander, yes." Said Ixtil. "Three to override the sequence Zaktan is using. Many of them are our allies, but at least five do not have resistance identification. There is a 87% chance that they will attack your team."
Conqueror betrayed no emotion outwardly, but within, his thoughts were in turmoil.
For them to break through Zaktan's door sequence, they'd need three resistance commanders, unless-
Conqueror shut off the communications, then whipped around.
"We need to catch Zaktan, and fast. Twenty Zyglak have somehow broken through Atero's security system, and are heading toward us. We need to render the remaining traps on this corridor inoperative."
Freztrak cursed, and Leviathos drew a massive curved sword. Each of the resistance leaders spoke the sequence that would open the door for nine seconds before Zaktan's sequence shut the door, and the four allies entered the next corridor, weapons drawn. There was only a small torch left to provide illumination, but Conqueror could see just as well in the darkness.
Suddenly there was a harsh screech and a massive Zyglak appeared out of the darkness, six others following him. The Zyglak smashed his blade against Leviathos' and the two beings, locked in combat, vanished into the shadows. Conqueror raised his staff above his head, striking a Zyglak a blow to the head, and the brutal being fell dead.
"They aren't allies!" Conqueror yelled. "They're working with Zaktan!" As Soalaz shot a bolt of ice at a second Zyglak, the being jumped away, landing on his back. There was a massive explosion and a strange sound filled the room.
The four remaining Zyglak suddenly collapsed on the ground, their armor torn apart by the one of Atero's security traps. Conqueror grabbed Freztrak by the arm and dragged him against the wall, where he knew they would be safe. Anyone touching the wall while this trap was activated would survive it. Soalaz froze as the sound echoing in the chamber assaulted his very life force, then his heartlight winked out like a dying ember. The Toa's body, half smashed by pressure, sank to the ground.
Leviathos raced to Soalaz's side as soon as the trap deactivated.
"He's dead," the Noctian said heavily. "We can't help him." Conqueror knew that Leviathos was right, he'd known that Soalaz had stood no chance against the powerful sonic laser.
How can we take on the Empire if we can't catch a single Skakdi?
Conqueror inspected the room, and saw that he, Soalaz, and Leviathos had killed three of the Skakdi who had come to reinforce the Zyglak, and the sonic laser had slain the other four, but the four Skakdi all bore small wounds, as if something had torn through their armor. Two of the Skakdi had also been torn by ice shards.
"Five of the six traps in this corridor were deactivated by the Zyglak," said Conqueror. "We'll be able to make it to the Arena Magna safely."
Moving carefully to avoid any traps, the three beings stepped over the corpses of Soalaz and the seven Zyglak. As Conqueror rounded a corner, he came face-to-face with another Zyglak. The Zyglak's eyes were bloodshot, and he seemed tired and weakened. As Conqueror raised his staff to slay the Zyglak, the exiled outcast slammed against the Zarak. Conquorer heard Leviathos shouting as more of the Zyglak appeared down the corridor. Some bore wounds from traps they had activated. Conqueror struck the Zyglak a penetrating blow to his chest, and the Zyglak's claws scored a wound in Conqueror's thick armor. As the Zyglak raised a second claw, Conqueror, now desperate, shoved the Zyglak backward into a second Zyglak. Both of the monsters fell to the ground, and were consumed by a massive explosion as the sixth and final trap exploded in their faces.
Conqueror tapped the communications device.
"Ixtil, we've entered the last corridor. Zyglak are everywhere. What are the trap positions?"
Ixtil replied hurriedly.
"There are three traps set along the walls, but the Zyglak have already tripped them. You need to know that we're converging on the Arena Magna, and, according to my sensors, so are many other resistance members. Zaktan has been manually activating insanity mist traps along Atero's corridors, and in Corridor 167 a Toa has killed three Matoran. It is impossible to calculate how many resistance members have been affected by the insanity mist. Keep moving, we'll join your squad in approximately-"
Conqueror turned off the communication's device. The three Zyglak were closing in on Leviathos. Freztrak had already slain two of the monsters. Conqueror speared one through the chest, and Leviathos tore one apart with a massive spiked mace. The last Zyglak dealt Freztrak a bad blow to the head, and Freztrak was sent staggering backward, leaving him open for another attack. Conqueror and Leviathos struck the monster at the same time, and it collapsed in a limp heap on the floor.
"Zaktan's been activating insanity mist traps, and he's somehow caused them to attack other resistance members. Ixtil's team is going to join us in the Arena Magna."
"What…?" Leviathos began, though was suddenly cut off as six beings, mostly Toa, Skakdi, and Matoran, raised their weapons and attacked. Conqueror watched as more resistance members appeared from other corridors, all locked in mortal combat with one another. Traps detonated as beings tripped them, killing four Skakdi instantly, and the battlefield descended into chaos as Toa attacked Matoran and Skakdi turned on Zyglak. Conqueror struck a Toa a blow to the side, and grabbed one of the Midak Skyblasters he was carrying. He shot a Toa through the chest, and smashed his staff into a Zyglak's leg.
Firing again, he shot another being, a Vortixx, through the head, and struck a viscous blow to a crazed Skakdi. It was as if their struggle against the Empire no longer mattered; the resistance had turned on each other. In the chaos, Conqueror lost track of time. There was nothing he, Freztrak, and Leviathos could do but keep moving, dealing death to any who attacked them. Ahead, a net trap strangled a Vortixx to death, and a massive wave of darkness engulfed two fighting Glatorian, leaving nothing but dust to mark their passing.
Conqueror shoved his way through the maddened combatants, and Leviathos leapt over the bodies of two Toa to join him. Freztrak, whose shoulder had been wounded by a hit from Midak blaster, slammed two Matoran against the wall before joining Conqueror at the doorway. Using the remaining power Midak blaster, Conqueror charged the weapon, and felled the two remaining beings, a small Toa of Air and a Ta-Matoran.
"How many are dead?" Leviathos asked. His eyes looked haunted, and Conqueror knew that if they couldn't rally the rebels and kill Zaktan, the war would be over before it had even began.
"There were about seventeen resistance members fighting, counting the Zyglak." said Freztrak. "They're all dead."
They died in a pointless conflict that shouldn't have happened. Conqueror thought. All this because of one insane Skakdi.
Then he corrected himself. All this because of the Dark Empire.
As one force, the three resistance commanders opened the door and charged into the battle that awaited them. Conqueror screeched defiance and smashed a Toa over the head. The Arena Magna was filled with at least twenty battling resistance warriors. More of the rebels were appearing from every corridor, their weapons raised. Conqueror knew that this battle would cost the resistance much, but if they couldn't win, then Atero would fall to Zaktan. He could spot at least three Blood Vines among the resistance, their massive blasters firing many shots into the battling armies. But Conqueror knew the real danger was that posed by the traps in the Arena Magna.
It was laced with at least twenty traps, all of which were fatal. Conqueror knew where many of them were placed, so he and Freztrak were able to dodge many of them. Conqueror spotted Ixtil among the battling rebels, surrounded by four pike-wielding Zyglak that dealt death to any being who came near them. Conqueror grabbed a fallen Blood Vine's blaster, and shot randomly at the battling resistance. Of the twenty or more beings that were fighting, only he, Ixtil's team, Freztrak, and Leviathos were still sane.
Ahead, a massive explosion of corrosive acid splashed over four Glatorian and their Zyglak opponent, killing them all and injuring a Blood Vine. Conqueror grabbed Freztrak's hand and dragged him out of the way. A Vortixx behind them stabbed one of Ixtil's Zyglak warriors through the neck and was dealt a crushing blow to his side. As the Vortixx staggered backward and fell to the ground, an explosion of dark energy shot out at the combatants from all sides, leaving the Vortixx and the three Zyglak dead and killing several others.
Conqueror shot another Skakdi with his Blood Vine blaster and surveyed the battlefield. There were less then twelve resistance members still fighting, but at least six of Zaktan's Zyglak were still alive, and they were far more powerful then the Toa, Vortixx, and Glatorian that still fought them. Both Ixtil and Leviathos were still fighting, and Freztrak had slain two Agori and a Glatorian and had re-joined Conqueror.
As Conqueror dodged a Zyglak's scythe and smashed its head open with his staff, a massive turret then erupted from the ground, firing massive pulses at the remaining combatants. Freztrak was struck by two in the chest, and the Skakdi fell to the ground, either dead or badly injured. There was nothing the Conqueror could do for him, however, and soon Freztrak was lost from view as three Zyglak closed in on Leviathos.
Ixtil was still fighting as well, and had managed to knock a Toa unconscious with his Plasma Uzi. Then, a massive Turret spun around and fired again, this time the pulses cut down two Zyglak, a Toa, and a Vortixx easily. Another trap exploded, releasing a swarm of mutated insect-like Rahi that consumed two Toa - Conqueror had heard that one of them was called Melnox - and left nothing but torn scraps of rusted armor behind. Ixtil and Leviathos were fighting the last remaining Zyglak, while two Glatorian were locked in combat.
This must end. thought Conqueror, firing his Blood Vine blaster at the Zyglak. Just then the Turret began to fire again, and Ixtil, Leviathos, and the Glatorian were struck by the blast. Conqueror managed to grab Ixtil and haul him out of the way before he was hit more then once, but one of the Glatorian fell dead to the ground, and Leviathos was left injured badly.
Conqueror watched the Turret turn on him and fire. Leviathos fell to the ground as he was struck by another hail of the deadly pulses, and Conqueror knew there was no way he could stop the pulses from striking him. The Turret was designed so that elemental powers were unable to affect it.
Suddenly a gust of air swept him off his feet. Conqueror was flung to the ground as a massive wind tore through the Arena Magna. Conqueror stood, and, looking at the door they had passed through to enter the Arena Magna, saw at least seven Toa and Glatorian charge from all sides, led by Toa Echo, who had saved him using elemental air powers, and Toa Silencer.
Silencer's massive scythe cut down the insane Glatorian, and the entire group of rebels attacked Zaktan's last defense force. The turret fired more rapidly now, and three Glatorian fell to the ground. Conqueror saw Leviathos rise to his feet, a Midak blaster aimed at the massive turret, and Freztrak, armed with two massive Zyglak maces, charged at the turret, weapons drawn and blasters firing. The turret fired again, and three more rebels fell, two injured, one dead.
The injured warriors rose to their feet and hacked madly at the base of the turret, while Conqueror and Leviathos fired Blood Vine missiles at the machine. Conqueror watched as two of the rebels set off an acid trap, which left two Toa lying dead in a spreading pool of acid. The turret had ceased firing and was building up its defenses. Ahead, a Skakdi sprung an insanity mist trap, and Silencer and Echo's reinforcements turned and attacked each other. Silencer, locked in combat with Freztrak, struck the Skakdi a blow to his unwounded shoulder before he was cut down by pulse shot from the turret.
Echo and two Toa were still hacking at the turret, but the reinforcements were decimated as three more Glatorian were killed by an animated blades trap and two Skakdi were caught in a fireball trap. Only four of the reinforcements remained, and they had surrounded the base of the turret and had hacked away most of its protection. Freztrak had dealt extreme damage to it with his Zyglak clubs, and a Toa of Acid was using his elemental powers to cause much of the turret's protection to corrode and fall away.
As Echo raised his sword to deal another blow, the turret fired again. Both Ixtil, Leviathos, and the battling Toa were too close to the turret for it to deal any damage to them, but the Toa of Acid staggered backwards into another buried trap, a vortex of disintegration that killed Echo and the Toa, leaving nothing but dust behind. Conqueror saw that Freztrak and Ixtil had only narrowly escaped the trap, and were both badly injured.
Not one more resistance member must die in this pointless battle. Conqueror thought, firing again. Leviathos hacked at the base of the turret, that had begun to collapse on itself. Firing at the turret's base, he watched as a massive section fell to the ground and was smashed to pieces.
Firing again, Conqueror brought down another section of the turret, which was now barely standing. The turret fired again, but was unable to injure any of the resistance members. Conqueror fired again at the turret, disabling the last of its weapons. Freztrak smashed the base of the turret apart seconds later, and a blast from Conqueror's Rhotuka launcher dealt critical damage to the upper part of the structure. For one second, the still turret seemed to hang in mid-air; then it fell to the ground and shattered into smaller pieces.
"Take the Tower!" Conqueror screamed, and the four resistance leaders charged into Zaktan's command center.
Within the Tower, Zaktan watched his last defense fall. The two remaining Blood Vines he had at his command were guarding the doorway to his chamber, and had seen the turret collapse. The remaining traps he had at his disposal would only slow, not kill, the resistance. He could activate at least two more turrets, but they would be unable to stop Conqueror's patrol of rebel leaders. What was worse, they would be able to disable all of his remaining traps as soon as they entered the Tower.
"Come." Zaktan said to the two Blood Vines. Both mercenaries looked very rebellious, tired of following the commands of a Skakdi. Despite his fury that the Blood Vines and insane rebels had been unable to kill Conqueror and take the Arena Magna, he displayed no emotion, no hint of what he was about to do.
As the Blood Vines drew near him, Zaktan hissed to them. "I…"
He suddenly stopped talking, and ran the first Blood Vine through with his Tri-Bladed Scissor. The second Blood Vine was too stunned to move, and Zaktan slashed off his legs, and, in the same motion, slashed off his head. The Skakdi strode over to the machines that controlled Atero's security system, and deactivated all of the remaining traps within the massive complex. Then, using his scissor, he destroyed all of the machines, leaving their shattered components on the floor.
"Don't want the rebels to retain any of their security systems." Zaktan whispered.
Zaktan's body began to disperse into thousands of tiny Protodites, leaving nothing but his head remaining intact. A single hand suddenly took shape, and Zaktan wrenched open a window. Then his head and hand dispersed into more of the Protodites, which were blown away by the wind, yet somehow remaining together. Many miles away, Zaktan would re-form, leaving nothing behind him but the corpses of two dead Blood Vines and the smashed remains of Atero's security system.
Sovnoron spun in the air, kicking Shadowsnake in the face as he did so. Shadowsnak stumbled backwards, his hand clutched to his face, moaning.
Sovnoron smiled maliciously. "Oh please, don't tell me you're getting tired already, rebel."
Shadowsnake snarled, and lunged at Sovnoron with the ferocity of a Kane-Ra bull. Sovnoron jumped into the air, allowing Shadowsnake to pass under him, and slam through the wall as if it were made of liquid.
Shadowsnake fell about a hundred feet, finally crashing into the roof of one of the fortress' towers. Even after falling all that way, they were still a good quarter mile up in the air.
The battle raged on below them. Catapults hurled chunks of molten Protodermis at the walls and towers, dealing out great damage to both forces. The melee infantry of each side were grappled in ferocious blade and hand-to-hand combat, as archers and blaster wielders fired at each other.
Shadowsnake turned his eyes to Sovnoron, who stood above him, twirling his blade around his fingers. "You can either submit now, and die quickly, or we can drag this out. Your choice."
Shadowsnake's response was what Sovnoron expected: he launched himself upward, kicking Sovnoron hard in the chest, flipping twice, and landing on his feet as if it were nothing. He turned to face his adversary. "I will never surrender to the likes of you, Imperial filth."
Sovnoron stood up, holding his blade in a reverse grip, and said: "Hmmm, so be it."
The two charged at each other, and when they met they started to fight in vicious sword combat. Their blades were a blur as they fought. Sovnoron was keeping Shadowsnake on the defensive with twenty strikes per second, and it was all Shadowsnake could do to block them for but a few seconds, and he knew he would not last long.
Eventually, Sovnoron spotted an opening on Shadowsnake's defense, and stabbed with his blade. It pierced straight through Shadowsnake's stomach. He gave a howl of pain, and fell to the ground. Sovnoron placed his foot on Shadowsnake's chest. "Goodbye Shadowsnake."
With that, he let his blade fall and stabbed his opponent in the heartlight. Shadowsnake gave a jolt, and then was completely still. He was dead.
Sovnoron gave an insidious laugh, and walked away. He had a mask to find.
A cascade of light reflected off the armor of Toa Hydros. The wounds he had received from his conflict with Nightwatcher had long since healed. He strode forward through the empty wastelands, his companions Nalek and Shika trudging behind him. After ensuring Shika's grievous wounds had healed, Hydros and Nalek had inspected the site where the resistance's new underground hideout in Iron Canyon would be built, and after one final discussion with Raanu, the pair had managed to cement Vulcanus' secret support for the resistance. Now, the only thing left to do was to return to Atero and report the outcome of their negotiations to the leading council.
"How much further?" asked Shika as he clutched his left shoulder. Though his wounds had healed nicely, their aftershocks had yet to pass.
Hydros turned to face his two companions, eying their exhausted expressions with a combination of thought and concern. Finally, he spoke. "If Raanu's map is accurate, it should be over this next dune."
"Then let's speed up," interjected Nalek. "We must inform the Ixtil and the others of the information we uncovered in Eostra's archives: That we have a traitor amongst our ranks. I'm sure even Conqueror will be shocked at who it is. Who would have thought it would have been..."
"Nalek, be quiet!" ordered Hydros, his voice no louder than whisper.
"Hey, no need to be rude," snapped Nalek. "All I'm saying is..."
"Nalek, look at Atero," Shika said, cutting off Nalek's sentence.
If a little angrily, Nalek turned to observe the sight before him, and when he did, he dropped his sword in shock. Because before them, more or less, was Atero: flames rupturing from broken windows, corpses littering the outside entrances, and a number of crumbling towers falling down to the ground.
Silence caught the tongues of the three Toa for several seconds as they took in the breath-taking sight.
"W-what has happened to Atero?" asked Shika, a look of uncertainty and fear decorating his features.
Hydros didn't reply, for he knew he could not provide an answer. All he could say was: "Come on, my friends. We need to get down there."
With the speed of one driven by desperation, the three resistance fighters sprinted down the hill and towards the gates of Atero. Two soldiers came up to greet them; one a Toa of Water and Lightning, the other a Fire Glatorian. Both looked like they had been through a war.
"We were invaded," began Kyhrex, he words slurred and gurgled by her attempts to gasp for air. "A group of bounty hunters attacked us and stole the Ignika! Before we could act, we were attacked by a large contingency of Skakdi led by the seemingly revived Zaktan. We managed to defeat them, but we were unable to pick up any trace of the Ignika, the bounty hunters, or even Zaktan himself."
The news seemed to startle Nalek and Shika far more than it did Hydros. He stared up at a smouldering tower, and watched as numerous resistance fighters attempted to quell the raging flames.
"Then what happens now?" he asked.
"We repair Atero, tend to our wounded, martial our forces, and prepare for war," answered Kyhrex. "The leading council has declared that negotiations with the Empire are now absolutely impossible."
Hydros eyes widened. He was shocked, yet not surprised at this news. His experiences in Vulcanus with Varkanax and Nightwatcher had almost completely cemented the possibility of warfare in his mind, however, hearing it confirmed in person was something different entirely.
"Then what do we do now?" asked Nalek.
"You are to be escorted to the war room, where you will meet with our leaders," answered Flardrek. "They will give you more information on our situation, and you will have to give your report on the outcome of your missions."
"Very well, then," began Hydros. "But before we depart, Kyhrex, I need you to go to the Atero archive center and recover all files of operatives who have had direct contact and communication with the Empire. Then, I want you to single out all these individuals, and investigate the nature of their meetings with the Empire."
"Whatever for?" demanded Kyherex in a tone that more or less revealed her lack of enthusiasm for her new assignment.
"Because we have a traitor amongst our ranks who is informing the Empire of all our major moves; a traitor who possibly supplied the intelligence on Atero's defenses and infrastructure to the Empire for the Skakdi, and I need you to investigate the records of all our members who have had encounters with high-ranking members of the Empire, and determine when and why they met them. We have one major suspect as to who the traitor is. The evidence in Eostra's archives heavily implies it is him, though you need to confirm it."
"Who is it?!" demanded Kyhrex. "Just tell me who your lead is!"
Shika came forward, and with a look of regret and fear in his eyes, whispered the name in Kyhrex's ear. She instantly retracted in shock, her look mingled with terror and surprise.
"No, it can't be?!" she began.
"It might be him but it also might not be. That is why we need confirmation on the traitor's identity," answered Nalek.
"Khrex, please, get to work and identify our traitor," continued Hydros.
Without another word, Kyhrex ran off in the direction of the archives to carry out her assignment.
Hydros and his companions then turned to Flardrek, a look of resignation on their faces.
"Now then, can you escort us to the war room?" asked Hydros.
"Of course, Toa," answered Flardrek, and once that was said and done, the four departed.
The sun of Solis Magna descended beyond the horizon in a beautiful sunset. Another day had yet again ended. The shimmering traces of light reflected off the dull metal surfaces of the skyscrapers of Tajun. For it's inhabitants, another day of brutality and illegal deeds had just passed by. The lower slums of the city were instantly alight by the numerous clubs and establishments. For the rest of Spherus Magna, the day had just ended, but for Tajun, it had only just started.
Low-time mercenaries and bounty hunters patrolled the streets, passing by the homeless refugees who had been left broken and discarded by the Empire's takeover. However, deeper into the older, uninhabited part of the city, not even a flicker of life stirred. This district had once been a flourishing center of business and mass production during the days when Millennium had ruled Tajun, though had eventually fallen into a terrible state of decay following his leave, and been abandoned entirely by the inhabitants of the city.
For years, only the most horrid and disguising creatures, outcasts, and exiles had resided there, and rarely anyone dared to travel through the Tajun wastes. However, for this one night, a single soul drifted through the darkness of this district; not in exile, not on run, but in necessity.
Chameleo turned ‘round another corner and took in the appearance of the next dark and empty street, revealing more of the crumbling slums. Smoke Hawks and Cliff Screechers circled above in the blackened skies of the night, as the sound of a Kikanalo stampede passing by echoed in the distance. Chameleo shivered. This place was like a ghost town, all quiet and seemingly dead, yet menacing at the same time. Some said that these parts were even more dangerous than the wastelands of Spherus Magna, and even the soldiers of the Dark Empire were known to avoid this region. For Chameleo, the area reminded him far too much of the grittier parts of Xia.
The only reason he was passing through the area was to avoid being detected by the Empire's patrols and being ambushed and captured in the process. This was the one region of Tajun that the Empire would not follow a target, subsequently making it the only part of Tajun with an exit route that would not patrolled by an Imperial patrol. Under normal circumstances, he would never leave Tajun, so as to gather intelligence for the resistance and await the scheduled arrival of one of their agents to collect it, though this case was different.
Through great research, he had learned of something horrifyingly shocking. Though the sources and texts he had relied on were somewhat cryptic and vague, he had learned enough to deduce one thing: If the resistance wanted to restore peace to Spherus Magna, they needed to take down a single, greater opponent first, not the Empire. The enemy was hidden in the darkness, waiting and watching for its time to come as the events of the universe unfolded before it. The game it was playing would not only serve as the beacon for its return to the universe, but for far greater consequences that would send out ripples that would shake reality itself to its very core.
Chameleo knew the critical importance of his information, and was clever enough to deduct the absolute necessity that this information come before the resistance, not just for the fate of Spherus Magna, but for the future too.
A sharp sound suddenly caught Chameleo's notice. He stopped dead in his tracks, his senses on full alert. An Imperial agent? he thought. No, I think not. They're usually not this subtle. A Rahi? No... They would have struck at me a long time ago if they were hunting me. Local outcasts? Yeah... like they would have any concept of stealth. That can only mean I'm being followed by... someone else.
No sooner had Chameleo thought those words did he realize that he had a thin, longsword protruding from his chest. Suddenly, Chameleo found himself unable to breathe, and began to gag and choke on absolutely nothing in an effort to inhale air. As his strength began to rapidly decline, Chameleo turned his head to stare at something horrifying: A pair of crimson eyes overshadowed by a large hood and cape. As Chameleo continued to gag in confusion and terror, a voice spoke into his mind: a cold, metallic voice with a fear-inspiring air.
The time is not right, little one, it said. Chameleo recognized this as a telepathic message, though the fact that it was breaking past his mental shielding was remarkable. This being was using a considerable amount of power to break down his barriers.
You plan to tell the resistance of what you have learned, and that I cannot allow. My time is coming, and the last thing I need is an entire organization of rag-tag warriors challenging my supremacy alongside the enemy that is to come. That is why, your insignificant little life must be snuffed out permanently.
"W-who... are.... you... ?" cried Chameleo, summoning his last ounces of strength as his body grew weaker and the world grew blurrier.
I... am the Blood Summoner, the attacker telepathically replied, and with that, he pulled the sword out of Chameleo's chest, and watched him fall to the ground as the final flickers of life faded from his eyes. Serrakaan then turned away from the grisly seen and drifted off into the night, leaving Chameleo's body to be preyed on by the scavenging creatures of the dark.
Zercks patrolled the outskirts of the resistance's newly captured fortress. Behind him, numerous other soldiers of his battalion stood motionless at the post, their weapons primed for combat should the Empire attempt to reclaim their fortresses in the Northern Frost. It had been five days since he had seen Jareroden and his army march off for the Black Spike Mountains, and since then he had received no word of the outcome of his fellow Toa's investigation. Zercks could only hope for the best, as he knew he could not chase after Jareroden and try to find out what had happened to him. He had orders, and right now, those orders were to stay put.
Though the cold climate had been hard to bear, Zercks and his allies had received aid from the local inhabitants of the Nrothern Frost, which was mainly a small population of Ko-Matoran, Frostelus, Ice Agori, and Mersions. Suddenly, Zercks saw a number of black dots emerge from the horizon, more precise details being unrecognizable by the fierce blizzard blazing at the time. As the dots grew bigger, Zercks could see they were beginning to take the shape of tall, Toa-sized people.
"To arms!" cried Zercks to his men, and instantly his forces had manned the numerous catapults and weaponry aligning the high wall of his fortress. If these beings were of the Empire, and they were hear to turn this place into a war zone, then Zercks was determined to make sure he was prepared for it. As the figures grew closer, Zercks began to make out their numbers. There were only four of them. This puzzled Zercks, as the Empire were famous for using overwhelming numbers against their enemies, and four warriors to attack a number of fully-manned fortresses seemed a bit unlike the Empire's style. To satisfy his curiosity, Zercks began to walk towards them.
"Sir, what are you doing?!" demanded the soldier Zercks knew as Teron.
"I'm confronting our foe head on... If they really are our enemies. If you see anything unfortunate happen to me, I give you full permission to attack these warriors."
And then, with a huge sigh of resignation, Zercks headed off into the drifts of the Northern Frost. It did not take long for him to reach his targets, and when he saw them up close, his surprise was clearly visible.
"Rando?" he began "Gurren? Neocrax? Tenork? What are you lot doing here? Last time I heard, you four and a Ko-Matoran named Algor were participating in an ambush on a Dark Empire gathering with a group of about twenty Toa."
"We did, Zercks, we did. Only afterwards we were attacked by the Empire's general, Skorpix, and forced to flee. We decided to come here into your secure territory to avoid capture by the Empire," said Rando, wearily. Of all the team, he seemed to be the most battered and exhausted, and the cracks in his pitted armor were already beginning to cake with snow.
"Then what do you plan to do from now?" asked Zercks curiously.
"We intend to rest here, then return to the resistance's main base at Atero. We need to report the outcome of our mission and the deaths of Algor and the other Toa assigned to this mission."
"Too bad you will never reach the ruins of your base to report your failure," cried a new voice.
Zercks and Rando turned around to see three powerful figures standing at the head of a small battalion of warriors. In an instant, Rando identified the three figures as Windeus, Banrax, and Flareus; all of them members of the Shadowy Ones, therefore making them elite figureheads in both the Corpse Empire and the Dark Empire. Behind them, Rando could identify a small number of Makuta, most notably Krakanus, Garras, Trek, Metrados and Harponok. Also present within the battalion were the infamous soldiers Rahkan, Nevotnor-411, Milode, Tekih, and Manouy.
Rando and his companions readied their weapons, whilst Zercks raised his hand into the air to give the silent order of attack to his troops. In a sudden motion, Zerck’s force emerged from the main entrance of his fortress and charged at the Empire's forces, whilst archers stationed at high vantage points began their own volley of attacks. Rando then took the lead in the charge, with Zercks just behind him to his right, and Gurren to his left. In one violent and chaotic motion, the resistance met the Empire's front line, and the first of perhaps many fate-twisting final battles began.
Kyhrex ran down a large, dust-covered atrium. Her investigations were complete, but now she had no time to lose in stopping the traitor from leaving Atero. He had not left Atero as many had suspected, but was in fact still here. Her investigations had suggested that this spy had been operating long before the official founding of the resistance, and that he had been responsible for catastrophic causalities such as the Kodax Massacre and the Invasion of Atero. If this traitor was not rooted out, then the entire stability of the resistance could be on the brink of destruction.
Kyhrex turned down the next corridor, and continued to sprint. She passed the open door leading into the infirmary, where she could briefly glimpse medical staff attending to the wounded warriors of Serhaktem and Chronuva: both of whom having been badly injured during the Skakdi invasion. As she looked over her shoulder to make sure no one was following her, Kyhrex crashed into someone, sending them both spiralling to the ground. Kyhrex groaned as she got to her feet, and looked down at the person she had unwittingly knocked over.
"Mind where you going," barked Toa 95 as he dusted down his arms and legs. "Why are you in such a hurry, anyway?"
"I've uncovered and confirmed the identity of a traitor we have within our ranks," said Kyhrex as she began picking up the stone tablets that held the identity of the spy.
"What?! A traitor? Since when?"
"Since the day of the very founding of our resistance," replied Kyhrex. "Here, take these tablets. They discuss the traitor's identity. Take these to the council chamber whilst I take these tablets to our leaders. They discuss our traitor's involvement with the Empire in greater depth."
95 nodded and went on his way, taking with him a large clutter of tablets in his arms. Kyhrex scrambled all the remaining tablets on the floor back into her arms and started running again.
Her destination was the war room, and if she recalled correctly, it should be ‘round the next bend, as she looked over her shoulder once more to check if she was being followed, and for a second time, bumped into another person. She nearly fell over, had it not been for the person's strong build and good footing.
"I'm terribly sorry," began Kyhrex. "I'm in a bit of a hurry. Now, if you could excuse me, I need to..."
Kyhrex words drifted off as she looked up into the crimson-red eyes of the person she had bumped into. He was a tall one, with a strong posture and an intimidating build. His armor looked as if it was made of finest metals, and its cool surface gleamed brightly as it brushed against the sunlight. The armor was colored prominently in shades of silver and dark green, but it was not this person's appearance that took Kyhrex's words away from her, it was his identity.
After all, Kyhrex wasn't exactly going to react positively when she had just "happened" to bump into the very being who was reporting all the resistance's secrets to the Empire. Of all the people in the world, and she just happened to bump into him.
A smile curved onto his face, as he stared down wickedly at the Toa before him.
"Why, hello there, Kyhrex. Fancy meeting you here?"
"Stay away from me, Iruka," stuttered Kyhrex in fear. "I know all about your loyalties to the Dark Empire!"
"Really?" inquired Iruka, in a tone that hinted a false, mocking, surprise. "Well guess what, my dear. I know all about your little investigations about me, and I know exactly where you are headed. And I'm sorry to say that I cannot let you go there."
"Stay back, Iruka. I'm warning you," said Kyhrex, in a fearful tone. She had tried to sound brave, but the only result was her sounding even more terrified than she already was. Iruka advanced menacingly, his twisted grin seemingly growing even wider. He chuckled menacingly.
"What do I have to fear of you, Kyhrex?" he began. "You have nothing to threaten me with, nothing to intimidate me with, and nothing to subdue me in this situation. Because, from my perspective, you are already dead."
And then, with a surprising speed faster than the eye could follow, Iruka darted forward and plunged a thin, rod-like dagger through Kyhrex's stomach. Kyhrex eyes widened, her mind being unable to keep up with what had just happened. As elegantly as he had killed her, Iruka retreated back two steps, and watched as Kyhrex fell to her knees. Pulling the tablets from her grasp, Iruka proceeded to scan their contents and click his tongue repeatedly.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk. Such discriminating evidence. These facts would deeply wound my reputation, you know. However, betrayal is only ever viewed as treachery if your caught in the act, otherwise it is viewed as the intelligent and cunning thing to do. You were so close to thwarting my operations, Toa, but did you really think that I wouldn't anticipate your move when Eostra informed me that Hydros had stolen the records of my loyalties from her archives?"
Iruka then clenched his fists firmly, reducing the old stone tablets in his grasp to nothing but a fine, sandy powder. "Apologies, my dear, but it was a necessary course of action. Now, please, if you do excuse, I have information to relay to my... business partners."
With that, Iruka turned away and began to walk off down the corridor. Kyhrex wasn't entirely sure what to despise more about Iruka: His treachery, or that infuriating, polite manner of his. As she slumped down onto the ground with bitterness in her eyes, she summoned her remaining willpower, and spoke out to Iruka, her tone mumbled and slurred by her dying breathes.
"You won't get away with this, Iruka. The resistance will learn of your betrayal and finish you for good. I will be avenged, Iruka, and you will be made to pay in full for all your crimes."
Iruka stopped dead in his tracks. He turned around with a different look in his eyes. It was not the intimidating menace or boastful arrogance that had been there before, but rather it was a look of philosophical speculation. "We will see, Kyhrex, we will see if that is what is in store for me. Time will tell, in the way it always does. Goodbye, Toa. Goodbye forever."
And with that, Iruka turned round the corridor and left Kyhrex's sight. But as she wailed and churned in the painful labors of death, she relaxed herself in the knowledge that Iruka had not truly won. As her pain grew, Kyhrex's last thoughts were of Toa 95, who was, unknown to Iruka, passing through the corridors of Atero at this very moment to tell the resistance of the identity of their traitor. And as her body fell lifeless, and the call of death finally pulled her into the blackness, Kyhrex departed the world with a weak smile decorating her face.
Korzor could not believe his eyes as he stood in the small opening in the cranium of the new Great Spirit robot, he looked down at the hundreds of Agori and Matoran slaves, as they pulled the massive head across the open wastelands, taking it to the place where Korzor assumed the rest of this mechanical monstrosity was positioned.
As the orange sun glittered over the skyline, Korzor attempted (for the forty-third time) to use his communicator to contact Atero, but for the forty-fourth time, his signal was scrambled by the technological systems of the robot's cranium, which were projecting signals that were interfering with his communicator.
Korzor sighed. At the moment, he had no real plan. Many days had passed since he had discovered the Empire's schemes to create a new, malevolent Great Spirit robot; and being unable to turn back and escape the outpost the mechanical head was stored in, he had decided to hide away inside the head's uncompleted cranium and wait until it was taken to the rest of the body. Once connected to it, he planned to sabotage the robot, cause it to self-destruct or deactivate, and possibly use the distraction to escape Merodos' grasp.... somehow.
Korzor walked away from the exposed hole in the side of the robot's head. He didn't have much space to walk around in this uncompleted section of the head. Though it was roughly the same size of a large city, most of the robot head’s insides were dominated by advanced and complicated gears, devices, wires, and mechanisms. Some of these strange mechanical contraptions were so big they looked as if they were the same size of Atero.
Suddenly, the giant cranium came to an abrupt stop. The slaves had stopped pulling the head. That's a first, thought Korzor. They haven't stopped pulling this thing since before they were instructed to move it.
Korzor walked back to the open gap in the work-frame to stare down at the ground below him. What he saw astonished him. Standing in front of the mechanical head was the demented Merodos and his small group of bodyguards and troopers.
Before them was a vast army of Baterra and what looked like fresh Odina Drones, the very machines the Gigas Magna Empire had used as foot soldiers over 100 years ago. The waves of Baterra and Odina Drones were seemingly endless, and their numbers expanded well beyond the thousands.
At the head of the massive army was a single towering figure, the early morning sunlight reflecting off his thick and durable armor. This mysterious figure had many names, though the most common one tied to his likeness was the Element Lord of Technology. Merodos and the Lord of Technology walked forward towards each to face each other head-on. Their respective forces did not move on after them.
The two commanders stood right in front of each other, staring each other deep into their sinister eyes. Finally, the silence was shattered by the bone-chillingly insane laughter of Merodos, who seemed to be laughing at absolutely nothing. The Element Lord didn't laugh, his cold, mechanical expression never faltering. Finally, Merodos managed to rise over his spasms of laughter and speak.
"So, my bosses succeeded in securing you as an ally? That's worth a laugh, because pretty much every soul on this mad world know what a loose cannon you are!"
Merodos continued to giggle and twitch uncontrollably, as the Element Lord maintained his composure, his eyes suggested his obvious irritation and fury at Merodos' remark.
"Yes... we have reached a reasonable deal, Merodos. I included the Odina Drones as an addition to my army, and I have decided to side with you. Tell me, how has work been on the GS-3 Travel Machine?"
"Oh, just listen to you!" cackled Merodos. "You sound so mechanical! It makes me wonder how you could have possibly ever been a living creature!"
"Merodos... I am loosing my patience. What is the status of the GS-3 Tra--"
"Yeah, yeah, I heard you," Merodos said, his laughs slowly dying down. "This depressing-looking head has been doing just fine. We just need to complete a few more sections of its... err... cranium, and then it'll be ready to be attached to the rest of the body."
"And where is the rest of the body?" asked the Element Lord. "I thought the Dark Lord said this was the site where the body was being stored, but all I see is the empty, endless expansion that is the wastelands."
Merodos laughed faintly as he pulled out a remote and pressed a button, and suddenly the entire ground shook violently. Korzor looked on in utter shock as a massive, circular platform built into the ground opened, its smooth surface having been initially concealed by the layers of sand covering its surface. The platform split in half and opened to reveal a deep, nearly bottomless shaft pitched in pure darkness. The platform was absolutely massive, and was even bigger than the robot’s head in diameter.
And then something even more shocking occurred. Out from the blackness of the shaft came a massive, fully-armored body. Korzor's eyes widened. That robot had to be towering at least sixty million feet high, making it even bigger than the robot. It bore the rough shape of Toa, and compared to its mechanical head, it was actually complete. The only thing missing from the entire robot was an empty slot where the head should be, which was where Korzor figured this structure was going to go once finished.
His astonished eyes returned to Merodos and the Element Lord of Technology, and he watched in both horror and confusion as Merodos began radically laughing again. Because if this robot was ever completed, Korzor knew the fate of the future would never be the same ever again.
Nightwatcher had never been happy with anything but war. Even in the days long past, in the forgotten place known as the Life pocket dimension, which its rulers had now locked off from this reality, he had taken joy in battle. He drew energy from the suffering of others, took pleasure from their dying screams, but in truth the battle itself was what brought him joy: the feeling that he was unstoppable, and he was on top of the universe itself. It was the irreplaceable addiction that had kept him going all these years, the unsatisfiable craving.
He was not feeling it now.
A sweep of his blade deflected the attacks from Millennium and Eostra, while he reached out with his other hand and delivered a bone-shattering telekinetic push that should have ripped his foes' armor to jelly. Instead, however, they rolled over and dodged the burst while unleashing their own, in a movement so perfectly synchronized that seemed almost impossible for someone who wasn't named Nightwatcher.
Narrowing his eyes, he upped the intensity of his attack, firing a barrage of precise sonic blasts that echoed ominously in the dark. They hit their target in short order, blasting Eostra onto the ground like a limp ragdoll but somehow failing to crack her skull. The bounty hunter wasted no time, immediately unleashing a shockwave of energy that pulverized the very molecules of the air as it passed, only for her to once again get out of the way as he watched from the corner of his eye.
A blast of chronal energy came at him, which Nightwatcher detected at the last minute and only barely managed to jump away from. He turned the maneuver into a spinning heel kick while he chopped sideways with his staff. As he did so, he turned it intangible, meaning to rearrange the matter inside it as it entered Millennium's body. However, he was briefly stalled by another burst of annihilation, which he absorbed in his free hand. Somehow, though, the time lost there allowed Millennium to escape.
Millennium launched a beam of time energy at him, with the intention to slow him down and end the fight quickly. The bounty hunter leapt over it without a thought, allowing his reflexes and instincts to guide him. As all three of his foes reached for him, he channeled a blast of sheer power through his body, releasing it in a spray of white light. This was something he rarely did; it was much more enjoyable to draw out the fight, taking advantage of the fear of his victims to feed his strength. But Eostra and Millennium seemed unreadable, with mental blocks equal to Nightwatcher's own. And the Dark Lord was another thing entirely; it might as well have been that he had no mind to block, for the emptiness in the aura field was so great.
Millennium and Eostra were blasted into the air. Millennium was able to suspend himself above the warrior, but Eostra was not so lucky; instead, she landed farther back on both feet as she readied another annihilation blast.
Then the Dark Lord stepped into the battle.
So you're augmenting their powers? the Toa contemplated. Or perhaps this is my fault. I'm fighting like a mere mortal, not like who I truly am.
What I truly am.
Unconsciously, he allowed the memory of his final duel with Void enter his head, the day that he had tried forever to suppress in his mind, the day he forever lost any hope of salvation. He remembered the swirling purple landscape about him that morphed into ground as he watched, more than half illusory; the green Rahkshi of Growth that Void had set on him as a test of skill, and then finally, he met the mysterious enemy himself.
“I wonder,” Nightwatcher growled as he allowed the memory to replenish his burning fire of hate, “what have you got under that black cloak of yours, Dark Lord? Is it a vacuum? Is it life or death? Do you truly live? If not, then it certainly won't be any problem if I end what you call a life for you.”
—Have you not the courage? Is this not what you have sought all these years? Come, then, and find—
In that moment, the world around him was perfectly clear to him, and he perceived the gathering forces before him as though he were viewing a snapshot of time. He focused on the Dark Lord's eyes and intensely rippling cloak, and for just a second, he gained a perception of what the being truly was.
The moment passed. The Dark Lord did not respond to his threat, and instead approached him in the same silent, menacing manner the other two had attempted. Nightwatcher snarled in contempt and fired twin fire bursts from his palms, catching the entity's cloak and lighting it on fire.
—You cannot back away from your destiny, Nightwatcher. This is what you were always meant to do, to be. Have you forgotten so wholly?—
He sensed Millennium and Eostra simultaneously powering up for energy blasts, but he knew they would only dissipate harmlessly around the energy field he had formed. Instead, he focused on the Dark Lord, who was unleashing a telepathic scream in all directions as his cloak blazed on. Chunks of floor exploded outward from the place he was standing, the floor warping and cracking, but the bounty hunter did not stop. He reached into his enemy's mind, a cold, clutching claw extended to seek out all its secrets, breaking through the barriers now that the pain had distracted him. He felt the renewed struggling of the Emperor as he put out the fire through sheer force of will, but now he had a foothold, and now he had control.
I see what you are now, the Toa thought as a grin spread across his face.
A violent crack of energy born from desperation. The Dark Lord had broken free, and was now launching a furious array of elemental power at Nightwatcher. The unexpected attack blew Nightwatcher backward through the energy field; while in midair, he sensed the feeling of perception leaving him, and so unleashed a burst of annihilating energy. This was something he rarely did; it was much more enjoyable to draw out the fight, taking advantage of the fear of his victims to feed his strength. But none of his foes seemed in the least bit afraid.
—No, Charon. It is you who is afraid. Afraid of your power, afraid of everything you've done, what you have transformed yourself into—
Shut it, he told the voice in his head.
A bolt of annihilation energy struck him from behind in the second that he wasted contemplating, knocking Nightwatcher over. The pain fueled his rage, and he roared as he lashed out at the emperors, fire streaming from his eyes in furious parallel rays. Millennium and Eostra dodged, but the rays caught the Dark Lord's cloak, setting the bottom portion afire. A hiss came from the spot where the being's mouth should have been, and a second later the fire was out.
He charged at the cloaked figure of the Dark Lord while the twin energy pulses from his other adversaries missed him by a hairsbreadth. As he approached, the Toa slashed down with his spear, only for the Lord to raise his axe and block. This was expected, of course, but the bounty hunter's weapon had been enhanced by Nightwatcher himself, and no force in the universe could hope to stop it.
As he watched, the speartip was neatly cleaved in two.
Impossible! thought the Toa in horror. Sensing that Millennium and Eostra would be there in a fraction of a second, he placed a coating of ice around his enemy while he turned to block Millennium's Axe of Eternity with his arm plating and fired another energy beam at Eostra.
Behind the fighters, the Dark Lord stepped through the ice block as though it were thin air. This immediately registered in Nightwatcher's mind, but he was at a loss as to how to do anything about it. Instead, he pummeled Millennium with his fists, but his enemy reacted in an unusually cool and calm demeanor and grabbed his wrist. Nightwatcher immediately channeled a burst of lightning through his arm, causing Millennium to let go in pain. But now he was worried, worried about the fact that Millennium had been able to grab his wrist in the first place.
Was he outmatched?
In the second that followed, the world around him became nothing but pure white and a shocking, deadly heat that sizzled brighter as it expanded. His body felt like it was being pierced by a million searing needles, but the pain was nothing to him. He felt it exploding outward, felt the energy coming away in every direction, ready to annihilate the Imperial fortress and everything in it, Emperors included—
—And then it was reflected back, off of an invisible field that had popped up around him while he had been focused on creating the energy blast.
Curse you, Dark Lord, was the only thought that went through Nightwatcher's head as his energies were focused back on him. It slammed into his body, and he roared in rage as they poured within him again. He felt as though his skull would literally split with the sheer power of it, and for a moment thought that it had. But then the feeling eased, and he was ready again.
Roaring in anger, he leapt up and began to slice madly with his blade at the three leaders, chopping in an unceasing wild rage. He approached Eostra first, observing her careful and calculating look but completely ignoring it. He felt the heat that his body was generating, like a literal fission reactor, and the thought only drove him further into this madness; his weapon he swung like a club at the warlord, smashing into the ground beside her and carving a deep gash.
Suddenly, Nightwatcher felt his head clear, felt the rush of battle in his heart, and knew again what to do. Sensing Millennium gathering more power, the bounty hunter somersaulted backwards to where he was standing and jumped directly onto the flat of the axe of eternity's blade. Simultaneously, he heated his hand until he could smell his charred flesh and pressed it against the entity's face. Millennium screamed and dropped his weapon as Nightwatcher pushed harder, driving him back. Still pressing down, he picked up the axe with his free hand and reached behind him to slash at Eostra and parry her strike.
There's something missing here, he contemplated as he put his hand against the weakened Millennium's throat and began to squeeze while his other one took the offensive against Eostra. The Dark Lord isn't fighting.
Something was now very wrong.
As quick as lightning, Millennium had taken advantage of Nightwatcher’s distraction, and had leapt up in a heartbeat and was now locked in combat with the Toa of Shadow. Their weapons clanged as they fought furiously, both attempting to locate a weakness in the other's defenses. Nightwatcher's blade locked with Millennium's. Their swordplay was occurring so quickly that the naked eye could not possibly even begin to follow their fluid motions. Nightwatcher performed an uppercut punch into Millennium’s face, then dealt a kick to the chest that sent him back a few steps before locking his blade with Millennium’s axe again.
A small chuckle escaped Millennium's lips, and with a great heave, he pushed Nightwatcher off of him, sending the bounty hunter flying into a nearby wall. Millennium confidently strode up to Nightwatcher, grabbed him by the throat, lifted him high into the air, and began to squeeze extremely hard.
"You believe you can defeat me? You are a mere Toa, Nightwatcher? If you believe you can defeat me, you are deeply misguided, you pitiful waste of a being. I am the most powerful force on this planet! I survived the reign of the Great Beings, I survived the power of Tren Krom, and I alterted the very course of destiny itself! Compared to me, you are nothing!"
“Nothing! ” He roared as he flung Nightwatcher into the air, where he collided with a stone wall, and shattered it as if it were made of glass. Giving a low groan, Nightwatcher rose to his feet, and saw the cloaked form of the Dark Lord approaching him.
Oh no you don't! Not again…! Nightwatcher thought as he raced towards the Dark Lord. The hooded phantom-like being vanished a millisecond before Nightwatcher would have crashed into him head-on, and reappeared behind him. In his hand materialized a giant mace, the weapon easily the same length of a Toa. Nightwatcher turned right as the mace slammed into his abdominal area, sending him straight into the cold grasp of Eostra Nihiltian.
She held him by the wrist, her hand crackling with a shimmering, crimson bolt of Annihilation.
"Goodbye, Nightwatcher. Its time for you to depart this world!"
Nightwatcher had mere seconds to react before the blast would likely turn his head into a pile of dust. In his free hand, he formed a sphere of shadow, and just as Eostra released her blast, Nightwatcher let loose his. A horrific explosion ripped through the chamber, sending all four beings flying.
The sleek, cool walls of the chamber were instantly decimated and crunched by the shockwaves of the explosion, and the very architect of the building itself gave a wail in protest. The blast shattered Eostra’s throne, and the platform it was mounted on collapsed to the ground, bringing with it the handcrafted staircase.
The ceiling itself collapsed, revealing the dark-grey skyline of the night as thunder and lightning crackled above in the heavens. Murky, gray rain sloshed down in big amounts, and splashed into the exposed throne room, instantly soaking it in water.
Flames licked at Nightwatcher's legs as he stood up, and he saw the three Dark Empire leaders, standing side by side. Nightwatcher readied his blade, but the three did nothing. Their eyes were closed, and it seemed that they were heavily concentrating.
Then, their eyes opened. Their eyes were a blurring aura of bluish-white light, and instantly, Nightwatcher realised what they were doing. No! He thought. They were combining their powers together.
Nightwatcher launched the largest bolt of shadow he could muster, but it bounced harmlessly off of a golden energy shield the three had erected around themselves. Nightwatcher threw everything he had at the shield, which would have been enough to punch a whole through the surface of Bara Magna, yet still, it did not budge in the least.
Millennium smiled sinisterly. "Are you quite done? Now… its our turn."
The three beings began hurling blasts of shadow, fire, lightning, and many other blazing powers at Nightwatcher. Fire and lava burned his armor, whilst lightning scorched his charred flesh, only for it to be rejuvenated by Millennium’s chronal blasts and incinerated over again. Nightwatcher felt he was at the very heart of a raging supernova, and for one second, he actually thought he was. All he could see around him was an inferno of blazing light.
The Toa of Shadow was slowly driven back against one of the far walls of the circular chamber, trying to shield himself from the terrible onslaught.
Eostra’s eyes twinkled chillingly with malice. "I believe it is time we end this. Don't you agree, my allies?"
Millennium gave a menacing nod, whilst the Dark Lord gave a hiss of approval, and then, the three held out their hands, and a towering wall of shadow, annihilation and chronal energy began to form.
Nightwatcher's eyes widened. "No!"
But, he was too late. The three dark emperors sent the tidal wave of power flying straight towards Nightwatcher. The bounty hunter felt a great surge of pain rip through his body, his core, his very being, and then, he felt himself flying through the air currents of Bota Magna, inside the darkened jungles, past the shadowy mountains.
Though as he slowly fell downwards towards the ground, and hit the earth with a humongous crunch to form a massive, smoking crater, Nightwatcher could faintly see a blurry, silver and green being approach him at a steady pace. And as the figure came down to his side to inspect the Toa’s broken body, everything went black.
The gigantic form of Tetrack fell against a large boulder, sending out a light tremor that shook the ground. The Kodax’s eyes snapped open again madly at the sound of Sawrall’s taunting laughter.
“Dear, oh dear, Tetrack. I didn’t know you were this easy to defeat. You’re making me feel sad.”
Tetrack roared as he sprung to his feet, charged his chainsaws in mid-leap, and attempted to swipe Sawrall’s head off. The Skrall assassin dodged the move with fluid ease, and quickly attempted to move behind Tetrack and take a go at his back. Tetrack predicted this movement, and turned around with surprising speed to parry the blow. Tetrack growled menacingly, his anger reflected in the reflection of his half-insane eyes.
Elsewhere, Kaluu and Blast struggled with the Rahi beast Gardorax. The vicious creature had already downed Toa Fairon. Having only just awoken from stasis after roughly 100 years, Fairons limbs were still learning how to move again, and a full-on battle was the last thing he needed. His unsteady and rusty fighting style had left him extremely exposed to Gardorax’s attacks, and now he lay on the hard ground, semi-conscious.
Blast summoned all the loose stone particles in the area, and formed a sphere in his hand. When Gardorax attempted to disable him, Blast plunged his hands forward and unleashed a massive blast of sand at the beast.
The sandy whirlwind sent Gardorax tumbling back, and left the beast temporarily blinded. Blast sent a nod of resignation towards Kaluu, and together the two charged at Gardorax, combining blast of iron and gravity to form a devastating attack. The blast brushed against the Rahi’s armor, earning a roar from the creature as it charged towards Kaluu.
The Makuta dodged its first blow, and then used his powers of density control to temporarily make him little more than a phantom. Gandorax’s clawed hand passed right through Kaluu’s body, a feat that distracted the violent Rahi long enough for Blast to charge forwards and tackle the beast to the ground. Gandorax’s roared loudly, and gnashed its teeth and claws directly at Blast’s head.
Tetrack unleashed a tremendous series of Ice blasts at Sawrall that sliced through the nearby rocks in the same manner Protosteel did to bamboo. However, Sawrall’s smaller, more agile form allowed him to dodge all these blasts.
“Your great powers are failing you, divine ruler of the Gigas Magna Empire. Perhaps you should just accept that the day of you and your resistance has long since past. I believe it was Mordrax who once called you “a senile old fool.” I am beginning to see why.”
Tetrack growled and punctured the rock where Sawrall had been standing one second ago.
“You have guts, Skrall. I haven’t seen one as bluntly arrogant as you since Nightwatcher. However, if you think you are going to stop me and my conquests then you are greatly mistaken.”
Tetrack said this as he unleashed a wave of water against Sawrall with near perfect speed and timing, and this time, he caught the Skrall in the wash. Even Sawrall could not flee from the full angered might of Terack’s tidal wave.
Sawrall flew several meters back until he crashed deep into one of thick stone walls. Tetrack then charged forward, his chainsaws buzzing, with the sole intention of ending the life of the one who had brought him so much anger.
Blast screamed as he and Gandrox rolled around on the ground, their mighty struggle evened by Blast’s skills at dodging and Gandrox’s sheer brute strength. Saber-like fangs tried to bite at the Toa’s neck, and this time, the bite attempt was mere inches away from Blast’s neck. Blast fired a rod of iron at his attacker, though his blast was knocked off course at the last minute, and the projectile soared across the tunnel; embedding itself in one of the far walls near Tetrack.
“Kaluu, where are you?!” cried Blast as he dodged yet another bite from Gardorax’s fangs. The Makuta looked up as he tended to Fairon’s wounds. The Makuta wasn’t sure whether he should aid his ally or protect Fairon.
“G-go help him,” whispered Fairon. “He… needs you more than me… Ugh!”
Fairon wailed as he clutched his wounds. Kaluu rose to his feet as he hid Fairon in the shadows of the tunnel. “Stay here. Remain hidden until me or Tetrack come to collect you.”
With that said, Kaluu charged towards Blast and Gardorax, and utilized his powers to form a stasis field around the latter. Blast promptly forced Gandorax off his body and ran to Kaluu’s side.
“What do we do with it?” asked Blast.
“We end it,” replied Kaluu, a tone of resignation in his voice. When the two turned to kill the Rahi, they saw it was gone.
“Where did it—”
Blast’s words were cut off by a large roar, as Gardorax descended upon them, its razor-sharp claws and fangs aimed directly at their heads.
Sawrall groaned as he slowly rose to his feet. Had he been anything lesser than a Skrall, every bone in his body would have been completely fractured. It was perhaps because of this brief weakness that Sawrall was unable to leap out of Tetrack’s path as he clutched him tightly around his neck with his chainsaw hands.
“You,” he began, with a combination of fury and madness in his voice. “Are a fool. A fool for trying to challenge my power and supremacy. When this is all over, I shall see my Empire rise from the ashes again. And I. Will. Rule!”
Sawrall gurgled something inaudible as he tried to speak over Tetrack’s strong chokehold.
“Speak up worm!” demanded Tetrack. “I want to hear you beg for mercy as I crush your life!”
The titan loosened his grip just enough for Sawrall to speak clearly. Then, Sawrall spoke, a mocking grip on his face.
“So-sorry Great One. But dying is not on my schedule for today!”
Before Tetrack could react and reply, Sawrall whipped out his Thornax Launcher, and fired its ammunition right into Tetrack’s armored face. The Kodax roared in pain as he dropped Sawrall and staggered backwards, nearly trampling Fairon in the process, had the Toa of Light not moved out of the way at the last moment.
Sawrall leapt forwards and kicked Tetrack square in the chest and sent him in further back.
“Seeing as you put up more of a fight than I originally anticipated, I am going to finish you off with something very special: The very latest development in the Empire’s weapon manufacturing.”
Sawrall pulled out a small, portable launcher of alien design. Tetrack backed himself against the tunnel wall, and subtly felt for anything that he could use to defend himself with.
“This… is a specially adapted variation of an Olmak Projector,” began Sawrall. “The Empire came across one of the few surviving models during their attack on the Fortress of Ages. We have now adapted it into a special weapon, which can fire focused energy beams at a target that will send them into a random alternate dimension. The weapon is very effective, and is commonly used by the Empire to… pacify our more dangerous enemies.”
Tetrack continued to feel for a tool of some kind to defend, and as Sawrall continued to boast and gloat over the Empire’s triumph, his fingers slipped around the smooth, silvery surface of the iron projectile Blast had fired earlier. In that instant, Tetrack knew what to do.
“Now then,” began Sawrall. “Allow me to send you on your dimensional journey… a journey that you shall never return from!”
Sawrall triggered his weapon and fired, the purple-gray energy of the shot aimed at Tetrack’s massive chest. In a motion faster than the eye could follow, Tetrack pulled the Iron spike out of the wall, and used its reflective surface to block the blast. The energy bounced off the spike at an amazing speed and flew in the opposite direction of the tunnel. In the direction of Blast.
“Blast, get out of the way,” bellowed Tetrack. Kaluu heard the warning just in time, and wrestled himself out Gardonax’s grip and dived out of the way of the energy beam just in time. Blast looked up too late to react, and his eyes widened as the beam collided with his form, and in a bright explosion of dancing lights, he vanished from sight as if he was never there.
The backlash of energy from the beam had struck Gardorax too, though instead of transporting it, the energy had electrocuted it to brink where it had passed out and died. A stunned Sawrall simply stared at the spot where Toa Blast had once been standing and the area where Gardorax had perished. His shock lasted one second too long, and before he had realized it, Tetrack had charged forward and plunged one of his chainsaw blades through his stomach area.
Sawrall’s eyes widened. It was not the fact that he was defeated that took him by surprise, not the fat that he had been killed, but rather, that his defenses had been so exposed at all. And as that final revelation sank into Sawrall’s mind, he slumped to the ground, his body cold and lifeless, yet his eyes plastered wide open.
Kaluu raced to Tetack’s side whilst clutching the partially limp form of Fairon.
“Where’s Blast? Where has he gone?”
For once, Tetrack didn’t quite know what to say. “To another plain of existence,” the massive Kodax said. “Another reality entirely. We cannot hope to reclaim him now, I’m afraid.”
“Wh-what about the...ugh…. Olmak Projector?” groaned Fairon, wearily.
Tetrack turned the shell of the device over in his hands – if they could be called hands that is.
“The outer shell of the Projector and its interior workings seemed to have fused together during the weapon’s usage. Obviously, the Empire has not perfected the design of their ‘latest weapons advancement.’”
“What do we do now?” hissed Kaluu. “Where do we go from here?”
“We shall return to Atero,” replied Tetrack coldly. “We need to deliver Fairon to Ixtil and the rest of the commanding council before things…. Get out of hand. Fairon has valuable information that they need to hear.”
Suddenly, the trio heard multiple footsteps echo down the tunnels. The footsteps were in a fast pace suggesting a manhunt was being carried out.
“Corpsian guards. Most likely Copies of Corpse shock troopers. We need to get out of here before they find the bodies,” whispered Fairon.
“Agreed,” replied Kaluu. “Let’s get out of here.”
And so, the three warriors disappeared into the darkness of the shadows, and fled through their icy depths back towards the entrance they had arrived in. Only Fairon stopped to look back for a second, and could only be left to wonder what horrible dimension poor Blast had wound up in now.
All was silent in the system of tunnels under the fortress of Makuta Benjarmin. The only sounds were the pitter-patter noises of the feet of Stone Rats and other disgusting creatures.
Strange, purple lightstones illuminated the damp passages. The entire labyrinth reeked of death.
Two Toa stalked through the shadowy halls, making certain not to make the slightest of noises.
Galika spoke up. "I don't like this, Jareroden. You're hurt, and it seems too easy to get lost down here. Maybe we should-"
"No." Jareroden answered without even turning to Galika. "I know there's something going on here, and I would bet more than a few Widgets that it's down here."
Galika sighed in resignation. She knew that when Jareroden made a decision, nothing would stop him from fulfilling it. She had learned that almost a thousand years ago.
A sharp noise suddenly filled the tunnels, and the two companions halted abruptly.
Jareroden listened for a moment, and then spoke in barely a whisper.
"It came from over there."
He nodded to a tunnel branching off to the left. The Jareroden slowly stepped into the passage, closely followed by Galika. The two crept along for some time, and both of them were starting to worry that they were hopelessly lost, until a soft glow appeared from several bio ahead.
Jareroden motioned for total silence, and the two slowly made their way to the light. They found that they were on a large ledge, overlooking a gigantic cave. There were strange, tombs and coffins all around, but Jareroden noticed one thing overall: Benjarmin, the Ignika in hand, stood there, along with Skorpix and Makuta Dredzek.
Skorpix chuckled. "Who knew that those bounty hunters would actually pull through in stealing this mask? They were more effective than we originally anticipated, even without Nightwatcher’s assistance."
Benjarmin's face was emotionless as he spoke. "Indeed. Now, I believe we should get to work, before the resistance finds us down here."
Galika began to move, but Jareroden stopped her by grabbing her arm.
Dredzek nodded. "Correct. It would be most unfortunate if they did. Benjarmin?"
Benjarmin handed Dredzek the legendary mask. Somehow, Jareroden noticed, they were not affected by it. Dredzek closed his eyes. Nothing happened. Then, something did happen. The mask began to glow. Faintly at first, but it was rapidly getting brighter.
Suddenly, Jareroden knew exactly where they were and what this place was.
Suddenly strange tendrils of energy flowed from the mask to the tombs. It was after several minutes of this that Jareroden realized what was happening. He was too late. A brilliant flash of light erupted, blinding both Jareroden and Galika.
When they could finally see, the two Makuta, Skorpix, and the mask were gone.
Galika was bewildered. "Wha-what happened?"
Jareroden's face was grim. "They siphoned the energy of the dead Great Beings down there into the mask, no doubt to take it to their dark masters."
“The Great Beings? What do you mean? They disappeared from this world years ago when their resistance was crushed by the Empire.”
“So it would seem,” began Jareroden. “Though it was never reported what actually happened to the Great Beings themselves. The resistance’s ruling council eventually found out what happened to them only recently: They were privately executed by Millennium himself, and then buried in these tombs until the day they got the mask. What you just saw was the Ignika absorbing all the remnants of the Great Beings’ great power lingering around in their bodies into itself.”
“The Empire will now be in the possession of a now super-charged Kanohi Ignika. The ultimate weapon imaginable.”
Galika stared at Jareroden, her eyes wide. "Jareroden, what are we going to do?"
Jareroden sighed, and got up. "First we need to get out of here, then we must get to Atero. Things just got a lot more complicated."
This chapter was written by Varkanax39.
Blast lay sprawled against a rock wall, his armor torn and covered in wounds. He groaned, and he opened his eyes.
His first thought was confusion. Where was he?
Then he remembered. Sawrall. The Olmak Projector…Where am I?
He was lying against a rock wall, and all around him, he could see similar pillars. The sky was dark, save for a few feebly glimmering stars. The moons’ baleful light illuminated a massive white fortress at the center of the canyon. Armed guards, all in white armor, patrolled every tower of the fortress. All were armed with stabbing spears and crossbows.
This isn’t Spherus Magna.
Blast tightened his grip on the Scythe of Creation, wondering what world this was. Members of the resistance said they’d once lived on a planet known as Gigas Magna, maybe he was on that world. Rising to his feet, Blast raised the Scythe and sneaked along the edge of the valley, keen to avoid detection. Many symbols and ruins lay scattered across the valley, and he saw, to his surprise, he recognized it.
It’s the Valley of the Maze. I am on Spherus Magna. This must be an Imperial base.
Then he saw a white being materialize before him. Two more guards appeared beside the first. Now, up close, Blast saw they weren’t Corpsians, Skakdi, Toa, or Matoran. Their armor was pure white, and their hoods obscured their faces, save for glowing green eyes. Blast turned to run, but three more guards appeared before him, blocking all hope of escape. He fired three Reality Spheres from the Scythe, but as soon as they struck the guards, the pulses vanished. The guards seemed completely unharmed.
"Who are you?" asked Blast.
"We are the Vakra." They said. Their voices were flat and mechanical, but they moved more fluidly than any machine. "The Cold One will deal with you personally, and determine your sentence."
"What have I done?" Blast asked. "I don’t come from your multiverse. I was fighting a Skrall with an Olmak-"
"Your guilt or innocence will be determined by the Cold One." Said the Vakra, leading him to the fortress gates. "Your kind and others like you nearly destroyed the multiverse. There is no place for you in the Perfect World."
"I am a Toa! A defender of Matoran!" Blast shouted. "I fought the Veiled One Empire and the Dark Empire, an alliance of three dark Emperors. I’m not a Skakdi or Makuta or-"
"You are all the same." Said the Vakra bluntly. "All of you will be cleansed from all the universes, your taint removed forever."
"You’re insane." Said Blast. "All of you!" he tried to break free, but the Vakra’s grip was like iron.
"Come." Said another Vakra. "The Cold One will see you now."
Half-dragging Blast toward the fortress, where six armed Vakra patrolled the perimeter of the towers, the guards stopped before the fortress. In a language he didn’t recognize, the Vakra leader snarled a few words. The white gates swung open and Blast walked into the fortress.
The interior was entirely made of white marble. Everything was white, and Blast was dazed by the lack of all other color, save for the green eyes of the Vakra. His captors led him down long, twisting hall ways, and Blast knew he could never remember the way back. He was lost completely in a sea of white.
The Vakra suddenly halted, their spears still raised. Blast watched in awe as a figure appeared, seated upon a massive marble throne.
Like the Vakra, he was armored all in white, save for the intricate silver Kanohi he wore. The silver mask seemed to move, like a pool of molten silver. Two ember-like eyes that burned with hatred stared at Blast, his gaze fixed on the Toa as if he were a fly caught in a web of a Visorak.
"Who is this being?" asked the Cold One. Blast recoiled in shock. He’d expected the demonic rasp of a Corpsian, or the short, guttural Vakra tongue. The Cold One had a voice that was smooth and flawless, almost musical.
Just then three more Vakra guards entered the chamber. Blast whirled around, and saw a Skakdi he recognized glaring at him.
"Zaktan?" he gasped in disbelief.
"We caught this Skakdi on the eastern cliffs." said the Vakra in Matoran to the Cold One. "He is from the unified worlds."
"Ah." said the Cold One. His eyes turned on Blast. "Do you know this Skakdi?" he asked.
"Yes." stammered Blast, before he could stop himself. Something about the Cold One’s musical voice made the Toa want to tell him everything. Before he could stop himself, he began telling the Cold One everything about Spherus Magna and the Dark Empire, but the Cold One held up a silver-armored hand to silence him.
"I will talk with you later. First, I will see what this Skakdi knows about this so-called ‘Dark Empire’"
The Cold One pointed at Zaktan. "Who are you?"
Zaktan gave no response and simply stood there, staring at the Cold One, his eyes challenging. The Cold One stared intently at the Skakdi, and spoke in his beautiful voice that Zaktan found somewhat terrifying.
"There are many ways to die, Skakdi. Slow ways and long ways. Tell me, who are you?"
Zaktan lowered his gaze. "Zaktan." He muttered.
"So, Zaktan, who do you serve?" asked the Cold One. “The rebels or the Dark Empire?”
"I serve myself." Said Zaktan. The Toa of Earth who had been captured by the Vakra looked as if he wanted to say something, but the Vakra tightened their grasp on him, as if anticipating his reaction.
The Cold One made no response.
"I have served the Empire, in the past." Said Zaktan.
"Really?" said the Cold One. "Why?" Zaktan made no response.
"Come on, you can tell me. Am I really that scary?"
Yes! Zaktan wanted to scream. You scare me more than Eostra Nihiltian! He took a step back from the Cold One.
"Are you a being of few words?" asked the Cold One. "I’ve heard the Skakdi were outspoken."
"Yes!" said Zaktan.
"Could you please elaborate your response?" asked the Cold One conversationally.
"I am a being of few words!" Zaktan half-screamed. For some reason he found this insane chatter terrifying. "And I had no choice! They pulled me from my native universe! A universe where I wasn't mutated by the waters of Voya Nui, or killed by Teridax. The Empire pulled me from my home dimension and said I could join them as an Emperor if I attacked and destroyed Atero!"
The Toa of Earth gave a shocked start. "Did you destroy Atero?" he asked Zaktan. "Did you?" He glared at the Skakdi.
"Please wait your turn to be spoken to," said the Cold One, exasperatingly calm. "Continue, Zaktan."
Zaktan seemed to freeze for one second, then vanished in a flash of white light.
"I’ll talk to him later." Decided the Cold One. "I have drained all the knowledge from his mind. When he wakes, he will remember nothing. Do not make the same mistake. Talk to me."
Blast watched Zaktan vanish, and poured out all of the knowledge of Spherus Magna. He must have talked for hours, but here time was meaningless and unknown, and finally he collapsed on the floor. He heard the Cold One whisper.
"Take him, guards, to the holding cells. And relieve him of the weapon. I will study it alone."
Blast allowed the Vakra to drag him toward the holding cells. He passed Zaktan along the way, wandering down passageways and corridors, completely lost and confused. He could see his armor, once a brilliant emerald green, had become paler, and in some places almost white. His body seemed to be twisting and writhing, slowly the Piraka was becoming a Vakra.
How long do I have left? thought Blast. The thought gave him strength, and he punched the guard in the face. The Vakra drew his spear, and Blast ran down the corridor, toward the Cold One’s throne room.
A Vakra guard saw him running, and threw a spear at Blast. Blast dodged aside, and it clattered against the wall.
Blast ran down a long twisting corridor…
…And into the Cold One. The Vakra lord was holding the Scythe of Creation.
"Use this scythe." Ordered the Cold One, grabbing Blast by the neck. “Or be purified like Zaktan. Watch!” He pointed a hand into the white oblivion behind them, and thousands of Vakra soldiers materialized out of the abyss, led by the still-recognizable Zaktan, whose features had become very similar to those of the Vakra, and his armor had become almost completely white. Only small spots of emerald remained.
"Open a portal to your world." Snarled the Cold One. Blast raised the Scythe.
“Let my armies through, Blast.” Ordered the Cold One. "And I will kill you quickly. If not, you will be purified."
“No!” Blast screamed. He swung the Scythe at the Vakra leader, but the Cold One disarmed him.
"Pathetic, pathetic." Said the Cold One. "Open the door!" Blast’s limbs moved of their own volition, he felt the Cold One shove him toward the Scythe. The silent Vakra armies stood alone, waiting for the Scythe. Blast grabbed the weapon, and the Cold One screamed in triumph as a massive icy portal opened before the Vakra army.
And Blast, his mind tainted by the Cold One’s thoughts, saw the future of Spherus Magna. Not the future of this twisted version of Spherus Magna, but the reality he came from. He felt a being so terrible engulf him, the Empire, and the Cold One. He saw fire, he saw death, and he saw the fall of everything that mattered. Everything that ever will matter. And worse, he saw something much more sinister. He saw the end of reality itself. Blast's eyes widened.
Blast felt his vision dim, and he heard the Cold One scream. "Kill the Toa!"
Zaktan raced to his master’s side, and using his white Tri-Bladed Scissor, ran Blast through. The presence lifted from Blast’s mind, and the Toa fell to the ground.
But as he died, and as the Vakra, led by Zaktan and the Cold One, entered the portal with the Scythe, Blast saw the past and the future of Spherus Magna.
And he saw, in his last moment of life, the apocalypse that would come.
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
Nightwatcher groaned as he opened his eyes drearily. Everything was a blur to him at the moment. The world around him, reality, even the very ground he was standing on. Finally, he managed to regain his senses, and he began scanning his surroundings.
He was in some kind of forest; with towering, bulky trees dominating most of the surroundings space, their outstretched leaves filling the roof of the woods, almost making it too thick to allow even a faint trace of sunlight to pass through. This place was in almost perpetual darkness, and yet, at the same time, it gave off an almost tranquil and peaceful feeling.
The soothing lull of the forest’s atmosphere washed against Nightwatcher’s soul, bringing with it a feel of sleepiness and relaxation. Let go, spoke a quiet voice in the depths of his mind. Just let go of everything. Detach yourself from the reality and embrace this feeling. It can last forever. It can last for all eternity, but you have to let go of the mortal world forever.
Nightwatcher took a deep sigh, and soaked in the surrounding aurora. It was nice feeling, one he had not felt in perhaps thousands of years. However, as he fell deeper and deeper into the forest’s calm, another voice spoke up; a harsher tone, one mixed with a burning fury, a tone of borderline arrogance, combined with a strong will and confidence. It was the voice of Nightwatcher himself. It was the voice that belonged to him. It was his own voice speaking to him.
Don’t give in, you imbecile, the voice began. Don’t give into this weakness and submit. You are stronger than this. Remember the vengeance you still have to bring, the wrongs you still have to right, and the imbeciles who just humiliated you. Do you remember that? Do you, really? Prove the strength of your will and cast aside this… this illusion.
The seriousness of the voice surprised Nightwatcher. It lacked any of the dry wit or sarcastic humor that it usually possessed, meaning that whatever situation he was in now must be serious. Suddenly, his memory began to return to him. He remembered the pain, he remembered the humiliation, he remembered his outrage, and he remembered his bitterness, though most of all, he remembered the names of those who brought about those feelings: Eostra Nihilitan, Millennium, and the Dark Lord.
Suddenly his mind felt like itself again. He felt the tired feeling of sleepiness that had just been plaguing him shatter, and his brain snapped back to reality with a strong sense of awareness with one question continuously echoed throughout its depths: Where am I?
In the seconds after those words had kicked in, the impossible happened. Nightwatcher looked on in uncertainty and confusion as the colors of his surrounding began to quite literally (and quite ridiculously in Nightwatcher’s opinion) melt into the ground. Dark green droplets of color began dripping off the leaves, whilst the weak beams of light that had previously been pushing through the leaves began to fade, as if the sun was phasing out of existence.
After about a minute had passed, Nightwatcher looked around the location that had once been a dimly lit forest. Without all its color, the trees and shrubs just looked bland and clay-like, and soon they too began to melt into the ground as well.
Once everything was gone, and the forest was no longer in existence, Nightwatcher, for the second time, scanned his new surroundings. There was nothing. Nothing except the endless gray void he was now standing in. His feet were telling him he was standing on something solid, but when he looked down, all he saw was nothingness.
Well this is a pretty boring dimension, thought Nightwatcher. The imbecile who designed this reality obviously had no taste in style or decoration.
Suddenly, Nightwathcer’s thoughts were disturbed by a sound of repetitive clapping, the noise echoing faintly off into the endless surroundings of the void as three figures approached out of a misty fog. The clapping continued, until Nightwatcher could make out that it was the figure in the center doing the clapping.
As his features slowly began to grow visible, he began to talk. “Bravo! Bravo, my friend!”
“Very good,” said a feminine voice radiating from the figure standing to the first speaker’s left.
The figure to right also spoke up. “Not bad, I suppose. A little overwrought, perhaps, though he got a better death than I did. An execution as a war criminal, I ask you.”
“Even that was more dignified than what I was forced to endure,” spoke the person in the center. “I mean seriously, how could I have seen that one coming? Having my body replaced by a completely different personality.”
“Where am I demanded?” demanded Nightwatcher, who instinctively felt for his sword and drew it menacingly.
“I see his will was strong enough to endure the illusion. That’s no surprise, since we all were before we ended up here. That illusion was meant to tempt him into accepting a peaceful death. Obviously, he had the strength to refuse that temptation.”
“I say again, imbecile,” began Nightwatcher. “Who are you?”
“Oh, of course, how rude of us,” began the person standing on the right. “But I’m surprised that you don’t even recognize our voices.”
As soon as that was said, the three figures stepped out of the mist to reveal themselves, and Nightwatcher gasped in utter shock when their eyes met his own. Usually, nothing could ever catch him off-guard, but this certainly did. The faces of these three belonged to people who should all be dead. Somehow, in this place and time, they weren’t.
The figure standing in the middle between his two comrades chuckled. “I believe we’ve met before, Nightwathcer. My name is Charon, Toa of Shadow, and this here on my left is Shayla, Toa of Water, whilst on my right is the infamous Dorex, combat instructor of the Order of Mata Nui.”
Nightwatcher’s astonished eyes were still unable to comprehend the site before him. Charon, his former self, was, indeed, technically dead, since that personality had eventually been lost and “died” when his persona transformed into that of Nightwatcher.
Dorex, he had known, had died rather foolishly, many centuries ago during the First Order of Darkness War, though he and Nightwatcher had been well acquainted many years before his death, during their adventures in their native universe, the Life pocket dimension.
Shayla was different than her two comrades. She too, was a native of Nightwathcer’s original universe, and like Dorex, she had been well acquainted to him and had followed him when he traveled to this universe. However, unlike his somewhat rocky relationship with Dorex, his and Shayla’s relationship had evolved into something much more than a mere friendship. It had been uplifted onto a different plain entirely. A romantic plain.
Instantly, Nightwatcher’s sub-conscious wailed in humiliation at the thought of his “former” feelings for her, the feelings, a tiny part of him knew, Nightwatcher had failed to bury before the Empire had publicly executed her. His unrequited love for her was perhaps the only chain binding Nightwatcher to his former self of Toa Charon.
“There is no point in trying to fight off your feelings for me in your internal debate, Nightwatcher,” began Shayla. “In this plain of existence, your thoughts are as exposed as the pages of a book.”
“I harbor no such feelings for you Shayla,” barked Nightwatcher viciously, who made sure even he could hear the poison in his words. “Not anymore, and before you pointlessly try to emotionally blackmail me, tell me Exactly where I am.”
“We are where you suspect we are, but can’t bring yourself to accept it,” answered Charon.
“Oh... Oh, I see now,” replied Nightwatcher, bitterly. “That was it, then. My death, my end, my life’s conclusion?”
“That’s your lot, Nightwatcher,” began Dorex. “You can shout, scream, blaze and rage all you like, but your not going back on stage again.”
“Lights up. Exit audience. The end. And what an ending you had…”
“Whatever will the critics say about your life’s performance?” asked Shayla, tauntingly. “Melodramatic? Prolonged? Stereotypical, too?”
“Be silent you imbecile,” roared Nightwatcher in fury. “This is my life we’re talking about, not some staged theatrical performance. When I find out what’s really going on, I’m… I’m…”
Nightwatcher stopped. His eyes were glancing in every direction in growing panic and curiosity. “Is… is it me or is this void… getting darker?”
“I’m glad you noticed,” began Dorex.
“That is a sign you are dying, and that this realm that we are all in, a sort of limbo realm, is collapsing. And before you ask, we will die with you. We are not the true versions of your former friends and selves, but merely mental representations. Charon is the Voice of the Past, Shayla is the Voice of Compassion, and I am the Voice of Reason. We were created by your sub-conscious to give you the strength to resist death, but you obviously focused too much time on fighting our efforts than accepting them.”
“No! No, I will not allow this to be my death! I’ve still got so much left to do with my existence.”
“I never got to see the defeat of the Dark Empire,” said Shayla.
“It’s getting very dark now,” said Charon, mockery dribbling from his words. And with a sinister chuckle, the visual representations of Charon, Shayla, and Dorex disappeared as another wave of darkness fell.
For the first time in thousands of centuries, Nightwatcher felt a rush of panic overwhelm him. He was not ready to die yet, no not yet. It was then, he decided, he would not die now. Suddenly, he felt something different. He didn’t feel scared like he had done a few seconds ago, he felt strong, stronger than he had ever been before. He felt confident in the fact he would not die.
Suddenly, boiling-hot, blinding light violently broke through the darkness. The dark sky was cracking from the strength of Nightwatcher’s will and passion to live. Perhaps not even death itself could drag him down when he had his mind set on something: and that something was vengeance. Vengeance on the three who had humiliated him. Vengeance on the three who had forced him into this limbo dimension. Vengeance on the three who had forced him to experience this painful self-reflection and inner contemplation.
It was hatred that was going to bring him back, and it was hatred that was going to destroy the Empire, and if he had to take the world with him to achieve that, then so be it. And with that final boost of anger and strength, the bright light surrounding him shattered the final remnants of the darkness, and Nightwatcher felt the feeling of freedom and life wash over him yet again. And then, as he began to feel light-headed, he felt his body slowly fade away as his mind began to accompany him back to reality. And as a resounding explosion noise took effect, and the light exploded before his very eyes, Nightwatcher fell unconscious.
Nightwathcer’s eyes sprung open, and he immediately took a sharp gasp for air. He panted for a few minutes, as he grew re-accustomed to controlling his own body again. He flexed his hands for a few seconds and tested his muscles. He was definitely back in his own body again. The suddenly it hit him. Like an explosive Madu fruit hitting a rock. The ground beneath him was moving. He lurched upwards to find himself on some strange form of transportation.
A quick scan of the vehicle revealed it be some kind of strange hybrid between a large variation of a Baranus and a Vahki Transport. The vehicle had the base of a Baranus, but in place of wheels, the transport had four pairs of insect-like legs just like the ones the Vahki used in their transports. Then there was the driver’s post. Instead of possessing a set of chains running from the cockpit to hold onto a creature such as Spikit, the driver’s seat instead had a form of steering wheel, for which the driver could steer the legs of the transport. Nightwatcher looked at where he was sitting. He had been placed in an extended space directly behind the driver’s seating, obviously a space used for storing cargo.
Against the protests of his aching muscles, Nightwatcher forced himself to lean against one of the armored barriers of the vehicle and sighed.
“You look like you’ve been through a lot of pain there, my friend.”
Nightwatcher abruptly turn to look where the voice had come from. The voice’s owner was sitting in the pilot seat, attending to various navigational devices before turning to face Nightwatcher.
“Had I not been there to salvage you from the wastes, then perhaps a pack of Vorox or something would have got you.”
“Who are you, imbecile,” growled Nightwathcer menacingly.
“Name’s Raduke,” spoke the driver. “And for one, I’m not an imbecile. I could have easily left you to rot outside of Eostra’s fortress as I was driving past it, or what was left of it. Had it not been for my pity for you, you probably would have been recovered shortly by a patrol of imperial soldiers or something along those lines.”
“Spare me your pity,” hissed Nightwatcher. “Now, if you excuse me, I am going to get of this patchwork that you call a vehicle, and head back to- Arghh!”
Raduke chuckled lightly.
“I don’t think you’re going anywhere, Nightwatcher. Despite what your reputation suggests, you are not invulnerable. Whatever battle you just fought, it left you drained and severely weakened. Had it not been for my medical equipment you would have died.”
“Well, as soon as I am rested and strong again, Lepidian, I intend to get off this transport and be on my way. I have a score to settle with those weak-minded, Imperial idiots.”
“As interesting as that notion sounds,” began Raduke. “I don’t think you can do that at the moment. Even you must realize how strategically unwise it would be to turn around and head right back to the Imperial palaces in such a weakened condition.”
Nightwatcher snarled bitterly, “Then what do you suggest I do… Raduke. What do you suggest I do to over throw those imbeciles?”
“Personally, I’d suggest a more covert and discreet operation. Someone of your power could easily infiltrate a number of the Empire’s outlying facilities and number them down one by one.”
“Forget it,” muttered Nightwatcher. “Just drop me off at the nearest city and I will be off to enact my vengeance.”
“Well, I’m going to be stopping off by Tajun later, so I suppose I could drop you of there so you can head on your way.”
“Oh, I don’t think you’ll be going anywhere,” said a loud, new voice.
Nightwatcher and Raduke both turned to see a group beings standing directly in front of their vehicle. Raduke dived forward for the controls, and sharply pulled back the steering wheel to abruptly break his wagon.
Pridak smiled. He may no longer be the conqueror he had once been, but he could still make any opponent stop dead in their tracks. He turned to stare at his team. For this assignment, the resistance’s senior leaders had assigned Chiara, Tobduk, Gresh and Kopeke to be part of his squad.
“Pridak? What are you doing here?” asked Raduke.
“Get out our way you weak, self-obsessed imbecile, before I’m forced to make you,” growled Nightwatcher.
Pridak chuckled. “Tsk, tsk. Such a foul temper. When we get back to Atero, I’m going to have to teach you some proper manners.”
“Who said anything about going to Atero?” inquired Raduke. “Me and my… hitchhiker here are just fine heading off on my own way. Why should we come with you?”
“Because if you don’t,” began Chiara as she charged her weapon. “Your life expectancy will dramatically decrease once you your bodies are fried by the fatal electrical energies channeled up through your transportation.”
“And what’s going to stop us from jumping down to your level and slaughtering you?” Nightwatcher asked in a confident tone.
Suddenly the ground shook violently. A soft tremor ran through the ground, followed by another, more powerful, which was also followed by another, and another, and another…
As the earthquake reached its peak, a massive creature erupted from the ground, sending rock and debris flying everywhere. When the dust finally settled, Raduke and Nightwatcher could both make out the form of the monstrosity of a war machine that was the Skopio XV-1, piloted by none other than the rather psychotic nomad known as Telluris.
“That’s what’s going to stop you,” Chiara answered smugly as she crossed her arms.
“Now then, bounty hunters,” began Pridak. “What’s it going to be: Death by the resistance or imprisonment by choice?”
There was a silence that lasted a total six seconds, and once that time had passed, the decision of the two bounty hunters was finally made.
This chapter was written by Jareroden97.
The blade of Makuta Garras tore at Rando's shoulder, ripping a hole in his armor. Rando gritted his teeth, and kicked his assailant in the face. Or, at least one of his assailants. At the moment he was holding off Trek, as well as Metrados. He had already slain Tekih, but he knew he could not last long.
He swung around and sliced Trek across the chest with his energized air blade, and a steady flow of Antidermis started to leak out. Rando coughed, and looked up. "Who's next?"
As a response, icy, dagger-like fingers wrapped around his neck, and bodily hurled him. He slammed into a boulder, with a sharp crack, and fell face-forward to the ground, though it was slightly softened by the snow.
He painfully raised his head to see Metrados stood above him, his face tightened in a vicious grin. He swung his staff above his head. "Goodbye, Toa Rando."
Rando rolled out of the way as Metrados' staff thudded into the ground where he lay less than a second before. He painfully got to his feet, and made one great mistake: his back was to Metrados.
All Rando felt was a crash against the back of his head, and he fell into the void of unconsciousness.
Zercks spun in mid air and sliced off the head of Rahkan. In the same instant he slammed his foot into the head of Milode, sending him staggering back. While Zercks was not as weary as the likes of Rando, he was still surrounded by enemies. Cracks were still embedded in his armor, and his muscles ached.
Zercks backhanded Manouy before he could stab him with his dagger. He grabbed the small being by the ankle, and crushed him against a tree trunk, killing him instantly.
Zercks threw the limp body away, and blocked the blade of Toa Milode. "Do you seriously expect this to be a challenge to me, Imperial?"
Zercks hastened to knock Milode away, who snarled in defiance. "We will see how much of a challenge I am... WHEN YOU ARE DEAD!"
Milode lunged at Zercks, cutting through his chest armor as if it were made of water. Zercks gave a groan as he stumbled and tripped over a rock. As he fell, he launched a shard of Iron straight at Milode's chest. He heard the sound of metal tearing through armor.
Milode gave a gurgling noise as he stared as the shard that had seemingly grew from his chest, and then he fell.
As he rose to his feet, one hand over his chest, he heard a soft, scrapping noise from behind him. He slowly turned around, and he saw something that he would rather not have; Banrax was perched on a rock directly above him.
He leapt, his claws spread out in a quite deadly fashion, and raked them down the side of Zercks' face. In response, Zercks used the sword in his free hand to attempt to hold off Banrax. It did not work. Banrax charged forward, and launched a spout of water at such great force into Zercks' face, that it knocked him a good fifty feet into the air.
Banrax jumped up right beside him, grabbed his leg, and flung him to the ground.
The Toa of Iron slammed into the snow, and his back made contact with solid ground.
Banrax landed on his feet directly in front of Zercks, sneering. "Look at you. You think you can defeat us, Toa. You believe your rag-tag rebellion can defeat us? You, made up of Toa, Glatorian, Skakdi, and even outcasts think you can defeat a power that has held this world for a century? It's time for a reality check, Toa. You've lost. Your rebellion has lost. And now I'm going to enjoy killing you."
Zercks reached for his blade. Banrax stepped on his arm before he could reach it.
"I would not do that if I were you. If I were you I would want to make this as quick and painless as possible."
Zercks took his other hand off his chest, and spoke to buy himself time. "Go on, kill me, but you will die in the end, Shadowy One."
As he talked, he formed a spiked ball of Iron in his hand, whose spikes he could make extend at will. He turned his eyes to Banrax. "Before you kill me, can I say a few last words?"
Benrax snarled. "Fine, what is it?"
Zercks chuckled. "Enjoy."
Banrax started to reply, when Zercks threw the ball out of his hand. As soon as it hit Banrax's body, the Toa of Iron caused the spikes to extend, puncturing deep into his armor and organic tissue.
The Elmental Prince gave a shriek of pain and rage, and took his attention off Zercks, which gave him enough time to leap up, coat his hand in iron, and punch Banrax right in the face. He continued this, until a clawed hand stopped him.
Banrax coughed and turned to Zercks. "You have made.... a grave mistake.... Toa."
Zercks could tell Banrax was injured, but right now that wasn't what his main attention was focused on. Banrax twisted Zercks' wrist, nearly snapping his hand off. Zercks kicked Banrax in the chest, forcing him to release his wrist.
Banrax was about to pounce on Zercks, when laser blasts started hitting his back. He turned around, to see Gurren, his shoulder mounted cannon smoking.
Banrax leapt, only to be beaten away with more blasts. Over the noise Gurren yelled.
"Come on! Is that all you got!?"
Banrax saw Teron closing in on him as well. "No. But it seems I'm surrounded and at a disadvantage, so I'll be off."
Before they could stop him, Banrax was gone. Teron stared at the spot where the Elemental Prince had stood ten seconds ago. "The coward..."
Zercks turned to Gurren, and saw his armor was pitted and scorched (his mask worst of all), but still in one piece. "So, I see you fought Flareus."
Gurren grunted. "Yeah. I got him on the ground, but he launched fire right in my face. By the time I could see again, he was gone."
They heard the sound of metal clashing against metal, and a scream. They both spun around, to see a blade stabbed through Teron's stomach. The Toa fell down, dead. Harponok, Krakanus, and Garras stood there, their weapons ready.
Gurren and Zercks readied their's, and the fight began.
Neocrax dodged several laser blasts fired by Corpsian snipers and Nevotnor-411. The blasts thudded into tree trunks, splintering them to pieces. Neocrax cursed under his breath.
"Karzhani, it just had to be snipers, didn't it?"
He teleported to the large branch where they were situated, but found it impossible to hit them due to their teleportation devices.
Neocrax spun around and impaled on of the Corpsians with his daggers. He spun around and kicked Nevotnor-411, sending it flying off the branch. Neocrax quickly dispatched it with laser vision.
That's two down. About a hundred to go.
He teleported, and used his Crast to repulse several Corpsians off the branch, where they plummeted to a painful death far below. A bolt of lightning hit him squarely on the back, knocking him off the limb.
He teleported himself to the ground almost in the same instant that he had been knocked off. He saw Trek closing in on him, sword hefted above his head.
"Time to die, 'brother'."
Trek used a spinning Shadow blast that covered the ground in shadow energy. Neocrax leapt from the ground, grabbed a tree limb, spun on it, and fly-kicked Trek right in the face.
The Makuta took his clawed hand off his face, and flung himself at Neocrax, who blocked him with one of his daggers. Trek wildly swung with his Zaamu Sword, almost chopping Neocrax's head clean off.
Neocrax lunged, sticking his daggers into Trek's left and right shoulders. The green, black, and silver armored Makuta used his power over weather control to send a bolt of lightning flashing from the sky, and were drawn towards Neocrax's metal daggers.
The electricity felt like stabbing blades against Neocrax's Antidermis spirit, and he was forced to throw away the daggers. He made large spheres of Shadow in his hands, and as quick as a bolt of chained lightning, was standing in front of Trek, and had begun slamming Trek with the energy.
Trek kicked Neocrax in the stomach area, sending him flying several yards away. Neocrax quickly rose to his feet to see a cyclone crashing it's way toward him. He teleported from it's trajectory, and landed a crushing blow to Trek's face.
Trek back flipped, and launched heat vision at Neocrax, which greatly seared his armor. Trek charged forward, and used gravity to crush part of Neocrax's face. He screamed, and fell backwards, and landed on a sharp rock, which tore a hole in his back armor.
Neocrax gave a moan, and used his regeneration and quick healing abilities to slowly recuperate. He stood up. "You're going to have to-ung!-do better than that if you want to kill me, scum." The two began to circle each other. Trek's eyes were gleaming dangerously, almost feraly. His lethal, spike-like fangs were showing as he bared his teeth. He spread his wings, and flew into the air. As he passed over Neocrax, he grabbed him by the throat, and held him in front of him.
"I am going to enjoy killing you, my foolish brother."
Neocrax, unwilling to fall, unwilling to let the Makuta win, unwilling to give up, grabbed Trek's arm, and started pulling him to the side.
"Wait! What are you doing!? You'll kill us both!!"
Ignoring the Makuta's warnings, Neocrax violently pulled Trek to the side, and they were on a direct coarse for a rocky Cliffside and - everything went black.
Rando's eyes sapped open. He sat bolt upright. His first instinct was to reach and unsheathe his sword, only to find it wasn't in his sheath. Then he remembered. The whole area was scorched and destroyed. Dead bodies were strewn across the ground.
Rando tried to get up, but he fell to his knees.
"Easy." A voice said.
Rando turned his head to see Zercks standing over him. "What happened?"
"They killed all but about ten of our soldiers, as well as Gurren, though he was able to take Garras and Harponok with him. Krakanus got away, as did Metrados. I don't know what happened to Neocrax and Trek."
"What happened to Windeus and Tenork?"
"Gone. I don't know what happened to them."
They heard heavy footsteps behind them, and saw Neocrax; armor in shambles and one side of his face crushed beyond recognition.
Rando's eyes widened. "Whoa! What happened to you?"
Neocrax said two words. "Myself and Trek slammed into those rocks. By the time I regained my senses he was gone."
"Are all of them dead?" Rando said.
"Yes," Said Zercks, "except for Milode over there."
Rando followed Zercks' gaze until he saw the still form of Milode. His chest was heaving, which alerted Rando that he was alive. "What do we do with him? Kill him?"
Zercks shook his head. "No. We need him alive for interrogation."
Rando shakily got up. Neocrax asked the question that had been on everyone's mind.
"So, what now?"
"We return to Atero and...." Rando swallowed, "Tell them the war has begun."
Sovnoron's clawed feet made a hollow scrapping noise against the metal floor of the hall leading to the room where the Mask of Light was located.
He remembered that this was one of the Empire's first outposts when they began their conquest of this world, then, it went off the map. All communications went down, the base had disappeared off the radar. It was almost as if the fortress had been obliterated entirely.
Scouts were sent to investigate. They were never seen or heard of again. The technology in this fortress was extremely familiar. It was apparent that the resistance had captured this base, and had been using technology belonging to the rebels.
Hmm, it seems the rebels have been using our own technology against us for almost a century....
After much time of traversing the winding corridors of the fortress, he reached a large, circular gateway, which undoubtedly led to the chamber where the mask was kept.
As he neared the door, two Toa stepped out of the shadows. Sovnoron recognized them immediately as the two veteran Toa, Jaller and Nuparu.
Jaller held up his Cordak Blaster. " Halt right there, Imperial. Your kind is not welcome here."
Nuparu readied his weapons: the Aqua Blaster Blade, the Razor-Edged Protosteel Shield, and his Cordak Blaster. "Yes, you are now a prisoner of the Resistance. Lay down your weapons and-"
Without uttering a word, Sovnoron moved as quick as lightning, and by the time Nuparu saw Sovnoron, he had already buried his blade in the Toa of Earth's chest. Nuparu gasped for air, but none reached his lungs. Nuparu fell backwards, stricken dead.
Jaller gave a cry of rage, and charged Sovnoron. Sovnoron blocked the Toa's blade, grabbed Jaller's wrist, and twisted it until he heard a snapping noise. Jaller stumbled back, dropping his blaster.
Sovnoron quickly glanced at it, and then leapt up, kicked off the wall, and slammed into Jaller, bowling him over. Sovnoron was up in a flash. He lunged for Jaller's blaster, and grabbed it in the same instant.
He shot out three shots, which hit Jaller spot on. The Toa flew through the Protosteel doors as if they were made of paper. Jaller's body made a thunking noise as it landed inside the room. One of his arms hung limp from the sheer damage it had received, with organic tissue beginning to show, and most of his armor was either in shreds or completely gone.
He was, however, alive.
Sovnron strode into the room, and opened a strange compartment in the wall. Inside was a golden mask. To the uneducated, it may seem like just another mask, but Sovnoron knew this was much more; this was the Kanohi Avohkii: the legendary Mask of Light.
Sovnron put his fingers over the mask. Even though Takanuva, the former owner of mask, had been dead for almost half a century, the Kanohi still radiated power.
As Sovnoron walked out of the chamber, Jaller's hoarse voice called to him. "You don't know how powerful that mask is! It could-!"
Sovnron cut him off before he could finish. "I tire of your petty threats, Toa. I'll let my soldiers decide what to do with you. I have... places to be."
With that, Sovnoron took out a small disk, pressed a button in the center of it, and he was gone.
All was silent in the throne room of Eostra, one of the three dark rulers of the Empire. Her throne room had only recently been repaired from the damage it had sustained during her conflict with Nightwatcher. She had her eyes closed, meditating, until a single, silver and black being appeared out of thin air right in front of Eostra's throne.
She knew who it was without even opening her eyes. "Sovnoron. I see you have returned from your mission to the Great Ocean."
Sovnoron knelt at the throne of Eostra. "Lady Eostra, I have retrieved the Avohkii."
He took the mask out of a pouch in his cloak, and handed it to Eostra. Her eyes gleamed greedily as she stared at the mask.
Her voice was a hiss. "Yes.... the Mask of Light. Truly this is a great blow against the rebels."
Sovnoron nodded, not daring to speak. Even though he fell under the jurisdiction of The Dark Lord, both Eostra and Millennium had the authority to kill him.
Eostra turned her sinister gaze to Sovnoron. Even him, a hardened, merciless killer, felt a ping of fear when the Shadowy One looked at him.
"You have done well, servant of the Dark Lord. You may leave."
Sovnoron gave a nod, and quickly swept out of the dark chamber. As he walked out through the hall, he could have sworn he hear insidious laughter emanating from the chamber.
Verex passed over a desert dune atop his Rock Steed, Reshnez, and soon he was descending down the sandy slope towards the city of Atero. Above, Zevrahk soared after him, his powers of flight allowing him to scout ahead for Imperial patrols and eliminate them before they could find them. His ability of flight also prevented the pair from having to stop by any towns and villages dominated by an Imperial presence to purchase a Rock Steed or some other kind of transport for Zevrahk to use.
Verex sighed. His travels no longer felt the same without Ranzesk, Drex, or Inzek by his side. He was beginning to feel himself missing them much more than he had originally expected.
Zevrahk and Verex met just beyond the western entrance to Atero. There, after placing Reshnez inside one of the resistance’s nearby stables, the pair headed towards the large, towering entry point that was the western entrance. Standing guard was a sole, blue armored figure. As soon as Verex identified the figure, he mentally groaned to himself. This person was just going to make things a little more complicated.
Once they were less than a meter away from the guard, he raised his staff and blocked off the entrance, his eyes glinting with mistrust.
After a moment, Verex sighed and spoke. “Its alright, Rernahk. He’s with us.”
Rernahk made something of a snorting noise.
“Him? On our side? You must be joking. Since when do highly intelligent and dangerous Rahkshi join with us? Creatures of his caliber all wind up in the Empire’s servitude, what makes him any different? Last time I checked, he was the fanatically loyal general of Makuta Verahk.”
Zevrahk hefted his gaze onto Rernahk menacingly, though did not speak. He decided he would leave this argument to Verex.
“Look, I know his reputation, Rernahk,” Verex began. “But he has offered to lend us his skills and experience on the battlefield to our cause, and that is something we cannot turn down. Besides we have much worse beings than Zevrahk in positions of power amongst our ranks.”
“I don’t trust him,” snarled Rernahk in his old, dusty voice. “I know my own kind well enough to determine that he cannot be trusted. We should not let him join, he may be working for Verahk! After all, nobody knows what truly happened to him.”
Verex growled viciously, his crimson eyes glowed brightly as a sign of his growing frustration.
“I can guarantee he’s not working for Verahk. And besides, if we can trust and recruit Tetrack into this organization, then we can incept Zevrahk too. Now please, let us through, or do I need to remind you how much of a toll age has taken on your fighting skills, Rahkshi.”
Rernahk didn’t reply. Instead, he strode straight up to Zevrahk, and stared him right in the eye. Time ticked by as the two bizarre Rahkshi analyzed each other.
“You can’t be trusted,” grunted Rernahk.
“I know, but look how useful I can be.”
“You’re deceitful, self-serving, and treacherous,”
“You are pitiful, meek, and old,”
“You are a dark creature spawned of countless members of our kind.”
“You are not even a true Rahkshi. You’re a senile, old, mechanical replica.”
There was a long silence as the two Rahkshi stared each other down. Finally, Rernahk gave in and lowered his staff.
“Fine,” he grumbled. “But remember, I will be watching you.”
“Of course, old timer,” replied Zevrahk, a hint of mockery in his voice. “I’m sure you will be.”
And with that, Verex and Zevrahk entered Atero; their next destination: the Great Hall, where Verex was sure the rest of the resistance was bound to be.
This chapter was written by Toa Hydros.
Hydros paced down a long, shadowy corridor, the barely functioning Lightstones embedded in the ceiling flickering inconstantly to restore their full glow. Obviously, Atero's power generators and energy converters had yet to fully recover from the ordeal with Zaktan. The Skakdi menace had only recently been dealt with, and Conqueror and Leviathos were currently overseeing repairs to the crumbling, old city, whilst Ixtil deliberated with Nightwatcher in his holding cell.
Abruptly, Hydros reached the end of the corridor, and his intended destination: the council chamber. Pushing open the doors, Hydros' gazed at the ancient, marble table before looking up to see a silhouetted figure sitting at the head of the table, hands clasped together as if he were expecting Hydros to say something. Under normal circumstances, the resistance’s leaders would occupy the chairs in this room, though this time, it was only Hydros and his strange guest who sat in this room.
Taking up a seat at the opposite head of the table, Hydros' gaze met that of his guest's, locking together for a brief second as if they were trying to analyze each other for signs of weakness. Finally, Hydros cleared his throat and spoke.
"Where is it?" he asked.
Raduke snorted in amusement. This Toa was certainly quick to the point, wasn't he?
Some things, I suppose, never change.
"Where is what, Toa?" the Lepidian asked innocently, despite having full knowledge of what the Toa was referring to. It was something he had done before, especially with this particular Toa.
"You know exactly what 'what' is, Lepidian," Hydros replied, his voice both calm and edgy at the same time. "The artifact you and your fellow bounty hunters stole from us, the Kanohi Ignika. Where is it? Who hired you to steal it?"
"Who says anyone hired us?" The Lepidian asked. Though it was not usually his nature to be so cryptic, Raduke typically did what was necessary to protect the interests of his employers. "The lot of us simply decided that we needed a new trophy to add to our collection."
Hydros' masked features hardened. "I know you, Raduke," he said. "You wouldn't be caught dead with people like Skorr or Proto-Beast unless someone was offering you a great reward in return." Hydros took in a breath before continuing. "Now, I'm going to ask again: Where is the Ignika, and who desired it?"
Silence was the only answer that Raduke offered the Toa sitting across from him. Hydros did his best not to give any visible signs of aggravation, which would only encourage Raduke to be deceitful.
For the tenth time in as many minutes, Hydros wondered why he had been assigned to question and negotiate with the Lepidian. He had always been more a warrior than a diplomat, and had never had much to offer in terms of interrogation; his old companion, Kazepza, had always been the better choice in such matters.
Almost instantly, Hydros mentally kicked himself for bringing Kazepza back to his thoughts.
Kazepza is gone, Hydros, the Toa thought to himself, now trying not to think about the Toa of Psionics that had been his friend for so long. She died a long time ago, and isn't coming back.
Taking a deep breath, the Toa returned his gaze to Raduke, who had been watching Hydros intently. From what Hydros had learned about Raduke during their numerous encounters over the years, he knew the Lepidian was different from most beings who took on the profession of a bounty hunter; where most were greedy, depraved, or just down right insane, Raduke actually had a sense of honor, and therefore a semblance of a conscience.
Drawing on his reserves of patience and wisdom, Hydros decided to take a different approach. He rose from his chair and looked the Lepidian in the eye.
"Come with me," he said. Raduke's eyes narrowed.
"Just follow me, Raduke," the Toa replied, already turning to leave the room. "There is something I wish to show you."
Unsure of whether or not he should go with the Toa, Raduke hesitated for a moment to see if Hydros would return to the room. Eventually, he decided to take his chances, prompting him to rise from his chair and followed the Toa.
They walked down the corridors in total silence for about ten minutes. While Hydros moved without hesitation, Raduke constantly looked over his shoulder to make sure someone wasn't following them, a useful habit he had picked up shortly after beginning his career. Eventually they arrived at a door being guarded by two warriors; one was a one-eyed Saursapien female, and the other was a heavily scarred Mersion.
Upon seeing Raduke, both warriors raised their weapons to block the pair's path.
"Where do you think you're taking him?" the Archosian female asked, tightening her claws' grip on her war-axe. "You know as well as anyone, Hydros, that unauthorized personnel are not allowed here."
Her fellow guard, who was clutching a glowing mace, nodded. "Especially when the unauthorized personnel in question recently helped to steal a powerful artifact from our city."
"Make an exception," Hydros replied. "There is something in there he needs to see."
Both guards raised their weapons. Raduke instinctively went to grab his staff before remembering that it had been confiscated from him.
"We cannot allow that, Toa," the Mersion replied. "It is our job to..."
"I know that, but I have to do what I think is right," Hydros retorted, giving the Mersion a glare that would send brave men running for cover. "Now let us pass. This is important."
The Mersion matched Hydros' glare for a few moment before averting his gaze.
"Step aside," he told his fellow guard before doing so himself.
"What?!" the female replied. She turned back to Hydros, who was now staring at her. After a moment of giving the Toa a defiant look, however, she finally relented and stepped aside as well.
Hydros signaled for Raduke to follow him before he started walking again. Both passed through the doors, ending up in a small chamber, whose only remarkable feature was the fact that one of its walls was in fact a large window peering into the next room.
"Where are we?" Raduke asked, taking note of the door on the opposite side of the chamber. Hydros walked up to the chamber's window, starring out at the sight beyond it.
"This is the observation room," Hydros answered. "... a chamber from which doctors can observe there patients without bothering them. Look."
Raduke approached the window and took in the sight beyond. The next chamber was much larger. Occupying it were dozens of beds, most of which held the mostly prone figures of warriors and villagers. Some were injured, some seemed ill, and most disturbing, some seemed to be dead.
"These are just a few of the casualties of the madness that has spread across this world in the past century," Hydros explained with a voice of both rage and sorrow.
Raduke watched as doctors and nurses attended to their patients; some were busy sewing up blade wounds, others were occupied with restraining those patients who were trying to fight their way free, and some had the grotesque, but necessary task of hauling lifeless bodies out of the chamber.
Though his years of hunting and killing had made him mostly immune to such sights, Raduke couldn't help looking away; it brought back memories of his own people, the Lepidians, as the majority of them died before his eyes, victims of an incurable disease that few of his kind were immune to.
"Why are you showing me this?" Raduke asked, trying hard to keep the emotions he felt from entering his voice.
"I want you to understand, Lepidian," the Toa replied. "If weapons such as the Ignika fall into the hands evil, this sight will become more common than it is now."
Raduke was surprised to feel a hand clasp his armored shoulder. He turned and found himself looking directly into the determined gaze of his companion.
"I know you're different from others like you, Raduke," Hydros continued. "I know that, to some extent, you care about others. Please, tell me what you know. Only then can the process of ending this madness finally begin."
Raduke returned his gaze to the room, watching as yet another body was carried outside of the chamber. How many of his brothers and sisters had he witnessed carried away in a similar fashion? How many Lepidian bodies had he watched burned by the survivors in hopes of irradiating the illness that had killed their brothers? How much more was he going to have to watch before it ended?
The Lepidian took in a deep breath and turned to the Toa, who had been watching him the entire time.
"All right, Toa," he said. "I'll tell you what you need to know."
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
Tenork sat in a cold damp cell. Contrary to popular belief, he was still alive, though likely not for much longer. His mind trailed back to the moment of his capture.
Midway during his fight with Windeus in the Northern Frost, he had been caught off-guard by a kick to the chest followed swiftly by a powerful blast of the air that had sent reeling into a cliff face. Before he had known it, Windeus had charged forward, impaled his blades into his shoulders, and dealt a blow to the head that had sent him reeling into unconsciousness.
When he had next awoke, Tenork had found himself bound in chains within a large, chariot-like wagon being pulled by four Visorak spiders. Before he had fallen unconscious again, he had briefly sighted him and his captors travelling towards the Dark Lord’s palace at Roxtus.
His memories were sketchy from that point onwards. He remembered blurry scenes of him being roughly dragged out of the chariot by Windeus upon their arrival, and thrown into the cold grasp of two of the Dark Lord’s skeletal soldiers. He next remembered being dragged to the stereotypical, cold, death-reeking dungeons of Roxtus, and thrown into a cell. His prison was directly opposite a cell that possessed a particularly foul-smelling corpse of a Skrall. Whispers amongst the prison guards implied that two Toa had recently occupied the cell for a short period of time before a Makuta or someone came along and picked them up.
His thoughts were abruptly disrupted by the sound of loud footsteps approaching him. When a shadowy figure entered view, Tenork didn’t even attempt to conceal the fiery levels of rage that were currently boiling up in his muscles. Windeus simply shrugged. He turned to face the two soldiers guarding the Torshurrr’s cell.
“Release him. The Great Ones expect him.”
“We have not been notified about this matter,” grunted the guard on the right. “I will need proper clarification.”
“You dare deny my request?” snarled Windeus. “I am a Shadowy One. I am higher up the ranks of this Empire than both of you combined, and in a position that you two could not even possibly dream of achieving. Now please, release him.”
“We need word from the Dark Lord,” retorted the other guard. “Otherwise you could be suspected of treason and betrayal. Return to us when we have received a proper report regarding the dismissal of this prisoner.”
“Fine,” answered Windeus. “Keep our emperors expecting, though be warned. It will be your heads on the chopping block when they are angered.”
There was silence for several seconds before the guards made up their minds. One of the guards finally broke the silence, looking straight into the depths of Windeus’ dark eyes before he spoke.
“Very well then. We shall release him.”
In that instant, the other jailer turned and pulled out a large key ring with an uncounted amount of keys of varying size of shapes on it. After a few seconds, he found the correct key, and unlocked the cell door. Tenork rose to his feet and slowly walked out of his containment. Had he not been wearing handcuffs built-in with elemental inhibitors, he would have made a break for freedom. But like so many others before him who had ended up in Roxtus, even before the Dark Lord’s occupation of the ghostly empty city, escape was nearly impossible.
Windeus and Tenork walked down the empty, looming corridors of the city, perpetually bathed in dark crimson light by the blood-red lightstones embedded in the ceilings. Tenork shivered. This place radiated with fear and death.
Finally, he summoned up the nerve to speak. “Where are you taking me? Where are we going? Please tell me we’re not going to the throne room. There are so many nasty rumors about what happens to those unlucky fighters who end up in there.”
Windeus hissed menacingly. He enjoyed visiting Roxtus just about as much as any other living creature on Spherus Magna did, but he had no choice. It was part of his job description. Other than the soldiers that made up the Dark Lord’s quarter of the Empire’s forces, just about every other member of the military alliance between the Empire of Shadows, Corpse Empire, and Shadow of Ages despised coming here. Except, of course, the three Imperial rulers themselves.
“You are being taken to Roxtus’ private chambers. The personal suites and retreats of our great overlords,” replied Windues. “I will not relate any further information.”
‘Why not? What’s going to happen to me?”
“You’ll see,” replied Windeus, coldly.
They wandered through several more dreary metal corridors of Roxtus for roughly three minutes. At one point, Tenork had even thought that Windeus had lost them both in the kingdom of the Dark Lord. Finally, they turned round the seventh-hundred and twenty-six corridor, and the two came to face a large set of double-sided, Protosteel doors. Carved right above the doors was the symbol that served as the Dark Empire’s well-known insignia.
Windeus strode forward and pushed the doors open, revealing a large circular space that resembled one of the abandoned Bara Magna arenas. They strode into the center of the room, when abruptly, dark shades covering the ceiling opened, letting a rush of bright, filtered sunlight flood into the room, illuminating the dark, dusty spaces. Tenork blinked as the bright light flooded in. having been imprisoned in the darkness for so long, his eyes were unaccustomed to such brightness.
He would have relished the moment had three, horrifically dark voices not shattered his trail of thought.
“Turn,” they said in dark unison.
Slowly, Tenork turned to see the three rulers of Spherus Magna seated in a large private box, built high up into the walls of the room. Millennium, Eostra, and the Dark Lord looked down at the Torshurrr before them, cold contempt in their eyes, which blazed with dark power.
“Welcome, Tenork, to our personal chambers,” began Eostra. “Windeus, un-cuff him and leave us.”
Windeus nodded in a silent gesture of acknowledgment, and strode behind Tenork and quickly removed his cuffs, deactivating his elemental inhibitor in the process. As soon as he had left the room, Tenork fired violent blasts of blue flames from his mouth directly at his captors. The emperors did not so much as even flinch or attempt to move so as to avoid the blast. Mere inches away from the three ruler’s bodies did the flames hit an invisible shield and fade away. Millennium chuckled.
“A Mersion energy field was placed around our viewing box before you arrived. You cannot harm us.”
Tenork cursed under his breathe. He should have known the trio would have placed some kind of defense around them under these circumstances. Still it was worth a try.
“What do you want with me? Why not just have me publicly executed in front a bunch of Agori or Matoran to install fear into them?”
“Because we desire entertainment,” the three said, again, in unison.
“Entertainment? What do you mean entertainment?”
“ On occasions, we desire to be entertained by some such as you,” replied Eostra. “We demand entertainment in the form of gruesome torture and death. That is why we will be handing you over to our… court jester.”
“What!? Court jester? Who in the whole universe could you possibly employ to be in such a position?”
“Why, me of course,” said someone in a strange, singsong voice.
Tenork turned around to see a bizarre silver and black-colored being, wearing a torn black cape, standing in the center of the circular room. He had his head hunched down to his shoulders and stood in an awkward-looking manner, as if all the muscles in his body had suddenly tensed and stretched. Another horridly strange aspect of this one’s look was the wide grin drawn across his face, which looked like it had been permanently stitched into place. His orange-red eyes gleamed with complete madness, though everyone knew that concealed behind that madness was a brilliant mind with an almost breathtaking tactical edge.
In one instant, Tenork knew who this was.
“Vezon!?” he roared in confusion. “YOU are their court jester?”
“Really?” gasped Vezon in a mocking manner. “I never noticed.”
The half-Skakdi then let an uncontrolled series of giggles escape his mouth as he tried to remain in control.
“What could you possibly do to me?” asked Tenork, smugly. “Last time I checked, your records mentioned you were completely powerless, save for an unstable and crude ability to hop between realities.”
Vezon’s eyes brightened as he beamed at Tenork.
“Things have changed since those days,” he replied as he traced a finger down the blade of a menacing weapon, which Tenork instantly identified as the Spear of Fusion.
“I have got a new Spear of Fusion from a large hulking monstrosity called Varkanax. A rather dull name, in my personal opinion. It doesn’t have that feel of flare and style… but I won’t go off subject. In this last century, I’ve also had the fun of betraying Brutaka, Miserix, Axonn, Artakha, three weird Toa, a pair of Matoran and a rather insane Great Being to the Empire. I got to kill a nice bunch of resistance fighters like you for the Empire as their flamboyant Imperial harlequin, and I finally managed to complete my collection of sea-shells, leaves, and the heads of my enemies! Unfortunately, my lifelong dream of killing Vezok was thwarted by his fusion into a weird, hulking, nasty-smelling monstrosity. You won’t believe how sad I was that day. I was so looking forward to ending that sad, little sea snake. Maybe if I had–”
“ENOUGH!” roared Tenork in anger. “No wonder Miserix called you ‘the one who never shut up.’ Do you really want to die, worm?”
“Well actually…” Vezon said, before breaking into another spasm of laughter. Tenork simply stared at him in a dumb-smacked manner. It was almost as if he had forgotten that they were in an Imperial facility.
“You have the exact same look on your face as that melodramatic Ko-Matoran did when he asked me the same question on Destral.”
As Tenork stood his ground, Vezon’s laughter faded to be replaced by an eerily insane state of calm.
Pulling out his spear, Vezon grinned menacingly. “But let’s not delay further,” he began. “Because when I’m through with you, you’re not going to feel anything ever again.”
Vezon lunged forward wildly, and jumped up into the air to draw Tenork’s attention. The Torshurrr summoned all his willpower and unleashed a white-hot volley of blue fire from his mouth. The flames engulfed Vezon in seconds, and when the spectacular explosion was over, nothing was at all left of Vezon, not even ash. That is, what Tenork had originally thought until he felt someone tap him on the shoulder and whistle to him mockingly.
When Tenork turned around to briefly catch a glimpse of a giggling Vezon as he punched him in the face, sending him sprawling to the other side of the arena.
The three emperors clapped their hands slowly in applause, obviously satisfied with the levels of violence occurring. Tenork rose to his feet and charged forward, punching Vezon in the stomach area, and performing an uppercut hit into his jaw. The mad half-Skakdi staggered back, laughing madly. Tenork attempted to hit the Skakdi again, though his attack was a second too slow as Vezon activated his dimensional-hopping ability and disappeared.
Tenork scanned the area. Aside for the three dark lords seated in their box and himself, there was no one else in the room. Suddenly his mind’s awareness snapped in place in realization. His next move would have to have absolutely perfect and flawless timing.
Holding a deep breath of air in his lungs, Tenork closed his eyes and maintained his focus. He ignored the cold prying eyes of the dark rulers seated above him, their gaze, implying they were starting to loose interest in this “execution.”
Seconds past. A minute. A minute and a half.
Finally, Tenork sensed a ripple as the air currents behind him shifted in the wrong direction. It was time.
Summoning all his strength, Tenork plunged his elbow backwards, and felt his arm collide with hard metal armor right on time. Vezon’s eyes widened as he took a sharp gasp for air. That unexpected move had walloped the air out of his lungs. He coughed for a few seconds.
“”How did I know that you delayed your return to this dimension, and when you would return? Let’s just say… I tried thinking like you would.”
“ENOUGH!” roared the Dark Lord, his chilling voice causing the very foundation of the room to shiver.
“Entertain us!” demanded Eostra.
Upon hearing his masters’ demands, Vezon instantly broke out in a fit of uncontrollable giggles and charged forward. Tenork brought his blade down as Vezon ran at him, though at the very last second, Vezon speedily moved aside, dodged the move and leapt high into the air. In midair, he brought out his spear, and fired its great powers at the hand that Tenork was holding his sword.
Tenork screamed loudly as he felt the bizarre (and painful) sensation of metal merging with flesh and armor. When the horrible pain subsided, Tenork found he was unable to let go of his sword, let alone move his very fingers.
“What have you done to my hand?!” cried Tenork in fearful shock.
“Its called permanent fusion,” answered Vezon with a smile. “And it’s a power I have quite a lot of fun with!”
Tenork roared as he unleashed his most powerful blast of fire from his mouth, one that Vezon had not time to dodge or avoid, and one that engulfed his body entirely.
At first, Tenork was satisfied with the horrendous screams that came from Vezon’s mouth, possibly because of the obvious outcome of having Vezon’s very essence burned alive. However, his satisfaction turned to surprise as Vezon began to laugh merrily in a slurred tone.
“Got you there,” he said with a chuckle. “Did you really believe you could defeat me with a bit of fire? Even those accursed Zyglak thought they could stop me with similar traps of those kinds. But, of course, they failed; and I killed them!”
Tenork growled. The Imperial harlequin was starting to babble again.
“Shut up! How did you survive?”
Vezon cleared his throat.
“When I was on Voya Nui, I briefly served as the guardian of the Kanohi Ignika, the Great Mask of Life. During that period, I was granted these very interesting powers by the mask in order to make me a more capable protector for it. Those powers, which were actually the only ones I had ever had at the time, vanished when the Ignika was… removed from my generous care. Though I had lost my abilities, and gained this lovely new one when my essence was fused with an Olmak, the Empire was able to find subtle traces of my old powers inactive inside my body, and their scientists were able to reawaken those powers and allow me to regain a few of my old abilities. Most notably, my ability to absorb kinetic energy, which literally gives me invulnerability to physical attacks.”
“Mata Nui, is there anything that can stop you?!”
“Sadly not,” answered Vezon mockingly, as he disappeared again through the use of his dimensional-hopping ability. He reappeared seconds right in front of Tenork, and before he could react, the Skakdi plunged his spear into the Torshurrr’s chest. Tenork’s eyes widened as he gasped for air he knew would never reach his lungs. He coughed and spluttered before summoning up his dying words.
“How… ?” he began. “How can you look at the horrific massacres the Empire enacts with humor and comedy?”
Vezon shrugged. “I see their actions through the eyes of madness, my friend, which is also a very uplifting experience. Everything that happens around me just seems… so funny. It just seems so humorous!”
Tenork choked as he slumped to his knees. The Skakdi jester knelt beside him, a sad look on his face. Tenork knew he was just mocking him in death.
“As flattered as I am with your cheerful persona, I have a saying:” Vezon began. “When death smiles at you, just smile right back at it. And that’s what you should be doing right now. Doesn’t this feeling of death just make you feel so alive, invigorated, and antsy?”
Tenork spat at Vezon’s face, prompting the insane Skakdi clone to stand up and take a step back.
“I think you’ve outlived your limelight on the stage,” he said in an unusually serious tone. “You’re… no longer funny. I think its time for the curtain falls.”
With that, Vezon sent a strong, crippling kick into Tenork’s back that sent him falling to the floor before him. As the world blurred into darkness around him, the last things Tenork’s mind would witness was the sight of Vezon bowing theatrically before the three dark emperors, and the sound of loud clapping coming from the dark entities as a sign of a round of applause for the spectacular show that had just been put on before them.
Korzor stared out of a small hole in the head of the robot. The head had been placed on the body, and Korzor had not yet been able to sneak out. He had no way out now, as he was up a good sixty million feet, and the massive army below him as barely visible.
It was only a matter of time before Merodos activated the robot, spelling doom for the freedom of the planet.
No. Korzor thought.
The Skrall was far from heroic, that was no secret, but he didn't want Sperus Magna to fall into the hands of the Empire either.
He sprinted to a computer panel, and began jotting down codes on it. He had been trained by the Resistance to be adept at cracking computer codes, but this was more complex than anything Korzor had ever seen.
He heard a noise behind him, and turned around to find himself surrounded by seven Corpsians, all pointing plasma cannons right at him.
Their leader, an Aspect, hissed at Korzor. "Stand down, Skrall, or be slain."
Korzor raised his weapons. "Never."
The Aspect of Corpse barked at his troops to attack, and attack they did. One raced at Korzor, slashing his leg, as another, sliced him across his back, as yet another one punched him in the face.
Korzor stumbled back, and looked up just in time to dodge a blade that would have gone straight through his neck. It slammed right into the computer panel. An alarm started going off, and the room was bathed in red light. Pipes burst, gears jammed, and entire banks of machinery began blazing with intense electricity.
Korzor lobbed a Thornax through the head of the momentarily distracted Aspect. Korzor turned to the computer, and the words "ALERT: GRAVITATIONAL IMPLOSION FEEDBACK" flashed across the screen. The critical systems of the entire body were about to overload and lash out. The whole thing was going to explode!
"Oh dear...." were Korzor's only words.
Meanwhile on the ground below, Merodos and the Element Lord, oblivious to what was happening above, stood at a raised platform.
A large, blue button was in the center of the podium, which would activate the robot.
The Element Lord of Technology was slightly unsure. "Merodos, are you sure this will work?"
Merodos laughed. "Please, have a little faith in me and my button, my uptight robotic ally."
He broke out into a series of insane chuckles, and the Element Lord sighed.
Korzor kicked one of the Corpsians into a rapidly spinning saw-like gear. Korzor turned away from the grizzly scene and screaming.
That's another one down. Five more to go.
The screen flashed that there was five minutes left. He spun, and slashed a Corpsian's arm off. After more brutal fighting, the screen said that there was one minute left.
Korzor decapitated one of the Corpsians, leaving three left. Thirty seconds. In desperation Korzor slashed out at one of the Corpsians. There was twenty seconds left.
The robot shook violently, a sign that it was activating.
"No, no, NO!" Korzor yelled as he slammed his blade into the chest on another one of his enemies.
Korzor heard a large booming sound, and another, and more yet. There was a blinding flash of white, and Korzor saw no more.
Merodos and the Element Lord looked up at the robot in both curiously and desperation. Explosions of varying sizes had already begun to erupt from the chest and arms of the robot.
“Merodos, you fool, what have you done?!” roared the Element Lord in confusion.
Merodos sprinted to the control panel in panic, tampering with several mechanisms until a 3-dimensional hologram of the Great Spirit materialized in front of him.
“I don’t understand,” he cried. “Every mechanical aspect of the robot were checked and double checked by the supervisors of this project for faults and problems. All systems should be functioning normally!”
“Then why isn’t it?!” demanded the Technology Lord as he dodged a large piece of flying debris. “Why isn’t it working?!”
Merodos tampered with the controls repeatedly as he ran a diagnostic. After two seconds had passed, he spoke.
“It appears there was damage to main computer panel, which has sent of a chain reaction that is destroying the robot! A self-destruction sequence is about to take place!”
“Well I’m not sticking around to die!” the Element Lord screamed over the horrendously loud sounds of the explosions. “I’m saving myself!”
He immediately began downloading his consciousness into his special memory chip, preparing to eject it from his body in order to save it from the destruction that was about to be wrought.
The download abruptly stopped. In surprise, the Element Lord attempted to enact the process again, but the technological systems failed to comply. They had been completely shut down. He swiftly turned to face Merodos over the sounds of the monstrous explosions and burning inferno they were now in. The Skakdi/Makuta hybrid has hitting the controls with his fists desperately in a manner that suggested he was trying to get the machine to work again.
“What has happened?!” the Element Lord asked in a tone mixed with anger, shock, and a trace of fear.
“The robot’s motor functions have imploded,” Merodos bellowed. “The electrical systems imploded, and have released an electromagnetic wave that has deactivated all mechanical systems, including our teleporter!”
The massive explosions grew larger. The ground shook in a manner that made the impact of the Great Cataclysm seem feeble and weak. The Element Lord turned to face the rest of his army. Half of it had been consumed by flame and fire in this massive inferno, whilst the other half had either been severely damaged or completely shut down. The orange sky of the evening had been completely engulfed in smoke.
“The inferno is going to consume us all in mere seconds!” said Merodos as he ran away from the podium. “We—”
Merodos’ sentence was cut off as the robot exploded completely, and the entire world was caught in flame. Merodos was incinerated, the Batera and Odina Drones were burnt to ash, and the giant robot was engulfed in flame. And as a wave of armor-melting fire washed over the Element Lord of Technology, with his very body being consumed by the explosions, he could not help but smile at the chaos before him.
Debris and burnt metal was scattered across the entire wasteland from the earth-shattering explosion of the robot.
All was still, until a piece of metal began to shake, and a battered, black and lime being rose. Korzor coughed. One of his arms was crushed, but he was still alive. Everything in sight was blasted to dust, including the army and their dark commanders.
Korzor leaned on a metal shard the size of a Ko-Metru Knowledge Tower.
He took out his communication device, which was somehow still working, let alone intact. He radioed Atero. "The robot is destroyed. I repeat: the robot is destroyed. I’ll tell you… more when I get to you, but I'm stuck out in the wastelands. I need immediate extraction… Ugh!"
And with that, Korzor fell to his knees, and blacked out.
Jareroden overturned a large slab of stone blocking one of the halls inside Benjarmin's fortress. He, Galika, and Crystallus had been searching all day for Shardak, who they were confident was still inside the fortress.
He had been covering the eastern wing of the castle, but so far had come up with nothing. All he had found were a few Matoran and Agori, and the odd Toa or Glatorian.
Jareroden gave a sigh of frustration. Where is he?
The halls were only illuminated by window grates, and as evening was approaching, it was getting increasingly difficult to see.
Stone Rats scurried along the cold floor, and one even ran across Jareroden's foot. He gave a shudder of disgust. I hope Galika and Crystallus are having better luck....
Galika was not having better luck. She had covered the western wing of the fortress, and had found nothing but a few Matoran. She dearly wished she could help them, but she had a job to do, and time was of the essence.
She slipped in between two fallen pillars, and found herself in a large chamber. Light came from a larger-than-normal Lightstone in the ceiling. It seemed as if no one had been in this room for decades.
Dust covered everything in sight, the walls were falling in, and Galika was at first afraid the ceiling itself would fall on her head.
An ominous creak came from the wooden floor as she walked across the weary floor, and she could have sworn she felt something slither across her foot. She stopped dead when she heard a crashing noise, and looked up to see pieces of stone falling from the ceiling.
She broke into a run, as the roof began to collapse. She threw herself through the opening where she came in, just as the chamber fell in on itself.
She spent several minutes breathing heavily and thanking the Great Spirit that she was still alive.
She shook her head, and continued on her mission. "I sure hope the guys are having better luck...."
Crystallus walked down a spiralling stairwell in the central tower. The area was greatly damaged, and Crystallus imagined a large fight had taken place recently here.
He was just above the first floor of the prisons and even though it had already been searched, he figured he would scan over it again. He stalked through the dark hall, and once again, turned up nothing.
He was so absorbed in his search that he did not see a piece of stone in his path until he tripped on it, and landed face-first on the floor.
He gave a low curse and picked himself up by grabbing hold of the wall. He was startled to see the section slide back, revealing a whole new passage. He reluctantly stepped in, and found himself in a narrow hall, illuminated by strange, turquoise Lightstones. They gave the hall the look of it being underwater.
Cells lined the hall, and eventually Crystallus reached a large, iron door. He used ice to freeze over the hinges, and ripped the door out of the wall.
He gasped at what he saw. Shardak was chained to the ceiling and floor by his hands and feet, respectively. He was unconscious, but still breathing.
He reached for his commlink, and radioed Jareroden and Galika. "Guys, I've found him."
Janneus strode through a dark, filthy street in Tajun. He had only recently received his payment from the Empire, and after completing a number of other jobs involving gunrunning, smuggling, infiltration, and assassination, he had finally decided to take a brief rest to amass his fortune.
He strode through the grimy apartment building he knew hosted his residence, walked up the creaking set of stairs that led to the first floor: through the thin corridor, which led to a short length of stairs, which led to a battered, wooden door. He unlocked the door under the light of the flickering lightstone above, and after deactivating all the locks and defense mechanisms, entered his ‘home.’
The room was dark, with little to no light at all entering the room. The only remote shimmers of light came from one large, window-blinded pane that looked out onto the nearby streets of Tajun.
Janneus looked around his room. It was a small space, filled with an old armchair, one bed, a table, a few pieces of ancient pottery decorated with the art of Gigas Magna, and a stand for his Power Crowbar.
Janneus turned to close his door, and began reactivating its numerous defenses and locks, when a cold voice suddenly drew his attention.
“You know its funny. For a bounty hunter, you live in fairly decent quarters. This may be the equivalent of a fairly cheap Matoran home, but it’s of much better quality than what other bounty hunters live in.”
Janneus spun around wildly to face his foe, crowbar in arm, only to lower the weapon slightly seconds later. The person he was gazing at was not the person he would expect to meeting here. How did I not see him there? Janneus mentally asked himself. After a few seconds had passed, he spoke.
“Skorr,” he began. “Before I ask what you are doing here, may I inquire how you broke past the defenses of my front door?”
The Zeverek smiled sinisterly, his jet-black and silver armor gleaming brightly as he altered his positioning. He had propped himself up against the far walls of the room, and was leaning against it with his arms and legs crossed, whilst his razor-sharp tail swished lightly around his feet.
“You know me, Rotaxian,” he began, “I’m a master safecracker, so do you expect your puny defenses to be much of a problem for me? As for my specific method of unlocking your door, I’m afraid I can’t tell you. It’s a trade secret.”
“Why are you here?” sighed Janneus. He was getting tired of being surprised this week. “Are you after my widgets or is this a social call?”
Skorr’s smile remained. “Neither. I’m here with a… business proposition.”
“Which is?” inquired Janneus, coldly. His cool voice gave away not even a crude form emotion.
Skorr shifted from his position and took two steps towards Janneus. The Rotaxian kept an eye on the holster that contained Skorr’s Plasma Launcher, whose hand seemed to be hovering dangerously close to.
“Why ask me, when they can tell you?” asked Skorr as he pointed his finger in the direction behind Janneus.
The Rotaxian lurched around to see two forms materialize faintly into his chamber, both figures he also recognized but had not expected to meet again. Nonetheless, he was happier to see them over Skorr.
Pureberax and Raptrix strode forward, their faces indicating they were not so happy to be dealing with Janneus again.
“Hello, my friend,” began Pureberax. “We have another offer for you.”
“Forget offers, I want my payment,” demanded Janneus.
Raptrix cocked his head to the left in a strange, bird-like fashion.
“Payment? What payment?” he asked in his strange, rasping voice.
“The seventy seven thousand widgets you promised to pay me for traveling with you to Maze Valley.”
“That money was paid off to you by the Empire as a reward for completing your mission at Atero,” growled Pureberax. “We owe you nothing.”
“Ah, but you promised to pay me, and you two haven’t yet. I still want the payment from the pair of you.”
There was a silent pause.
“I’d recommend you pay him,” spoke Skorr. “We bounty hunters can resort to… rather unpleasant methods of receiving our payment when pushed.”
Mentally, Janneus was surprised Skorr had vouched for him at all. Usually, the Zeverek only helped others when payment was promised, and that was certainly not the case now.
The pause continued until, finally, Pureberax and Raptrix pulled all of their widgets out of their backpacks added them altogether, and reluctantly handed them to Janneus. The Rotaxian simply smiled.
“Now then, what brings you three to my… humble dwellings?”
Purebreax spoke first.
“Despite the numerous wounds we have dealt to them, despite the numerous attempts to stomp them out, the resistance still remains standing, and have grown even more powerful and arrogant to the point that they have declared war on us. We need both you and Skorr’s skills for very… specific missions.”
“What’s the job?” Skorr asked as he walked to stand beside Janneus. He knew as much about the reason for his employment as his green-armored friend did. After being employed, he had been instructed to meet up with two Imperial agents in Janneus’ flat.
“You are both to enact separate missions of assassinations on two different targets, both of whom are specifically connected to you.”
Janneus then said, “Name them.”
“Nightwatcher and Raduke. I trust it you are both well-acquainted with the targets?”
The two bounty hunters said nothing, still in shock over who their targets were.
Oh, it had been on every news headline that Nightwatcher had survived a conflict with the rulers of the Empire and had signed up with the resistance alongside fellow mercenary Raduke, though the thought of actually being the ones to kill them was more than just daunting.
“Skorr, you will eliminate Raduke. Janneus, you will have Nightwatcher.”
“For how much? We don’t work for free,” said Skorr.
“You will be paid in the form of lightning emeralds. Will that do for your services?”
“Lightning emeralds? But those are some of the—”
“Rarest stones in all of existence,” interjected Raptrix. “With a mere fifty pounds worth, you can buy almost anything on this world. Look at the bigger picture and imagine what you can buy with…”
He stopped mid-sentence, obviously reluctant to continue. Purebreax simply gave him a glance that encouraged him to do so. The bounty hunters’ eyes gleamed with greed.
“Imagine what you can do and buy with… five hundred pounds worth of the stuff.”
Both bounty hunters’ eyes widened in shock. Five hundred pounds?! That was enough to buy the entire city of Tajun and more with plenty more to spare.
“You-you’ve got a deal,” answered Skorr. “The question is, when will you pay us. I— we… would prefer to be paid up-front now.”
“Of course we’re not going to do that?!” barked Raptrix. “You will complete you assignments first.”
“Do you have any idea who we’re facing? We demand our payment now!”
“No. Janneus. We won’t pay you. Complete your mission now.”
Another silent moment passed by as the tensions rose dramatically. Janneus then gave a low, mocking chuckle.
“If you won’t pay us now then… we will simply have to insist…”
Before the two Imperial soldiers had realized it, Janneus had raced forward with his crowbar and sliced them deeply across their chests and hips, sending them stumbling backwards. Before they could get back to their feet and return Janneus’ challenge, Skorr rapidly drew his launcher from its holster, and in two quick motions, fired two focused beams of plasmatic energy directly into the heads of Pureberax and Raptrix. Their bodies fell quickly to the floor, completely cold and dead.
Janneus chuckled. “I never did like those two that much. Now I can plunder their loot without having to endure their irritating retorts.”
Skorr nodded, and the two mercenaries began looting the dead corpses for their promised reward. After a few minutes, the pair had recovered half of the amount of the treasures they were promised.
“I suppose the Empire decided to give them half the loot in case their deaths happened, just in case we had any second thoughts about enacting their mission.”
“Well then, what are we waiting for?” asked Skorr. “We’ve got two targets to kill, and half a collection of valuable stones to pick up.”
The meeting chamber of the Resistance was packed. The six leaders of the Resistance, Nightwatcher, Rando, Hydros, Korzor, Fairon and Tetrack, Zercks, Kaluu, Neocrax, Raduke, Crystallus, Galika, and anyone else of any higher rank. The only beings missing were Verex and Rernahk.
Shardak spoke first. "The Empire has gone too far now. They've sacked and assaulted our fortresses, captured and killed our members, enlisted bounty hunters to steal from us and assassinate us." Shardak shot a look at Nightwatcher as he said this.
Jareroden continued. "They've stolen and supercharged the Mask of Life. They've tried to recreate the Great Spirit Robot. It's obvious they want to destroy all of us."
Leviathos leaned back in his seat. "And we've just stood by, clueless, as they have planned our deaths and destruction."
Conqueror spoke next. "Well, no more. We all here today to declare war on the Empire, and end this cycle of brutality."
"And if we do not strike soon, it will be too late." Ixtil said. "I am 94.7% positive that the Empire is planning a final, full-scale assault on us, utilizing their stolen Ignka. With an object of such power, they would obliterate us all before we could even react."
Freztrak stood up. "We must strike at them before they have the chance to do so. If they defeat us, it will crush any hope for the freedom of this world."
He slammed his fist on the table. "We will need every able-bodied Toa and Glatorian for such a daring assault. Defeat is not an option."
"The Imperials will be sure to have their base well fortified, as they are sure to be on edge since Jareroden and Tetrack's attacks." Said Leviathos. "All three of their masters are sure to be there, as well as all their commanders, generals, and troops."
Shardak spoke up next. "Luckily, during his battle with the leaders of the Empire, Nightwatcher was able to read the Dark Lord's mind, and was able to secure the plans for the Empire's capitol."
Raduke sat close to the back of the room. The Lepidian was still unsure of this daring move of the Resistance.
Sure we must attack, but the Empire's forces outnumber us at least six to one. They'll kill us all before we even get close to their fortress.
Raduke was snapped out of his thoughts by the powerful voice of Conqueror.
"My forces and Leviathos' forces will attack their north-eastern gates, while Ixtil's and Freztrak's can attack their south-western. At the same time, Jareroden and Shardak can take their main gate."
At that moment, the twin doors opened, and Verex, Rernahk, and-
Hydros' eyes narrowed. "By the spirit...."
He strode up to the third being, and looked him right in the eyes, contempt visible.
Zevrahk smiled. "Hello, Toa Hydros. It has been far too long."
They glared at each in mere hatred of the other's very being until, suddenly, the Toa known only as 95 burst into the chamber. He was panting heavily, and looked like he had just been forced to run all the way from Roxtus to Tesara on foot.
“Talk about a dramatic entry,” murmured Nightwatcher, though his comment was heard by all due to his words echoing throughout the grandiose size of the hall. His pet Girahk made a strange hissing noise, which seemed to be in approval of his master’s comment.
“Toa 95,” began Shardak. “What is the matter?”
“It’s Kyhrex,” the Toa began. “She’s been murdered.”
There was a long silence as those words began to sink in. Even Hydros turned away from Zevrahk in shock at the news. The silence would continue until Leviathos broke the silence.
“Well, who did it?” he demanded. “Who murdered her?”
“Iruka,” whispered 95.
There were gasps and whispers from the gathered resistance fighters.
“He’s the traitor, my friends. He’s the one who’s been feeding Intel to the Empire. How else do you think they’ve been able to discover our operations on Aqua Magna? How else do you think they were able to learn of Freztrak and Mersery’s smuggling operations and hire Nightwatcher to stop them stealing the Empire’s water stones?"
“That is a very serious claim,” snapped Ixtil. “You need to be in the possession of 100% proof that Iruka is, in fact, our traitor.”
95 pulled forth a series of tablets, and chucked them at the silver-topped table the resistance leaders were seated behind. Shardak scanned the documents quickly, and with a grief-stricken look in his eyes, handed the documents over to Conqueror, who, after reading them, slammed his fist down on the table, cracking it, and sending a tremor throughout the room that echoed loudly. Even Tetrack needed to lean against one of the large walls to prevent his towering form from stumbling.
“That worm,” he bellowed. “And to think we promised to compensate him for the loss of his allies once this war was over. Well, I think it is safe to say that any promises with him are now irrelevant. First he betrays us, now he kills one of our members? Regardless of the outcome, we will ensure Iruka pays with his life.”
“Yes, well…” began Ixtil. “Let’s not diverge from our current subject. For the last day or two, we have been preparing battle tactics and strategies for our conflict with the Empire, and with the special assistance of Nightwathcer and Raduke, we our 89.3% certain we have devised a winning strategy.”
Nightwatcher pushed himself through the crowd of resistance fighters to stand in front of their six ruling warriors. After a moment of staring down his crowd, Nightwatcher spoke, his voice echoing with a feeling of charisma, authority, cunning, and an edgy hint of menace.
“The tactic is very simple: We go in, and we go in loud. We commit all our resources to a full-scale invasion on the Empire’s capitol on Bota Magna, and we utterly wipe them out. This operation will be in no way discreet. Subtle operations are among the many things I despise, especially when I’m fighting an army of imbeciles led by three figureheads who have humiliated me, which, as Ixtil once said, is nearly statistically impossible.”
Nightwatcher let his words to sink in, allowing a brief pause to pass, in order to create an aura of nail-biting suspense. He always enjoyed being dramatic.
“However, for this to be successful, we require a diversion. A diversion that will distract a large chunk of the Empire’s army. This will most likely be Eostra’s forces, as her armies are the largest and most common amongst the military force that is the Dark Empire. The forces of the Dark Lord are slightly smaller, though just as deadly, however without the support of the Corpsian forces, they will be dearly weakened. And we all know Millennium’s army won’t provide much more support for them. Of the entire Imperial army, Millennium’s quarter is by far the smallest, with his faction being the smallest.”
Shardak continued from the end of Nightwatcher’s speech in a manner that almost seemed rehearsed.
“We have a commander known as Toa Stradax at the head of a division of our army, and he is to engage the main Imperial army in the wastelands, whilst we converge on the Great Jungle. A few of us will have to stay behind to safeguard our fortresses, but the majority of us will fight in this final campaign for victory!”
Jareroden then stood up at the head of the table; his newly polished and repaired armor gleaming brightly in the sunlight of the atrium.
“Arm yourselves, my friends, because things will never be the same after this. This is our final battle. For the past 100 years, we have been forced to fall before the subjection of the Empire, but no more. We are bonded and truly united, compared to the Empire, giving us a great edge. The dark reign of Millennium, Eostra, and the Dark Lord shall finally be abolished. We are through with playing their games, their manipulations, and their stratagems. We shall free Spherus Magna, and banish the evil that currently directs it, and fulfil Mata Nui’s final wish: To build a greater and better future. Always remember our key morals: Unity! Duty! DESTINY!”
“UNITY! DUTY! DESTINY!” the assembled resistances fighters roared back with cheers and applause, with a few such as Tetrack and Zevrahk avoiding the cheers out of nature.
Only Nightwatcher stood away from the rest of the crowd, peering through one of the stain-glass windows of the hall out onto the wastelands beyond. Can they really do it? He thought to himself himself. Can they really defeat a power that has held the universe in its talons for nearly over a century? Can they really defeat a force that is more powerful than the creators of this very universe? I suppose only time will tell…
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
Raduke perched himself above an age-old ledge overlooking the region known as Iron Canyon. Or at least… What was left of it. Following some kind of apocalyptic explosion, large chunks of metal and debris had been sent flying everywhere, some fragments even crashing into the canyon. The underground tunnels of Vorox, Vohari, and other subterranean Rahi had been completely crushed, and the explosion had done untold damage to the entire region of the Great Barren.
Fortunately, most settlements within the region had mostly survived and endured the explosion, and they now had the benefit of being able to scavenge a LOT of spare scrap metal and technology for their villages.
However, a being of Raduke’s caliber was never here to attend to matters like that. He was always in one place at one time for specific reasons. And right now, his reasons were much more important than dealing with a bit of large scrap metal.
Many days, perhaps over a week, had passed since Vulcanus and Raanu had agreed to allow the resistance to build an underground base in Iron Canyon. Even in that small period of time, construction had already begun on it. Recently, however, the head of the building project, Hydraxon, had disappeared without a trace, and he had definitely not been crushed by a giant piece of metal. That’s where Raduke came in.
With his honed skills as a tracker and hunter, his new allies that were the resistance had instructed him to head to Iron Canyon to see if he could find any trace of Hydraxon. Of course, he would have much preferred to be fighting the Empire in their final battle, but the resistance had insisted that he still be close to their bases if the Empire did win in the end and move on to crush what was left of the resistance.
Raduke’s trail of thought was abruptly cut off. After all, strong blasts of plasma focused at your exposed back tend to have that agonizing effect on you. Raduke stumbled forwards in both pain and shock, until he finally lost his balance and fell off the ledge he was standing on, and into Iron Canyon.
He fell and fell until his form hit another, larger ledge as his body made a satisfying crunch in the process.
Raduke groaned as the sound of sinister laughter echoed in his ears. Slowly, he forced himself into crouching position as he looked up at his attacker, only for his heart to drop once his gaze met his foe’s.
“Skorr?!” said Raduke in a tone that resembled a grumble. “What’re you doing here?”
“I thought the answer would be rather obviously,” replied Skorr, mockingly. “I’m here to kill you. I’ve been paid five hundred pounds worth of lightning emeralds, and there’s no way I’m passing up a payment opportunity like that!”
Raduke wheezed as he stood to his full height to stare up at Skorr. His crash had kicked up a cloud of thick rock dust.
“So predictable, Skorr.” He said with a cough. “You’re only motivated by profit. You only kill for reward. You have no loyalties and no allies. You are aligned only to profit. You are no better than the Dark Hunters, and for that reason, your career will always be limited by your treacherous nature.”
Skorr growled and leapt off his ledge and down towards Raduke’s. His descent was greatly cushioned by the activation of his wing blades. Raduke growled. Skorr’s dependency on his gadgetry was among the many reasons he disliked him. The Zeverek could barely be considered a true warrior. He was just an empty, hollow killer.
Skorr and Raduke circled each other slowly as they drew their weapons, with Raduke drawing his staff and arm blade, whilst Skorr unsheathed his sword and removed his Plasma launcher from its holster. A few seconds past before Skorr made the first move.
Skorr fired six shots from his launcher at a rapid speed, all aimed at Raduke. The Lepidian deflected four of the shots with his arm blade, and dodged the others. Skorr continued his volley of plasma, forcing Raduke to seek cover behind a large boulder. As Skorr continued to fire, Raduke charged his staff’s powers of shadow, gravity, and electricity. Once the energies swirling at its tip had reached a sufficient level of power, Raduke front-flipped over the boulder he was crouching behind and fired the staff’s powers.
The energy beam hit Skorr’s left hand, flinging his Plasma launcher out of his grip and scattering it off to the sidelines. Skorr growled menacingly and darted towards Raduke and attempted to swipe him with his tail blade.
Raduke dodged the move, and sent Skorr reeling with a punch to the stomach area, followed closely by a kick to the face. Skorr stumbled back uncontrollably, giving Raduke the opportunity to tackle him to the ground. The two bounty hunters struggled, as Raduke tried to keep Skorr pinned, whilst the Zeverek snapped and wriggled like a caged Muaka.
“Give it up, Skorr. I am the better fighter. And what do you have to boast with all you weapons?”
As Skorr growled in his violent wrestle, he let a muffled chuckle escape his toothy mouth for a second.
“That… may be the case, Raduke! But my weapons extend far beyond a modified gun and a Protosteel sword.”
Before Raduke could realize what Skorr was doing, the Zeverek had pressed a button on his right wrist gauntlet, causing a dome-like, red energy shield to erupt around his shape, flinging Raduke off his body. The Lepidian hurtled away from him at high speed until he smashed into one of the nearby cliff faces with a sickening thud.
Skorr was instantly to his feet again, and activated the special function of his armor that allowed his form to become invisible and silent; effectively making him little more than a phantom.
Raduke was back on his feet in an instant, staff in hand, only to see no one. No one, but a musty cloud of red rock dust.
“Show yourself!” Raduke roared. “Don’t be the coward I so believe you to be. Fight me like a true warrior!”
Seconds ticked by. Raduke remained in his combat stance, readying himself for an obviously unpredictable attack. Time slowed down as Raduke waited. Soon, he was beginning to believe Skorr had retreated in order to avoid defeat.
Raduke lowered his defenses for a fraction of a second before he realized what he had just done. A fraction of a second too late did Raduke realize he had just exposed himself in a manner that allowed Skorr to break past his defenses.
Before that thought could even sink in, Raduke felt himself being brutally hurled to the ground with some kind of sharp object pinned to his neck. Skorr materialized before him seconds later, obviously trying his very best to suffocate Raduke.
“It ends now, Raduke,” began Skorr. “I will have my payment, whether I have to decapitate you or just kill you on the spot.”
As Skorr was speaking, Raduke recognized a massive opening in Skorr’s own defenses, prompting him to ready his blade and cleave the Zeverek straight across the chest, catching him by surprise. Raduke pounced. Forcing himself up, Raduke grabbed Skorr by the throat, lifted him into the air, and with his massive, clawed fists, punched Skorr’s face with every vestige of strength he had left, each blow worst than the last.
Once finally satisfied with the damage done to Skorr’s ugly face, Raduke grabbed him with both his hands, lifted him above his shoulders, and threw him with all his might into the boulder he had been hiding behind earlier. Many would have considered that enough to finish off a single individual, but Raduke knew better. The Zeverek were a notoriously hardy species, and Skorr was no exception to that rule.
Removing one of his menacing throwing blades from his shoulder, Raduke threw the deadly projectile at Skorr’s limp body, the blade scrapping him directly across his left arm. Skorr was hurled further back like a ragdoll.
The throwing blade rebounded back to Raduke in a boomerang-like manner, which he caught without even looking. His gaze was solely fixed on Skorr. After a few seconds, Raduke was surprised to find himself watching Skorr slowly start moving again.
Nearly a minute passed before Skorr was back on his feet again, and even then, he was remaining so by leaning heavily on what was left the boulder that he had just been thrown into. Skorr was panting heavily. He was missing armor in several places, and his wing blades had almost been completely crushed. His once jet-black and silver armor had been cracked and battered, and now with the amounts of dust and rubble caked into it, it was colored a faint gray. Even Skorr’s scarlet eyes had dimmed slightly, but their determination and hatred for Raduke still blazed strong.
With remarkable strength for one so battered, Skorr raised his sword and charged forward; albeit, very slowly. Raduke easily deflected Skorr’s first strike with his arm blade, and parried his next with his staff. A quick uppercut punch distracted Skorr long enough for Raduke to disarm Skorr, and dislocate his right wrist gauntlet.
Skorr somehow didn’t stumble or fall over, and soon he was circling Raduke again. He was, however, at a disadvantage. He was disarmed, and lacking in devices. Raduke was the better fighter, meaning he would need to avoid close hand-to-hand or melee combat with the Lepidian as much as possible.
Skorr activated the sensor attached to his head, which was somehow still intact. He scanned the area for several seconds until he noticed something that could possibly bring him back into the fight: his Plasma Launcher. The weapon was lying in one of the far corners of the ledge. It was damaged, but still intact, and more importantly still functioning. However, in order to get to it, he needed a diversion of some kind. Of any kind to be more precise.
He looked at what he still had left in his weaponry, which wasn’t much. Skorr had already utilized much of his weaponry in his fight. Suddenly, an idea came to his mind. Removing the sensor from his head, Skorr snapped a small, key circuit in the device, and hurled it at the ground in front of Raduke, and the sensor instantly exploded, coughing up an explosion that temporarily stunned and blinded Raduke.
Skorr dashed forwards with all his remaining strength, and scooped his Plasma Launcher up into his hands. He then twirled around and began repeatedly shooting the now vulnerable Raduke, bringing the Lepidian to his knees. Skorr charged forwards and kicked Raduke in the jaw, sending him spiralling to the rock-hard ground. Skorr then kicked the Lepidian’s staff off the cliff ledge, and removed one of his shoulder blades and threw it off with it.
However, as he was doing this, Raduke snapped out at Skorr’s legs with his hands, forcing him to take a step back. The injured Raduke then attempted to trip Skorr with his tail, though missed by a mere inch. Now on alert, Skorr drew his blaster and began shooting wildly at Raduke, who had already got to his feet and was running for cover.
One shot nearly hit Raduke directly in the skull had he not ducked his head. Unfortunately, the blast instead hit his Energy Cannon, sending it flying off his shoulder and down into the depths of Iron Canyon. Raduke needed a solution fast if he was to avoid Skorr’s rapid firepower. Suddenly, it came to him. He had dislocated Skorr’s protective shield generator from his arm. It was now lying exposed in the center of the ledge.
The Lepidian dived for the gauntlet, narrowly avoiding another volley of shots, and scrambled the shield into his hands. Pressing hard on one of the buttons, a red energy shield, shaped like a dome, formed around Raduke’s body, protecting him from Skorr’s rapid fire.
Skorr was seemingly undeterred by the action, and continued to fire upon the shield. This would continue for several seconds, until it came to Raduke’s attention that the wrist gauntlets danger sensors were flashing red repeatedly. The gauntlet had been too damaged to withstand this much firepower for so long. Meanwhile, on Skorr’s end of the line, the Zeverek was having problems of his own.
His Plasma Launcher’s main funnel had been damaged and partially dented, limiting the efficiency of his blasts. However, that wasn’t even half of his problem. The protective casing that contained the special crystal that produced the molten magma his blaster fired had been dented, meaning a destructive level of molten plasma was slowly building up, which would result in an overload that would destroy the weapon, causing an explosion that would engulf both Raduke and Skorr. He needed to dispose of his weapon and win before it was too late.
Suddenly, both mercenaries realized the latter’s problems, though only Skorr saw a way for which he could draw an advantage from. As Raduke’s energy shield blinked out of existence for approximately one second, Skorr hurled his overloading launcher at a great speed that passed through the exposed space where the energy shield had once been a mere second before it was restored.
Raduke’s eyes widened as he realized what was about to happen, though before he could deactivate the now recharged wrist gauntlet, the Plasma Launcher exploded into his face. One second ago, Raduke was in a highly protective energy shield. Now, he was in a well-contained, blazing inferno. The pain was excruciating. The launcher contained such powerful energies that should it be damaged; it would kill any being lesser than a Toa. Skorr smiled at his handiwork.
He had successfully contained the explosion of his tool inside his own energy shield, with Raduke inside it being an even more ingenious result. As the contained explosion ended, and Raduke slumped to the ground, completely pulverized by the explosion he had just endured, Skorr let a chilling cackle escape his maw. He then turned and picked up his sword and started limping away.
“I think I’ll just leave you to die here, Raduke,” began Skorr. “You don’t deserve the ‘honor’ of a warrior’s death.”
As Skorr continued to gain greater distance from Raduke, the Lepidian felt his body grow cold and weak. His vision was blurring, and his eyes were getting sleepy. However, even as he lay there on the ground, he still had one more trick up his sleeve, one trick that Skorr had completely overlooked.
Feeling for his shoulder, Raduke removed his one remaining throwing blade, lifted it into the air, closed his eyes to allow his senses to guide him, and threw it at Skorr with amazing speed and accuracy for one so wounded. The blade’s journey to Skorr was quiet and elegant, and when it was finally mere inches away from the Zeverek, only then did he turn around to check on Raduke, though met a different foe entirely.
The blade hit Skorr square in the chest, and upon making its mark, triggered a powerful explosion of destructive energy. The force of the explosion was so great and so harmful, that it threw Skorr deep into one of the nearby cliff faces, the impact of which nearly shattered Skorr’s own armor.
The combination of the explosion and his crash into the stonewall had concussive effects on Skorr, and in seconds, the Zeverek had slumped to the ground, completely exhausted and very much unconscious. Raduke smiled as he closed his eyes and fell into a similar state. He may not have won the fight, but at least he had evened it out by preventing Skorr from winning.
And there it came to pass, that one of the greatest battles, perhaps in all of bounty hunting history, had passed. But neither combatant could stand to claim victory over the other. Neither of the hunters could stand to proclaim their supremacy. It was perhaps only suitable that the greatest conflict in all history between two of the deadliest mercenaries ever known had ended with a well-rounded, suitable draw.
This chapter was written by Varkanax39.
Darvath watched as the Corpsians massed below the ridge. The Makuta lord cared little for either the rebels or the Empire, but hated the Empire far more, and after the death of Teridax, joined the rebels. For years he’d thought he was the last Makuta in existence, than he’d learned from Jareroden Benjarmin still lived.
Stradax had been sent immediately toward the wastelands, and the Imperial Army had moved to attack him. The Toa had divided his army into three factions, one to attack the Imperial Army head-on, and two others to invade the Northern Frost. If Darvath and Ion could strike against Eostra’s territory from two sides and occupy it, the Empire would be severely weakened and lose most of its supply chain.
The plan had mixed results. Stradax had won a significant victory near the Sea of Liquid Sand, but had yet to defeat the Imperial Army. Ion, however, had been defeated by a large number of Corpsians, and had regrouped in the Wastelands with Stradax, planning a second attack once they had recovered.
Darvath’s thoughts were disrupted as a Matoran scout raced toward him. Moments later the clash of steel on steel rang through the air.
"Contact!" The Matoran gasped. "You have to attack now."
Darvath drew his weapon, a massive axe that crackled with electricity.
"Charge!" He yelled. His soldiers, Toa, Skakdi, Zyglak, Matoran, and Vortixx, charged to meet the hundreds of Limiters that seemed like an endless swarm of insects scattered across the jungle terrain. While Toa and Matoran were no match for Limiters, the Corpsians had not reckoned on the insane rage of a battle-ready Skakdi, or the sheer physical power of a Zyglak.
Darvath charged a Limiter, tearing the Corpsian nearly in half. Two more soldiers slashed at Darvath, but the Makuta stunned one with a Shadow Hand and killed the other with Chain Lightning. Copies of Corpse were being felled by Toa easily, and nearby a Zyglak threw Limiters into the air as if they weighed nothing. Every time a Zyglak struck a Veiled One, it meant the death of another enemy.
Darvath, emboldened by his army’s early success, managed to cage three Limiters in a prison of shadowy energy. Another Corpsian charged at him, Scythe raised, but Darvath easily destroyed it with a blast of shadow.
But still the Limiters, no matter how many times he wounded them, refused to die. Torn, mangled, and injured, the Veiled Ones seemed to rise from the dead to continue hacking at his army. The Copies and Limiters surrounded three Toa, and killed them all before they could raise a weapon in defense. A large group of Copies had brought down one of the Zyglak, and had wounded another badly. Eight pike-wielding Skakdi were still fighting, their weapons dealing death to many Copies of Corpse.
Darvath killed three more Copies easily, and joined a large group of Glatorian who were fighting six Limiters. Two Glatorian were felled dead, slain by the Limiter’s merciless Scythes, and six more were badly wounded.
With a roar of rage, Darvath flung himself at the Limiters, tearing one’s head off completely. Two others stabbed him in the shoulder and the leg, and he struck one Limiter a blow to the side of the head just as a Glatorian threw a spear. The Limiter fell transfixed. The four remaining Limiters had been reinforced by many others, and they were slowly breaking through the Glatorian. All around him, he saw the Skakdi were on the defensive now, and the main body of his army was breaking.
There was nothing he could do to stem the endless tide of Corpsians as they broke through his lines of defense.
Stradax fought his way through the endless Corpsian army, surrounded by his elite Toa guard. All around him Zyglak and Skakdi fought Limiters and Copies. Aspects, their sinister shadowy cloaks obscuring their features, were holding their own against the rebel’s relentless advance, but other divisions of the army had either surrendered or fled. Both sides had suffered innumerable casualties, but Stradax’s soldiers had suffered the worst blow. All of their senior commanders had been scattered, and many killed. He had ordered a desperate attack at the heart of the Imperial Army.
It had not gone according to plan.
The Corpsians had been taken by surprise at first, and many Copies had surrendered or fled. The Limiters, however, had cut off the remainder of his army while he had charged against the Aspect commanders, and the entire army had been dealt a grievous blow when the Toa commander Ion had fallen in battle against the Limiters. His army was scattering all around him.
Three of his Zyglak guards had killed six Copy warriors, and Stradax charged into the battle, slashing off the head of a Copy with a massive axe. Two Limiters charged at him, but he flung one to the ground using his Elemental powers of Air, and buried an axe in the other’s chest as the Zyglak decapitated the Corpsian. Slashing off the head of three Copy soldiers, he disarmed a second Limiter and stabbed an Aspect through the neck.
More Veiled Ones charged toward Stradax, but before he could lift his axe to attack, the Toa and Zyglak eliminated the entire group.
"A good fight!" screamed a Skakdi. He and another of his kind had slain three Limiters with blasts of Lightning. More Veiled Ones had finally overcome his guard, and Stradax fought his way toward the Skakdi, who were still holding their own against a squadron of Limiters.
"Die! Die! Die! Go to Karzahni!" screamed the Skakdi as they electrocuted another Limiter.
Stradax charged the enemy, followed by the Skakdi. The sight of their leader alive revitalized the battered army, and they launched another offensive against the Corpsians.
With a start, Stradax realized it was nearly midnight. Had they really been fighting so long?
This must end now.’’ He thought. ‘’Our army can’t afford to be pushed on the defensive again.
Darvath stabbed at the Corpsian commander Shadowbringer. The Veiled One leapt aside, and, quicker then lightning, slashed open Darvath’s shoulder. The two commander’s weapons locked and unlocked in a graceful, deadly dance as their armies battled all around them.
Shadowbringer rent open Darvath’s armor, and Darvath retaliated, striking Shadowbringer a blow to the chest. As the Veiled One staggered backward, Darvath struck the Corpsian with Chain Lightning. The attack also killed an Aspect standing behind Shadowbringer.
Shadowbringer, his armor melted and his hooded cloak singed, charged at Darvath again, his weapon nearly striking Darvath in the leg. Darvath blocked Shadowbringer’s assault again, and the fight descended into a savage brawl. Shadowbringer and Darvath fought back and forth across the battlefield. It was unable for either to gain a decisive victory. The armies watched as the two beings fought to the death, and while the Veiled Ones still had the upper hand despite the death of most of the Limiters, the rebels were holding their own.
Shadowbringer struck while Darvath was least expecting it, ripping the axe from the Makuta’s hands. Stabbing Darvath in the chest, Shadowbringer gloated over his dying foe.
"Death to the rebels!" he screamed. Darvath’s world began to fade, and he knew that the battle was over.
Shadowbringer broke off suddenly. He vanished, and the Veiled One’s mangled body fell to the ground. Darvath saw a massive Zyglak standing in his place.
Darvath saw a Toa race to his side. He didn’t recognize him at first, but then realized he knew his name. Nevox. One of Shardak’s friends…
"The Corpsians are being routed, Sir. We’ll get you back to camp and heal you. The Corpsians will surrender." He promised.
"There is nothing you can do, Nevox," gasped Darvath. "Lead the army back to Stradax."
He saw, all around him, the Veiled Ones surrendering. And in his last moments of life, Darvath was smiling.
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
Conqueror roared as he charged with the great army of the resistance at the palace of Eostra Nihilitian, the Empire's current military capitol. Without even trying, the resistance forces overwhelmed the few guards protecting the gates and charged towards the palace doors, their daring movement even striking fear into the most hardened soldiers of the Empire.
Hydros and Rando summoned two powerful gusts of air, and launched them at the double-sided doors of the palace, throwing the doors completely of their hinges and into the hallway that lay beyond them. As the resistance poured into the atrium, Nightwatcher took steady paces as he strode into the room, a twisted grin decorating his hardened face. Vengeance was coming, and it was coming in a move not even the Empire could have anticipated.
As the soldiers of the resistance continued charging and brought down the next door, the commander at the head of the army, Jareroden, raised his hand into the air to call for a stop. Because there, right in front of their very eyes, was the assembled legions of the Shadow of Ages and the Empire of Shadows. And standing at the very head of the massive army, were three figures. Three figures who for the last 100 years, had become the most hated creatures on the planet of Spherus Magna. Millennium, the Dark Lord and Eostra stood at the head of their army, with their three generals Dredzek, Sovnoron, and Skorpix standing directly behind them.
"Welcome, my subjects," began Millennium. "We have been expecting you for a long time."
"Your rule is over," barked Tetrack. "Step down now, and let the true rulers of this universe regain their throne."
"You on throne?" cackled Eostra. "The resistance in control of the world of Spherus Magna? That idea is absolutely ridiculous. You can barely hold our forces back, and you certainly are not strong enough to hold back the darkness which is to come."
"What darkness?" cried Verex. "How can there be any darkness when we are mere moments from defeating you. What is this darkness to which you are referring to?"
The three dark rulers did not reply. Instead, the Dark Lord pulled a glowing object forward, an object that in an instant, every resistance fighter could identify.
"We have the Ignika!" began the Dark Lord. "You cannot defeat us with this mask in our hands. You shall be destroyed!"
"I don't think so," cried Fairon. "The mask has a mind of its own, and I'm certain it would never submit before your darkness."
Eostra shifted her gaze onto the Toa of Light, and her eyes were instantly ablaze with dark rage.
"Ah, Fairon," she began in a soft, almost singsong voice. "I was wondering when I would ever see you again. How long has it been? 100 years, I believe."
"No matter, I am free, and I have told the resistance the secret information that I knew: The weaknesses of all your strongholds, and the names of all the traitors amongst the resistance's ranks!"
The three emperor's next reaction was something totally unexpected. Fairon had anticipated many responses: Rage, confusion, shock, or simply just another speech, but the response he got was totally unexpected: They were laughing. The response threw Fairon of guard, and unnerved even Nightwatcher. The three emperors were not known to find things funny outside their regular entertainment sessions with Vezon, and even then, they never really laughed.
"He still doesn't know, does he?" asked Millennium. "Even after all this time he’s had to recover from his amnesia he still doesn’t remember."
"It would appear so," replied Eostra. "I made sure Fairon wouldn't remember what he had learned. Should he had recovered those memories, the fate of Spherus Magna would be at stake."
"What are you talking about?" asked Galika as she raised her weapons.
"Enough talk," cried the one known as Skorpix. "Let's end this!"
"I couldn't have had it any other way," retorted Conqueror as he fired a blast of disintegration vision at the warrior know Spinorak, killing him instantly. And in a flash of power and destruction. The final battle had begun.
Rando charged at Kental, and in a flash they were already locked into deep combat, the pair slashing their blades deathly close at each other's armor. Meanwhile, the massive entity that was Tetrack charged at the equally powerful Iruka, with Tetrack swinging his chainsaw arms madly at the Kyojin. Meanwhile Jareroden rammed into Benjarmin and tackled him to the ground, only to be sent flying away by a swipe from the Makuta's arm. Jareroden got back to his feet and charged back at Benjarmin, the outcome of their centuries-long war with each other was now imminent. Both individuals could feel it.
Meanwhile, Nightwatcher charged at Eostra, a fiery well of vengeance and bloodlust raging in his eyes. He plunged into the air, and was about to bring his blade down on the motionless Eostra, when an unforeseen and abrupt kick to the hip knocked him directly off course. Nightwatcher growled as he looked up to see his new challenger. He cocked his head in a manner that could suggest confusion and shock had Nightwatcher not looked so furious.
"You..." he grumbled. "Get out of my way! I have a score to settle with those three!"
"Make the time, Nightwatcher. Because now you're all mine!"
The bounty hunter known as Janneus then charged forward and attacked Nightwatcher, the pair furiously sparring with each other, their strikes a blur as they parried with each other in a fast-paced, graceful duel. Conqueror looked around the raging battlefield and took the brief opportunity to sigh. This final battle was going to be much longer than originally strategized.
This chapter was written by Varkanax39.
Shardak fought his way through the hordes of Imperial Soldiers and Shadow of Ages members. Janneus and Nightwatcher were locked in combat, and Eostra had struck a Toa with the Scepter of Darkness. The unfortunate rebel crumbled to ashes.
Makuta Dredzek was fighting Conqueror now, and Banrax, followed by a small group of Copies and Imperial Soldiers, was fighting a large group of rebels near the gates of the fortress, the dark Shadowy One roaring in triumph as he stabbed Korzor through the chest. Windeus was fighting Fairon, and the Elemental and Toa were evenly matched. Shouts of “Destroy the Empire!” and “Take the fortress!” rang through the air.
Conqueror had taken on eight Shadow of Ages soldiers. The powerful ex-leader of the Society of Guardians was a vengeful machine as he cut down any Imperial who dared stand against him. Neither the armies of the Shadow of Ages or the Empire of Shadows could stop him, and as Shardak watched breathlessly, Conqueror kicked one against the fortress gate, and killed two more with his mighty staff.
“CHARGE! DESTROY THE EMPIRE!” yelled Shardak. He and his legion of resistance fighters raced into the battle, Shardak slicing down two Copies of Corpse in a single blow. He cut down two more soldiers in his way, and stabbed a Corpsian through the side.
The rebels could not be stopped, their tide not stemmed. They embodied persistence, determination, and unity. They embodied everything they had fought for in the past 100 years, more so than ever before.
The legions of the Empire still had an edge over the rebels, however. Even without the support of their most powerful allies, the Veiled One Limiters, they still were mighty beings, and every one of them nearly as ruthless as their overlords.
Shardak saw the face of his assailant, the Elemental Flareus. His face a mask of determination, Shardak blocked the Elemental’s massive claws and stabbed Flareus in the shoulder. Flareus roared in rage and slashed open one of Shardak’s old wounds across his chest.
Shardak staggered backward, and Flareus struck at him again, tearing open his shoulder. Fighting to ignore the pain, Shardak brought down the Blade of Arcturas across the Elemental’s back, tearing a jagged rend in Flareus’ armor.
Flareus slammed into Shardak again, his claws burning with flames. Shardak was too slow to block the blow, and was flung against the wall of the fortress. Both Elemental and Toa stared at each other for a brief second, and Shardak flung Flareus against the wall with a blast of fire from the Blade of Arcturas.
Flareus leapt to his feet and a blast of fire swept Shardak off his feet, flinging him to the ground. Flareus charged at him, and as Shardak got to his feet, he saw Eostra standing next to him.
Dread froze his heart.
Eostra’s corpse hand tightened around the Scepter of Darkness, and Shardak saw the bolt of dark lightning arc toward him.
He knew he would die.
Just then, he saw a red blur slam into him. Fire singed his armor, and he and his assailant collided against the wall just as the lightning was about to strike.
Shardak’s vision cleared, and he saw Flareus’ eyes glaze over. The fire Elemental’s horribly corroded body began to fall, and Shardak watched as the Elemental crumbled to ash.
Eostra lifted the Scepter to fire again, and Shardak tried to run, but the dreaded power of Eostra Nihiltian held him in her thrall. Eostra raised her arm-
And the horribly mangled corpse of Banrax was flung through the doors of the fortress. Eostra lowered her arm for a second, and the fighting seemed to still for one moment, even though Shardak knew it was still raging on.
“Death to the Empire!” screamed a Toa of Air as he burst into the chamber, weapons raised.
“Nevox?” gasped Shardak. “Where’s Darvath?”
“He died at the Battle of the Northern Frost.” Said Nevox sadly. “We won the battle, though, and after taking control of the remaining Imperial soldiers there, thought we’d reinforce you.”
Eight massive Zyglak rushed into the hallway, tearing through Shadow of Ages soldiers as more rebels poured into the palace. Eostra fired at the rebel soldiers, but since she could only focus the Scepter on one being at a time. Millennium and the Dark Lord were fighting Conqueror and a small group of Toa, while Iruka and Tetrack, who had both suffered wounds, were still locked in a deadly struggle
Shardak raised the Blade of Arcturas, and charged at a Corpsian, decapitating it. Two soldiers from the Empire of Shadows charged him, but Nevox killed one easily, and Shardak sliced one’s legs out from under him, and, in the same motion, lopped off his head. He saw another Shadow of Ages soldier charging at him out of the corner of his eye, and whirled around.
Varkanax stood before him in all his dark glory.
Shardak slashed at Varkanax and missed. Varkanax blocked his next blow easily and disarmed him.
“Pitiful.” Said the Elemental Demon. “I expected more from you, Shardak.” He lifted a massive axe and readied to decapitate the Toa.
“You lost the Spear of Fusion.” Shardak observed. Varkanax scowled. The memory of Vezon stealing his weapon and actually being permitted to get away with it angered him.
“I was repaid for that by the Empire.” Varkanax almost smiled. “Do you know what this weapon is, little Toa?”
“No.” Shardak answered.
“It is the Axe of Souls.” Said Varkanax. “One touch and it will cause your mind to shatter. And a single wound will bury your consciousness forever and completely erase your memory. Good bye, Toa.”
Conqueror broke away from the Imperial soldiers he was fighting with a blast of disintegration vision, and struck the massive Elemental Demon in the side. Varkanax retaliated with a blast of dark lightning, but when it cleared, Conqueror was standing mostly unharmed.
“You are strong.” Varkanax snarled. “It will take eight hits from the Axe of Souls to destroy you.”
Varkanax intensified the dark lightning and flung Conqueror against the wall. Conqueror struggled to his feet, and using his powers to deflect most of Varkanax’s lightning, slammed his staff against Varkanax’s side.
Varkanax cursed Conqueror in the nasal Veiled One language, and blocked Conqueror’s next blow with his axe. Conqueror ducked Varkanax’s next swipe, and struck Varkanax a blow to the chest. Varkanax swung his axe around and Conqueror narrowly dodged. Varkanax struck him with dark lightning again, causing Conqueror to stagger backward. Varkanax struck him a blow to the side with the Axe of Souls, and Conqueror felt pain smother all of his other emotions.
“No!” Conqueror heard Shardak shout, and fired a blast of flames from the Blade of Arcturas. Conqueror rose to his feet, and struck Varkanax two blows to the chest. Varkanax staggered away, and as Shardak stabbed him across the leg, dealt Shardak a blow with the back of the axe that caused the Toa to crumple to the ground.
Conqueror surveyed the battlefield. Nevox was locked in combat with Windeus, and four Zyglak were fighting Nex, one of the Shadowy Ones. As he watched, she was decapitated by the Zyglak, her head flying one way, her body the other.
The leaders of the Dark Empire still stood in the center of the chamber, draining power from the Mask of Life slowly. Conqueror hoped that the mask would not allow the evil lords to bend it to their will.
‘’Surely Mata Nui and the spirit of Ignika will fight against it with all their strength.’’ He thought as Varkanax, like an indestructible colossus, descended upon him once more.
Conqueror’s staff dealt horrible damage to Varkanax’s armor, but the Elemental demon seemed nearly unstoppable. A wave of dark energy swept across Conqueror’s armor, corroding the metal. Conqueror struck Varkanax again, and the Elemental’s axe struck Conqueror in the leg. Pain once again obliterated everything around him.
Conqueror raised his staff and fired a blast of pure energy at Varkanax. As the demon struck Conqueror again, flinging the mighty being against the wall, Shardak leapt at Varkanax. As the Elemental readied to deal a death blow to Conqueror, Shardak struck Varkanax in the back, hacking at the Elemental over and over again. Varkanax flung the Toa off him and struck Conqueror a blow to the side. Conqueror retaliated, and dark lightning met a volley of disintegration vision as the two beings intensified their struggle.
Varkanax’s armor had been punched through by millions of blows, but still he came, swinging the axe wildly at Conqueror.
“Goodbye, Conqueror.” Varkanax snarled, and, his dark lightning overcoming Conqueror’s eyebeams, narrowly missing him. Conqueror grabbed the Blade of Arcturas, and he heard Shardak groan, trying to reach his weapon.
Varkanax’s axe struck Conqueror again and again, deadening the being to the world around him. The rebels were slowly losing ground, and Conqueror knew he had to end the duel. As Varkanax bore down on him, raising the axe, Conqueror lowered his staff.
Varkanax smiled coldly. “Nearly time to end it, I think.” He raised the axe and brought it down on Conqueror for the eighth time. And Conqueror knew with a terrible certainty, that the Axe would kill him this time.
Conqueror lunged at Varkanax, and then surged upward, using the last of his strength to bring his weapon down on the massive Axe of Souls, disarming Varkanax. Dark lightning struck the Blade of Arcturas, and it crumbled to ash. With a final mighty heave, Conqueror stabbed Varkanax through the chest, and felt the Blade sink through muscle and bone and into his heartlight.
Slowly, Varkanax, the lord of Elemental Demons, the most powerful servant of the Dark Empire, and Lord of the Thirteen Messengers, sank to the ground, dead.
And all around him, the battle-weary rebels rose up again and charged the remnants of the Empire of Shadows and the Shadow of Ages, ready to fight to the death.
This chapter was written by Jareroden97.
Jareroden lunged at Benjarmin, his blade ripping at the Makuta's legs. Benjarmin snarled in hatred for his long-time enemy.
"You think that slashing me across the leg will defeat me, rebel? Think again."
Benjarmin leapt at Jareroden with agility one would not expect from someone of his size. He grabbed Jareroden's head before he could even react, and began to squeeze.
He began speaking in a taunting tone. "You are a fool, Jareroden. You've been one ever since I've known you. You think that you and your little 'Rebellion' can defeat an Empire that outnumbers you a thousandfold! You think you can defeat me now?! You couldn't even do it in the Matoran Universe! I've had my powers increased beyond your imagination by the Empire, Toa."
He slung Jareroden against the Protosteel wall at such a force that Jareroden slammed through as if it were made of paper. He gave a low groan as he struggled to his feet.
Benjarmin strode towards him, his voice dripping contempt and malevolence.
"Face it, Jareroden, you're out of your league."
The Toa was preparing to retaliate when he felt a blade rake across his back. Jareroden gave a cry of pain and surprise as he stumbled forward. He spun around to see Sovnoron standing there, a vicious grin across his face.
He heard the hulking form of Benjarmin approaching behind him, and knew he was in a very bad predicament.
He lunged at Sovnoron, igniting his blade with Electricity as he went. As soon as he was within a bio of him, he launched a torrent of lightning at the dark being, engulfing him.
He turned back to Benjarmin, who was by now nearing him. Jareroden charged towards one of the walls, kicked off of it, and, while still airborne, kicked Benjarmin in the face. Once, twice, thrice, and still more flailed out with his feet, until Benjarmin grabbed a hold of his ankle, and flung him right into Sovnoron's blade.
It impaled him through his right shoulder. Jareroden felt his vision blurring. No.... He thought, I can't give up like this. Not now....
Summoning the remainder of his strength, he threw himself off of Benjarmin's blade. He stood up, his face twisted in pain and anger. Giving a chilling battle cry, he took hold of Sovnoron's wrist, and bodily hurled him into Benjarmin's wake, who just happened to be charging at Jareroden.
Sovnoron landed right in front of Benjarmin, and the Makuta ran over him with a sickening crunching noise. Jareroden had to throw himself out of the way to escape being trampled, and hit the ground, rather painfully.
He rose to his feet to see Benjarmin right above him, preparing to crush him.
"Woah!" Jareroden yelled as he leapt out of the way. He landed on his feet, and parried one of Benjarmin's blades. Jareroden swung his blade as Benjarmin's mid section, ripping a hole in his stomach armor.
Benjarmin flailed with both of his blades, slashing Jareroden across his chest. Jareroden took several steps back, his free hand clenched to his chest.
He turned to Benjarmin, rage burning in his eyes.
"You are all cowards. You have no real honor. Face it, you're afraid of me. That's why you're trying to strike me from behind, you're too cowardly to attack me from the front head-on."
Jareroden was hoping Benjarmin would take the bait. He did. Benjarmin gave a scream of rage, and charged at Jareroden. The Toa launched himself off the ground using his telekinetic abilities, and began launching a barrage of electricity on Benjarmin.
Benjarmin retaliated by lauching heat vision, hitting Jareroden square in the chest. Jareroden tumbled to the ground, smashing into it.
Benjarmin place his foot on Jareroden's chest, holding Jareroden down. "You know, Jareroden, after I'm finished with you, I'm going to kill her. It will be most fun chopping her into pieces, while she's still alive."
Jareroden gritted his teeth. "No...."
Jareroden held up his blade, and launched lightning right in Benjarmin's face. Benjarmin was dazed only for a moment, but that's all the time he needed.
Jareroden grabbed onto Benjarmin's chest, and plunged his activated blade right into the center of it. Benjarmin gave a scream of agony as the blade's power flowed through him; his weakness to electricial blasts leaving him exceptionally vulnerable to the blast.
Jareroden turned the dial on the side of his sword’s hilt to maximum power to where the weapon would explode. Jareroden through himself off of Benjarmin, his blade still implanted in the Makuta's chest. An earth-shattering explosion ensued.
A mssive fireball was launched into the air, and when the smoke cleared, Benjarmin was laying there, dead. His mangled body lay motionless, his Antidermis disintergrated and his armor shattered and empty. All that was left of the once feared Makuta was the dull empty shell of a body his essence used to pilot.
Jareroden turned around to see Sovnoron striding towards him, clapping loudly.
"Well done, Toa. Well done, indeed. I did not expect you to survive Benjarmin."
Sovnoron's hand tightened on his blade. "But now... let us finish this."
Jareroden grabbed the twin spears of a fallen Skakdi, and charged at Sovnoron. The two met, their blades a blur as they tried to find an opening in each other's defenses, though neither could.
Jareroden slid in between Sovnoron's legs, and was behind him. He buried his blades into Sovnoron's back over and over again. Sovnoron spun around and backhanded Jareroden across the face.
Jareroden fell to the ground, his back making a cracking noise as he hit. Sovnoron walked to Jareroden's side, his blade raised.
"Good bye, Toa Jarerod-"
The Imperial general’s words were interrupted by a scythe spinning through the air, and then with the same fluid ease of a knife cutting through silk, decapitated him. Sovnoron's headless body fell backwards, revealing Freztrak and Galika. Freztrak's weapon boomeranged back into his hand.
He and Galika bent down to help Jareroden up.
"Are you alright?" Galika inquired. Jareroden stood up, his weary legs desperately protesting against the movement.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I’ll live."
Freztrak nodded. "Good. We killed Windeus and we were able to knock Skorpix into a large chasm. I don't know what hapened to him though...."
Galika slung her weapon over her shoulder. "We had better get moving it won't be long before- AHHHHHHHHHHH!!"
A blade was stabbed straight through Galika's chest. When she fell, face-forward, Sovnoron stood above her, smiling maliciously. It was now clear that the Sovnoron that Freztrak had decapitated had merely been an illusion
Jareroden raised his spears. "NOOOOO!!"
He created a Psionic field around Sovnoron, and as a ball of swirling lights and air mixed together, Jareroden imploded the sphere, creating a blinding flash of light. When it cleared, Sovnoron was gone. Whether he was dead or not no longer mattered.
Jareroden turned around, and sprinted to Galika's body. He held her in his arms, a tear going down his face. As he lay there for several seconds, Freztrak paced over to Jareroden to stand by the Toa’s side. When he did, Jareroden turned to the former Skakdi warlord, and said two words:
Millennium, the Dark Lord, and Eostra all stared down their enemies as they monitored the battlefield from the front lines. They had battered Conqueror away from them, and had began to feed of the great energies to the object in Eostra's grasp the Kanohi Ignika, the Great Mask of Life. In Millennium's was the Kanohi Avohkii, the Great Mask of Light, with its powerful rays of light being projected onto the surface of the Ignika, which seemed to be absorbing them into its form to provide more power for itself to prevent itself from crumbling into itself.
Naturally, the Ignika would attempt to protect itself by cursing the three empeorors, since none of the three were not its destined bearer, but the overwhelming darkness that was feeding off it had made the mask’s mind reclusive, and the energies being sapped out of the mask had slowly began eroding Mata Nui's life-force. The dark emperors were growing stronger... and stronger... and stronger...!
Conqueror groaned as he rose to his feet, brushing rubble and rock off his armor. A telepathic punch from the Dark Lord had sent him flying into the far walls of the palace, causing the whole thing to fall on top of him. As he recovered his massive staff, he scanned the battlefield. The entire fortress was in ruins. The once darkly beautiful architect of the building had been completely ruined, and the entire structure was constantly groaning and shaking.
The entire building was littered with corpses and rubble, a thick cloud of smoke and dust was radiating from everything. This place could barely be considered a building at all. Raising his weapons, he charged back into the battle, firing blasts of laser vision and Rhotuka Spinners at all Imperial soldiers who moved. Calling Freztrak and Jareroden to his side, Conqueror and his allies formed a trio, raised their weathered, age-old weapons and charged with a roar at the three Dark Empire leaders.
Nightwatcher growled as he was forced back further by a punch and a kick by Janneus, and sent flying into the air by a gust of wind, only to be pulled back to the ground by large, strong plant vines. As Nightwatcher lay in the crater he had unwittingly created, the green Rotaxian who opposed him chuckled.
"You really are overestimated by your employers, aren't you Toa Charon? Aren't you truly just a weak little Toa in big, scary armor?" . Janneus wouldn't have time to regret his words. Because before he knew it, Nightwatcher was back on his fit, squeezing his neck with an iron clench, and repeatedly punching him with the other hand. Janneus dropped his crowbar in shock of what was happening, as he desperately gasped for air. Nightwatcher glared into the Rotaxian's eyes, a pit of fury and rage boiling to the surface of his shining emerald eyes.
"I am no mere Toa, you imbecile. I am Nightwatcher. The most successful bounty hunter in the known multiverse, the greatest swordsman ever seen, and the only living creature you can consider your death."
Janneus wriggled as he tried to hit Nightwatcher with blasts of fire and air, though all those were deflected by the resilience and durability of Nightwatcher's charred armor.
As Nightwatcher choked Janneus even harder, he raised the Rotaxian over his head, and threw him into a nearby pillar, the Rotaxian passing through the structure as if it was made of glass, before passing through a nearby wall, then another, then another, and another.
Nightwatcher walked slowly in the direction of the three dark lords. He could sense through the aura field that Janneus had survived; crippled but still intact.
However, the last thing that was on Nightwatcher's mind. What was on his mind was the three emperors that had dared to humiliate him. Suddenly he broke into a run, charged the energies of his sword, and launched them at the three dark lords before him, a chilling battle cry escaping his masked lips.
Fairon was trying desperately to break off from his fight with Dredzek. The Makuta had disengaged from his previous battles with other resistance fighters just to deal with him. Fairon ducked as Dredzek attempted to skewer him with his talons, then dived to the left as the Makuta attempted to utilize his vacuum powers to suffocate him. A blast of light from the Toa's arm temporarily stunned Dredzek, and a uppercut punch to the Makuta's fanged mouth sent him staggering back. Using his recently returned Lanceo f Light, Fairon repeatedly fired several blasts of elemental energy at the Makuta, two of which hit the Makuta dead-on in the chest.
Dredzek growled, and sen a blast of chain lightning at the Toa, each voltage of electricity worse than the last as the bolts struck Fairon like spiked tendrils. He screamed his lungs out as the pain grew worse, and he slowly slumped to his knees as the stunning energy continued to sizzle and crackle around his body. Without muttering a word, Dredzek charged forward and hit Fairon with twin blasts of heat vision that sent him flying backwards, followed up by a a blast of shadow that slammed the Toa into a wall.
"Pathetic," said Dredzek, as he used his gravity powers to lift Fairon into the air.
"Do you want to know why you were truly put in stasis, Toa? It was because before you were abducted and captured, you learned the true nature of the Empire. What its goals really was. You had stumbled across knowledge that was vital to the future of Spherus Magna, and we certainly couldn't allow you or any other tiny resistance to learn of that knowledge for fear that they would put the future in jeopardy. Do you think we would really care if you knew the location of all our strongholds and all our spies? No, that was a cover we installed into your mind, meant to disguise the true knowledge you possessed, and now that your death has come, you will never know what those secret locked up in your head really were. I shall welcome you to the land of the dead, Toa Fairon."
And with that, Dredzek fired a blast of shadow so intense it would haven damaged even Conqueror's resilient armor. However, the blast would never hit Fairon. In fact, it merely passed through him. Dredzek eyes widened as he realized what had just happened. That isn't Fairon, thought Dredzek. That's a hologram! A projection of light!
Suddenly Dredzek fell to the floor by the force of a blast of light that was nearly as powerful a Nova Blast. The Makuta sagged to ground motionlessly as he began to fall into the depths of unconsciousness for the first time in centuries.
But as he fell into this state, and his vision blacked, he could have sworn that just for a second, that he had saw some kind of strange, white, scythe-wielding being emerging from some kinf of portal at the head of a bizarre army. As they descended into the wastelands, Dredzek could only wonder what these creatures would bring with them onto Spherus Magna.
Fairon had experienced enough today. Even with Dredzek's revelation, he still didn't feel any better. He just wanted this war to end, and hopefully the Empire with it. He looked on as the emperors began draining energy from the Mask of Life, and decided that if he wanted his desire to come true, he would have to remove the three ruling heads of the enemy.
Raising his sword menacingly, and charging it with dazzling power, Fairon charged forwards with a loud warcry as he prepared to unleash his devastating powers onto the overlords.
Rando swung at Kental's neck, coming inches from decapitating his enemy. Kental back-flipped away from his enemy, landing feet first on the ground.
Rando charged at his enemy, swinging his blade at Kental's shoulder, missing once again. Kental wildly swung his blade, slashing Rando across the arm, rendering it useless and limp (courtesy of its paralysis power).
Rando grabbed the blade from his useless arm, and lunged at Kental. Kental backhanded Rando, and grabbed and held his head back, raising his blade to slit his throat.
Rando raised his blade, and blew a gale of air into Kental's face, momentarily dazing him. Rando threw himself at Kental, ripping his blade across his stomach. Kental fell to the ground, cleaved in half.
Not taking the time to gloat over his enemy's corpse, Rando turned to where the three Imperial masters were hefting the Ignika high in the air. Rando clenched his sword, and charged.
Makuta Vicoran launched a bolt of electricity, hitting Shardak square in the chest. Shardak flew through the air from the great force of the blast, and slammed into a large wall, creating a deep dent in its Protosteel wall.
Shardak painfully raised himself to his feet, and launched a blast of Fire right in Vicoran's face. Vicoran swung his spear right at Shardak, narrowly missing his chest.
Shardak rolled out of the way, launching fireballs as he did. Vicoran swung his spear above his head, building up a blast of Shadow as he did so. Before he could unleash it however, Shardak lunged at Vicoran, and grabbed his face.
He summoned fire into the palm of his hand, horribly burning Vicoran's face. Vicoran gave a hiss of rage and pain, and summoned a blast of heat vision, striking Shardak's shoulder.
Vicoran advanced on Shardak, his voice strained with pain and anger.
"You are a fool to attack us, rebel. Do you really think you can overthrow us now?"
He used his powers over magnetism to raise Shardak into the air, and then slam him onto the ground. He put his foot on Shardak's head, and began to add a skull-splitting pressure to it.
"And now you will die for your foolishness."
Suddenly, Shardak grabbed Vicoran's ankle, and flung him to the ground. Shardak quickly got on top of him before he could rise, and began stabbing the Makuta lord over and over again until he was sure his enemy was dead.
He stood up slwoly, and turned his head to where the three dark emperors were, and raising his sword, and giving a chilling war cry, charged.
Tetrack dodged out of the way of Iruka's blade, and quickly blocked another swipe. Tetrack flipped to Iruka's side, and gave him a crushing upercut blow to his chin. Iruka took a small step back, then launched a beam of pure energy from his eye.
The pair’s conflict had long since drawn them away from the mighty war at Eostra’s palace, and they were now duelling in the overgrowth of the Bota Magna jungle just beyond the burning fortress.
Tetrack quickly leapt out of the way of another laser blast, grabbed onto a tree limb, ripping it off, and began to bash Iruka repeatedly with it. Iruka stopped Tetrack's vicious onslaught by grabbing the limb, and ripping it out of Tetrack's hands.
He leapt up, and grabbed Tetrack's head, chuckling insanely. "I will kill you now, Tetrack, just as I killed Kyhrex and many of your other rebel friends."
He began to squeeze. Tetrack grabbed on to Iruka's hand, trying to pry them off of his head, but to no avail whatsoever. In a desperate attempt to break free of the death grip, he used his chainsaw to slice off Iruka's hand.
Iruka stumbled backwards, clasping his where his hand once was and screaming in agony. He turned his eyes to Tetrack, not attempting to hide his pure hatred for the Kodax.
He slammed his blade into the patch of earth that Tetrack had stood a millisecond before. He looked this way and that, searching for his enemy that had seemingly vanished.
"COME OUT AND FACE ME!"
He felt a sharp pain in his shoulder, and through the corner of his eye he saw Tetrack disappear again. Iruka's eyes narrowed. He heard a twig snap, and shot a blast of laser vision in the direction.
Tetrack appeared right in front of Iruka, a large scorch mark on his stomach.
Tetrack smiled. "Is that all you have, spy?"
Iruka spun into the air, landing right in front of Tetrack . He brought his blade down, where it met Tetrack's saw. The Kodax pierced Iruka through the side with his blade, then quickly darted to his other side, tearing a slash down his chest.
Iruka spun and grabbed Tetrack's wrist, dragging him down to where their eyes were level with each others'.
Tetrack masked none of his contempt. "Dirty spy."
"Thanks for the compliment." Iruka said sarcastically as he hurled Tetrack up into the air. He hit Tetrack with a bolt of laser vision as his enemy soared through the air. Tetrack hit the ground with a low thud, and then was still. Iruka stalked toward his prey.
When he was right above Tetrack, something very... unexpected happened. Tetrack rushed up, and buried his blade into Iruka's chest, its tip extending through his back. In a thrice the blade was out of Iruka's chest, and into his neck, then his forehead.
As Iruka fell, he made one last swipe with his blade. Tetrack attempted to lean back, but he was not fast enough. The blade raked his head clean off.
Iruka gave a sighing/groaning noise, and fell backwards to the ground. His hearlight flickered for a moment, and then went dark. Iruka was dead.
From all sides of the battlefield, resistance fighters pulled away from their conflicts and fired at the three dark rulers of Spherus Magna, firing all their great amounts of power directly at the monsters they despised so much. However, mere inches away from the emperor's bodies did an orange and gold energy shield form around them, protecting them from even the violent bursts of power coming from Nightwatcher.
"Keep focused," roared Leviathos, as he and Heehvan stood side-by-side focusing their elemental energies. "We can still break them down."
The whole resistance seemed to be pouring all their powers together, into a single, all-around attack. Some of the more powerless resistance fighters, such as Verex, were doing their very best to hold back the Imperial soldiers, granting the resistance fighters time to erode down the three emperor's shields.
So they're using the supercharged Mask of Life to empower them, and using the Avohkii to feed energy to the Ignika to prevent it from breaking and crumbling, thought Nightwatcher. Very nice, I'll give them that, but its not a permanent solution. They can't hold us back forever; least of all me. No, something's wrong. Something's very wrong...
As Nightwatcher continued to ponder on what this 'something' could be, he was unable to notice the fact that the two dark rulers were slowly standing closer together. And that one of the three rulers, was slowly breaking away from them and becoming more powerful...
Millennium, the Dark Lord, and Eostra were totally and utterly surrounded. Most (if not all) of the resistance members had broken off from their battles to challenge the three dark beings themselves.
Kaluu called up. "Give up! You are surrounded!"
Millennium turned his gaze on the Makuta. "I think not...."
He held out his hand, and a blast of time energy flowed from it, hitting Kaluu dead on. At the same time he launched a blast of energy from the other. The Makuta screamed as he felt his body and Antidermis aging and being ripped apart at the same time.
Within seconds, Kaluu, the once feared Makuta, was nothing but dust. Millennium slowly lowered his hand. "Who's next?"
With that, all the beings launched into action. Jareroden and Leviathos attacked Eostra, as Conqueror and Freztrak took Millennium and Hydros, Verex, and Shardak attacked the Dark Lord.
Millennium swung his Axe of Eternity, missing Freztrak's head by an inch. Conqueror leapt up and tackled Millennium to the ground, and began mercilessly bashing him with his Staff of Nui.
Millennium used his powers over telekinesis to raise Conqueror off of him, and throw him away. He teleported to his feet, and turned to Freztrak.
"Please, I expected better."
Freztrak gave a snarl, and launched corrosive vision right at Millennium's axe. He batted it away without even looking. He then proceeded to bombard Freztrak with a mental assault, bringing the Skakdi to his knees.
He strode over to his prone enemy, and kicked him in the face. Freztrak fell to his back, still holing his throbbing forehead in his hands.
Millennium raised his axe up high above his face.
Just when Millennium was about to let his weapon fall and slice off Freztrak's head, something happened. He felt a strange weakness.
"What is this?"
Eostra was feeling the same weakness as she ripped her claw down Jareroden's back, and kicked Leviathos away.
"It seems that the spirit of Mata Nui and the mind of the Ignika are trying to stop us from absorbing all of their power. They are backlashing at us. Trying to drain our power from us."
With hearing this, the Dark Lord began to back into the shadows.
"Oh no you don't!" Hydros yelled as he charged at the cloaked being.
The Dark Lord quickly spun around and backhanded Hydros. The force of the impact knocked Hydros several feet away, and onto his back. He looked up to see the Dark Lord charging up a blast of pure darkness in the palm of his hand.
"Goodbye, Toa Hydros."
"NO!!" Verex yelled as he charged for Hydros.
Verex leapt in between Hydros and the Dark Lord just as he released the blast. There was a horrible flash of black, and then silence. When Hydros opened his eyes, he saw Verex laying in front of him, limp and still, smoke rising from his felled body.
Hydros rose to his feet, holding his blade in a tight grip. Shardak stood beside him, taking Verex’s sword in honor of their fallen comrade, the blade glowing with great flames.
The Dark Lord's eyes narrowed. "I have no time for this."
He telekinetically raised Shardak and Hydros off the ground, and flung them away from him. He strode to where Millennium and Eostra were. They were cornered by a mass of Resistance fighters.
Millennium turned his head to the Dark Lord. "Aid us!"
The Dark Lord chuckled, and blasted all of the rebels away from his two comrades. As the rebels recuperated from the blast, the Dark Lord spoke to his allies.
"I am sorry, my friends, but the time has come for us to part ways."
Eostra clenched her fist. "And what do you mean by that!?"
The Dark Lord chuckled mirthlessly.
"All this time, I've been waiting for just the right moment to get all the pieces of my plan into place. You two. The resistance. Everyone who is here right now. I've been waiting to get you all in one place at one time, then destroy you all, and seat myself as the king of all reality."
Millennium's eyes were mere slits as he stared at his once-fellow ruler. "But how did you-?"
"How did I fool you all for so long? It was simple, but I shall not go into that right now." The Dark Lord held out his hand, and the floor beneath Millennium and Eostra bean to shake.
"For you both... are about to die...."
Millennium and Eostra realised what was about to happen, but they were too late. The floor beneath them gave way, and they fell. They fell for a total of three seconds, until they hit something. Something dreadful. A pool of Energized Protodermis.
A low splashing sound could be heard above as they hit. And the Dark Lord laughed. “I expect that it was not their destiny to be transformed, so they must have been destroyed. They will no longer be a problem. "
He picked the Ignika up off of the floor, and planted his foot on the Avohkii, instantly crushing the mask to dust.
He then turned to the assembled resistance. "And soon, neither will you."
Then, something very unexpected then happened. Nightwatcher was charging up a blast of pure Shadow energy, and was aiming right at the Dark Lord.
His eyes narrowed. "Oh no...."
Nightwatcher released the black wave on the cloaked being. He slid across the ground, right to the edge of the pit. He began to stand up, then saw Nightwatcher standing over him, his fist full of Shadow.
The Dark Lord's eyes widened. "No...."
Nightwatcher punched him right in the face, knocking the Dark Lord straight into the pit, the Ignika still clutched tightly in the dark being’s hand as he fell.
Thus, ended the Dark Lord's brief attempt at ultimate power.
The shattered remnants of the Imperial warriors began to falter and break formation. Shardak snatched a scythe from a fallen Veiled One and charged a surviving member of the Empire of Shadows, cutting him down easily. The remainder of Millennium's troops were in full retreat, and the surviving Corpsians had turned on the forces of the Dark Lord, who had either scattered or were fighting both the Empire and the resistance.
"This is over," snarled Nightwatcher. "Your leaders are dead. Surrender."
The Corpsians paid him no attention and continued fighting, but Millennium's forces began to surrender. Skorpix, Dredzek, and Sovnoron were fighting as well, but Sovnoron was being attacked by Heehvan, and Skorpix and Dredzek were retreating along with the Shadow of Ages, knowing the battle had gone against the forces of the Empire.
And then it rose from the darkness. And every single being within the fortress turned and watched as a massive being rose from the pool of Protodermis.
The being appeared to be formed of darkness, shadows circling around it. Two horrible red eyes glared at the surrounding rebels and Imperials. The creature had to be at least eleven meters tall.
Shardak gasped, dropping his scythe. "It's them!"
He saw the Dark Lord's terrible red eyes, Eostra's dread mask half-fused with Millennium's face and the shattered remains of the Ignika. Millennium's body was twisted together with Eostra's, and the remnants of the Dark Lord's cloak still hung from the fusion's emaciated body. The fusion raised one of Eostra's Corpse hands to point at the rebels, aiming the Scepter of Darkness at the stunned rebels. Shardak noticed that the other hand was a half-fused mixture of Millennium's claw and the Dark Lord's shadowy hand, and held the Axe of Eternity in its half-formed claw.
"Lay down your weapons." said the Dark Fusion in a soft tone. Its voice sounded more terrible than anything Shardak had ever heard. It sounded like the three emperors were talking all at once. He could hear Eostra's cold, detached voice mix with the Dark Lord's rasping speech and Millennium's harsh tones, and as he listened closely he found he could actually separate their voices.
"We are no longer many rulers. We have formed a being of such advanced power that you cannot hope to stop us now."
Some of the rebels dropped their weapons at once. Others held on desperately. Sovnoron dropped his machete, and Dredzek lowered his claws.
The fusion emerged completely from the pit. Energized Protodermis still dripped from its limbs.
"This conflict is over. Your pathetic rebellion has strengthened us. We are one being! One Empire! One Ruler!"
"NO!" screamed Nevox. "ATTACK! DESTROY THE EMPIRE!"
All around them the resistance raised their weapons and charged the fusion.
"No surrender! No quarter! No surrender! Destroy the Empire! Destroy the Empire! DESTROY THE EMPIRE!!!"
The fusion raised its corpse hand. "So be it," it said in its terrible voice.
Then it fired a bolt of black lightning from the Scepter at the rebels, which turned Nevox to dust.
This chapter was written by Varkanax39.
Flames leapt and danced across the shattered floor of Eostra’s fortress, giving the Shadow of Ages soldiers that surrounded Nightwatcher an unreal, ghostly quality. The rising flames illuminated the corpse faces of the few remaining Limiters as they slashed Toa and other rebels to the ground. The floor was strewn with burned corpses, smashed weapons and other objects, as if a callous deity of destruction had swept its hand across the fortress’ interior.
All around Nightwatcher, the rebels were losing ground. The Shadow of Ages, emboldened by the return of the Emperors, was forcing the surviving rebels toward the entrance. The air rang with the clash of sword on scythe and sickle on spear. Shardak and Conqueror were fighting a legion of Shadow of Ages soldiers, but were both wounded badly. Neocrax and Rando had rallied the remaining rebels near the entryway, but Nightwatcher saw they stood no chance against the emboldened Imperials.
Nightwatcher easily decapitated the Shadow of Ages warriors, and whirling around, flung out an armored hand to block the wildly spinning tendrils of shadow that threatened to engulf him completely. His own power countered that of the fusion, which fired an arcing bolt of dark lightning from the Scepter at Nightwatcher. The bounty hunter’s lightning-fast reflexes saved him, and he managed to fling himself out of the way. The fusion fired again. Lightning crackled from the weapon, and the Toa of Radiation, Harlen, standing behind Nightwatcher, crumbled to ash.
The fusion, his blood-red eyes dancing with hatred, fired a white beam of focused energy at Nightwatcher, momentarily blinding him. The blast impacted against his leg, and the momentum from his attempt to dodge flung him against the wall. Nightwatcher, dazed, hauled himself to his feet and, after dodging two blows from the Axe of Eternity, struck the fusion a glancing blow to the side. A wave of darkness slipped through the sky and struck Nightwatcher in the chest, the impact forcing him to the ground. For a moment he exchanged blows with the fusion, and grimaced as the axe bit into his shoulder.
The fusion glared at him with the Dark Lord’s eyes, and Eostra’s hand pointed the Scepter at him. Nightwatcher knew this weapon brought instant death, but dared not attempt to evade the blow. The fusion would cut him in half with the Axe of Eternity.
Both Nightwatcher and the fusion whipped their heads around to stare at Rando and Neocrax, who had fought their way through the Imperial warriors and stood before the fusion. Eostra’s corpse hand pointed at the charging Rando, and the Toa vanished, leaving nothing but scattered ashes.
Neocrax leapt through the writhing fire and struck the fusion a penetrating blow to the shoulder. The horrific being swept the Makuta into the air and flung him against the wall. Neocrax seemed to hang suspended against the crumbling wall of the fortress- then slid off, dead.
“These pitiful beings are insignificant,” said the fusion, in a voice that sounded more horrible then any other to Nightwatcher.
“And the white Zarak has been injured badly by the Axe of Souls. You alone must be eliminated.” The fusion raised the Axe of Eternity and the Scepter of Fusion, pointing no longer at Nightwatcher, but at the wall of the fortress, where Neocrax’s broken corpse lay. Nightwatcher’s keen vision noticed a pair of glowing eyes in the shadows, and saw the grinning face of Vezon snarling at him. The Skakdi’s eyes burned with the flames of insanity as he raised the Spear of Fusion to point at Nightwatcher.
“Destroy the bounty hunter!” snarled Vezon. Nightwatcher saw the eyes coalesce into the shape of nightmarish, shadowy beings of fell power. “Kill him now!”
“Destroy the Empire!” roared the rebels in answer, and an explosion of flames momentarily blinded Nightwatcher. When it cleared, he saw the Darkath and remaining Imperials locked in combat with the Darkath, and Hydros and two Toa, Zercks and Chiara, were fighting Vezon across the roiling flames. Toa Heehvan was standing at the head of the battered legions of resistance fighters, orange flames crackling at his fingertips. Behind him, stood Chronuva and Crystallus, the pair roaring in fury as they decimated a group of Corpsian soldiers.
Though as the Toa fell to a group Darkath, Nightwatcher understood. They were buying him time to take on the fusion. If it was not destroyed, the resistance’s many battles had been fought for nothing, and the Dark Empire would reign on. And Nightwatcher, who had inexorably bound his destiny with the fate of the rebels, would die with them.
As he charged the fusion, he saw a blur of darkness flash past him. One of the Darkath materialized before him, and Nightwatcher blocked the being’s onslaught with his sword. His own shadow power collided with that of the Darkath’s, and the explosion that followed consumed the being utterly.
The fusion had recovered from Nightwatcher’s and Neocrax’s attacks, and was pointing the Scepter at Hydros. The lightning arced from the weapon at Hydros, but at the last moment he forced Vezon toward the back of the chamber, and the lightning ricocheted off the wall and struck an unfortunate Skakdi named Serhaktem, disintegrating him. Nightwatcher slammed into the fusion just as Eostra’s hand raised the Scepter again. Explosions of dark energy impacted against Nightwatcher’s chestplate as he slashed open the fusion’s shoulder. The Scepter fell from Eostra’s hands.
Nightwatcher recovered quickly and sent a barrage of shadow bolts at the fusion, damaging the dark being and forcing it backward, toward the pit of Protodermis. A blast of focused energy pierced the darkness and struck Nightwatcher in the shoulder, disorienting the bounty hunter for a split second.
That was all the fusion needed. An explosion of pure darkness seemed to flow from its fingertips, striking Nightwatcher dead-on and flinging him to the floor. The fusion descended upon him, wildly swinging the Axe of Eternity. Nightwatcher traded blows with the nightmare creature again, while the fusion, sensing that Nightwatcher’s concentration was breaking, assaulted his mind. Eostra and Millennium’s power ravaged through him, physically and mentally.
You are nothing compared to us now.
We killed Shayla. We killed all of your friends. We’ll kill you too. Bow before us. Bow before the might of the Dark Empire.
“I have no friends,” snarled Nightwatcher, blocking the fusion’s attacks with a series of defensive Vauhti combat moves.
Come now, Nightwatcher. We know that’s not true. You are not as heartless as you pretend to be.
For a moment, Nightwatcher’s concentration faltered. He loosened the grip on his weapon, and the fusion struck him a penetrating blow to the chest. Pain flowed through him as the fusion redoubled the assault.
You could have condemned the resistance to annihilation. You are no different from those so-called “freedom fighters.” You are weak. Insignificant. Your life is a litany of failures. You spent your entire existence pretending you were something you aren’t. Now you will die, confused and alone.
“I am not one of them!” screamed Nightwatcher. The fusion was forcing him toward the wall, and despite his attempts to avoid it, the fusion was far more powerful.
All around him the rebels were breaking formation and fleeing. Conqueror, Shardak, Fairon, Zevrahk, and Girahk were still fighting, and Rernahk and a small guard of Glatorian were holding off the remnants of the Imperial Army. Two of the Darkath were still fighting, their shadowy features illuminated in the flames.
The fusion slammed the Axe of Eternity against Nightwatcher’s weapon, shattering it into three pieces. Nightwatcher dropped the useless hilt and fired weak shadow bolts at the fusion. None had any effect.
You could have been one of us. The fusion said telepathically. You could have remained our slave. Now, there is no hope for your resistance. Surrender and you will not be killed, and become one with us. Join the Empire, Nightwatcher. Join us in our dark glory.
And at that moment, Nightwatcher knew who he was.
And what he must do to destroy the power of the Dark Empire forever.
“No.” he said. “You were right. I am one of them. I am one of those rebel fighters. I am one of them!”
Then accept your destiny.
The fusion raised its corpse hand and pointed at Nightwatcher, and a section of the ceiling collapsed on top of the bounty hunter, burying him beneath the ruins.
Nightwatcher was in the gray void again.
He looked around. Nothing. Nothing but a dark, endless expanse of gray mist that shrouded everything beyond. Empty.
At first he was confused.
Where is the fusion?
Then he remembered.
“Hello, Nightwatcher.” said a familiar voice. Nightwatcher whirled around to see Shayla standing next to him. Beside her, Charon and Dorex seemed to materialize out of the shadows.
“What do you want now?” Nightwatcher growled. “Are you going to tell me my life is over again?” He didn’t know if he could stand a repeat performance from these three.
“No, Nightwatcher.” Dorex’s gravelly tones replied. “We are here to help you resist death, not to lead you to it.”
“Then why am I here?” asked Nightwatcher, quickly losing patience. “The fusion is out there, wreaking havoc on the rebels. I have to go back! Now!”
“You sound as if you are actually motivated by some concern for them,” said Toa Charon.
“Shut up!” snarled Nightwatcher. “How do you know what I am feeling?”
“Oh, Nightwatcher,” said Shayla. “We are you. We know all your thoughts, all your hopes, and all your dreams.”
Nightwatcher hated them.
“How can you hate us?” asked Dorex mockingly. “We are you. Do you hate yourself?”
“No,” snarled Nightwatcher. “I’m wondering how such a trio of imbeciles ever became imprinted in my subconscious.”
“Then take these memories,” said Charon, stepping closer to him. Nightwacher felt the Battle of Bota Magna replayed before him in complete detail. He saw the fall of the Dark Lord, Millennium, and Eostra. The fusion, in all its dark glory, rose from the pit, and Nightwatcher fought it across the flames. He watched Hydros and the other rebels fight the Darkath, Vezon, and the Shadow of Ages, and lastly saw his burial beneath the fortress’ roof. He felt his spine snap-
“You were killed underneath that fall,” said Shayla. “The rebels lost the battle, and the Empire returned in all its dark glory. Shardak, Hydros, Fairon, and the others are all dead.”
“No! That can’t be!” snarled Nightwatcher. “Send me back! I’ll win the battle for them. I’m the best bounty hunter in the multiverse! I’ll destroy the fusion! LET ME GO!”
“You have to choose, Nightwatcher. If you go back, destiny’s course will be altered, and the multiverse may yet be destroyed.”
“What do you mean?” asked Nightwacher. “Something more terrible than the three, fused Emperors exists?”
But even as he said this, flashes of a being’s visage appeared to Nightwatcher. He tried to shield himself from its power, but the being’s coiling tentacles wrapped around him.
And as he looked into the face of nightmares, he knew the past, present, and future of Spherus Magna.
And he made his decision.
“Send me back!”
Shayla, Dorex, and Charon raised their weapons to the darkening sky. “Then we will do as we were created to do. Help you resist death.”
“And if I go back…will the universe still be destroyed?”
“That is not for you to know, Nightwatcher,” said Shayla gently. “Your destiny and the being’s will never meet.”
Nightwatcher reflected on how surprisingly calm he felt. What was death, when he knew what would happen for years to come?
“Good-bye, Nightwatcher.” said Shayla as the gray void disintegrated, until only her voice could be heard. “And know that you are so much more than the best bounty hunter in the multiverse.”
Then Shayla’s gentle voice was replaced with screams and war cries, and above all else Shardak’s voice.
“Nightwatcher, behind you!”
“Behind you!” screamed Shardak as Nightwatcher rose from the ruins of the ceiling. The roof had collapsed, and the stars shown down upon the battlefield. The rebels and Imperials were still locked in their life or death struggle. Two Darkath still remained, and Vezon was still fighting Hydros.
Nightwatcher whirled around just as the Darkath struck, grappling with the shadow before finally flinging its corpse to the ground. The other Darkath materialized out of the shadows, stabbing its shadowy dagger into Nightwatcher’s shoulder. With all his strength, Nightwatcher smashed the hilt of his sword down on the Darkath’s head, and the creature fell back, dead. The fusion snarled in rage at the fall of the remaining Darkath, and fired three pulses of energy at Nightwatcher, causing him to stagger backward. The fusion continued its assault, swinging the Axe of Eternity at the bounty hunter.
Shardak saw Nightwatcher was beginning to tire. He dispatched a Copy of Corpse and looked over the battlefield just in time to see Vezon drop the Spear of Fusion, and drawing a dagger, leap at the distracted bounty hunter.
“Watch out!” screamed Shardak as he fought his way toward Nightwatcher. As Vezon was about to strike Nightwatcher, Hydros grabbed the Spear of Fusion and flung it with all his strength at Vezon. Nightwatcher turned just in time to see the Imperial harlequin, the spear embedded in his back, fall dead to the ground.
Nightwatcher was struck by Millennium’s lightning again, and as he staggered, defenseless, away from the fusion, Shardak saw a blur of darkness slam into Nightwatcher.
“No!” Shardak screamed. Nightwatcher was on the ground, locked in combat with the one remaining Shadow of Ages soldier. He raced toward Nightwatcher, but the fusion blocked his way.
And then Zevrahk was there. The dark being fought his way past the fusion and leapt upon the Shadow of Ages soldier, weapons raised. For a moment the two beings wrestled on the ground, and then Zevrahk got to his feet, standing above the corpse.
“Attack!” yelled Shardak. The rebels had slain the last of the Imperial guards, leaving the fusion alone.
Now the fate of Spherus Magna will be decided, once and for all.
Nightwatcher was leaning against the wall, utterly spent. He let the shattered remains of his weapon fall to the ground. The fusion stuck him again with the Axe of Eternity, and Nightwatcher felt unbearable pain flood through him.
No! He could almost hear the voice of Shayla in his mind. Stay strong. Dorex concurred. We are with you. Said Charon.
Grabbing Eostra’s trident from the ground, Nightwatcher faced the fusion as it bore down on him, swinging the axe wildly. Power exploded between them, and dark tendrils crackled between them. Nightwatcher felt his vast reserves of power engage as he fought the fusion. He caught the glitter of the Dark Lord’s eyes as he blocked the Axe of Eternity again. Explosions of Shadowy power rocked the fortress as the two beings fought to the death.
Nightwatcher released a blast of power that struck the wall, shattering it. The building began to crumble, and a large section struck the fusion. The fusion’s shields deflected much of the shrapnel, but it gave time for Nightwatcher to ready his trident and stab it at the fusion. The blow lacerated the fusion’s arm, and for a moment, Nightwatcher felt the being’s concentration slip.
With all his power, Nightwatcher battered at the fusion’s mind, trying to crush it completely. The Axe of Eternity smashed down on the trident, breaking the points off. As the fusion’s powers locked with his in an unbreakable struggle of darkness, Nightwatcher used the last of his strength to bring down the hilt of the trident on the Axe of Eternity, tearing the weapon from the fusion’s hands. The Axe struck the collapsing wall and shattered.
The fusion pointed the Scepter at him, and Nightwatcher flung out the trident in front of him. The weapon vanished, and as the fusion readied to fire again, Nightwatcher grabbed the weapon and dragged it out of the fusion’s hands, into the fire.
Nightwatcher saw that the entire building was collapsing all around them. In a few moments their struggle would reach its climax, and the rebels would be killed in the resulting explosion.
“RUN!” Nightwatcher screamed. “Save yourselves! I can’t hold back this monstrosity forever!”
“No, we’re not leaving you!” roared Jareroden over the backround sounds of explosions, rumbling walls, and burning fire.
“That was not a request, imbecile! Get out! RUN NOW!”
The rebels needed no further urging. Nightwatcher saw Shardak race out the doors of the fortress out of the corner of his eye. Zevrahk was the last to abandon the battlefield.
Now that the rebels were out, the dark power that he and the fusion had been firing at each other reached its highest point. Both the fusion and Nightwatcher had suffered mortal wounds, and the darkness was destroying the fortress all around them.
As the powers of Nightwatcher and the three merged emperors locked into an unbreakable struggle, Nightwatcher allowed their powers to run out of control. Fire and Shadow exploded between Nightwatcher and the fusion creature, and Nightwatcher, fuelled by all his hatred, all his love, and all his insatiable thirst for vengeance on the emperors who had ruined his life, released the energy contained inside his body with a scream of triumph, and the body of the fusion was pulverized in the white-hot blast...
And the Toa of Shadow watched as the massive explosion ripped through the landscape, obliterating the fusion, obliterating the fortress, obliterating the bodies of the slain resistance fighters and Imperials, and finally consuming his own body in a flash of white lightning. In a final explosion of darkness, the ruins of the fortress were blasted to shrapnel, and darkness fell over Bota Magna.
Nightwatcher turned his gaze toward the stars, and saw the three figures of Shayla , Dorex, and Charon vanish into the heavens. His destiny was complete. Their destiny was complete.
And as he fell unconscious, Nightwatcher was smiling.
And far, far away, near Creep Canyon, rebel commander Stradax watched as the Imperial Army, weakened beyond repair, broke formation. The rebels charged the last of the Corpsians who still fought, and cries of “Destroy the Empire!” rang through the darkness.
The power of the Dark Empire, a dictatorship that had endured for 100 nightmarish years of death, torture and darkness, was finally and irrevocably broken.
This chapter was written by Chicken Bond.
Hydros walked through the main corridor leading to Atero's great hall. For the first time in 100 years, his spirit felt uplifted. The war they had fought for so long had finally end. The darkness that had ruled over them had finally been banished from Spherus Magna. His armor may have been in tatters, but his conscious was clear: Peace had returned at long last.
He strode into the prison chamber, and stared at the three dark emperors with a combination of contempt and smugness. The three emperors had been recovered from the ruins of Eostra’s pulverized fortress, evidently having been defused from the intensity of Nightwatcher’s shockwave blast. The Toa of Shadow himself had not been found. It had quickly become obvious that he had sacrificed himself to save the world. Who would have thought that one of the most ruthless merceanries in existence would have the guts to do that?
Jareroden, Leviathos and Ixtil were in the room too. They were operating a series of strange devices that seemed to be linked up to the massive iron chairs that the three former rulers of Spherus Magna seemed to be seated in. Their wrists and legs were bound in Protosteel chains that had been specifically modified to drain the three emperors of their great powers.
Slowly, Hydros approached them, stared at them briefly, and then shrugged his shoulders.
"Your dark rule has ended, your majesties. Peace has been restored to the universe, and the world shall no longer know the venom of your darkness. Your day has passed, and you will never be seen again."
The three dark lords said nothing, merely stared on at Hydros, contempt visible in their dark orange and red eyes.
"What do you intend to do with us?" asked Millennium. "Execute us? Exile us? Humiliate us? What punishment do you intend to enact upon us?"
"Oh, something far worse than any of those suggestions combined," began Leviathos as he jumped off from the table he was sitting on. These devices linked up to your chair serve as an Olmak Generator, a machine once used by the Society of Guardians to teleport their agents to different dimensions and locations."
The Noctian sighed, and took a gasp for air before continuing his monologue.
"So we are going to send you to the Confusion Dimension, a place where you cannot possibly escape from. Basically, it's a remnant of the time when the great Zormacht ruled the universe, and was used by them to lock up beings who they could not kill. There's an extremely high-pressure zone within it, like a black hole, though since normal physics don't apply in this universe, it doesn't collapse into a singularity.
“There's a stable zone inside of it, where the Zormacht and the Great Beings placed their enemies. The time dilation is so great that those who are trapped would take an eternity to so much as step forward, although it would seem to any prisoners like time is passing normally. That is where you are going to be bound for the rest of eternity, dark ones."
Jareroden then spoke. "Your rule is over, my lords. The future of Spherus Magna is now safe from your ambitions."
"No," began Eostra. "You have doomed the universe now you fool. You have no idea what you are letting yourselves unleash upon this world and many others by doing this to us."
Ixtil snapped. He had heard just about enough of this. Walking towards them, he spoke.
"Your plans are over, monsters. They were very clever ones too, and we had a 97.6% chance of stopping them in the end too. However, there is one thing I never understood about your stratagem: The massacres in Tajun. Weakening the population's stability, yet weeding out spies such as Chameleo without even leaving a trace of your involvement. How did you manage that? What logical purpose did that serve in your masterplan?”
There was a long pause.
"We did nothing," replied the Dark Lord, coldly.
"Oh, come on, your worships. There's no secrets to hold back from us now. Tell us the point of all those deaths," barked Hydros.
"They were not part of our plan's design. We did not engineer those deaths. They were panned by an unforseen enemy. Its intention is unknown, but the murders all imply the same thing: The darkness is coming. The ending approaches. People, realities, and entire worlds will dissolve into nothingness. Because the enemy is awakening. The true foe of Spherus Magna is stirring for the first time in centuries. We realized the nature of this threat decades ago, and for the last several years, we have been preparing this world for its arrival. Even Fairon came to know of it, and for that reason we decided to kidnap him for the safety of the future.”
The Dark Lord paused briefly, staring down his captors deep into their eyes.
“We were preparing Spherus Magna for an unforeseen foe that could destroy all existence itself. We were not trying to conquer the universe, or even enslave it. We were trying to save it. And now that you have overthrown our empire, and ruined our failsafe plans, you have done nothing but doomed all of matter itself!"
The words struck Hydros hard. What was this foe? What information regarding it was locked up in Fairon's head? How could these three know anything about it? So many questions, so little time to answer. In the end, Hydros decided they were bluffing.
Jareroden walked forward and pressed a button on a control panel on a panel of machinery.
"Yeah? Well I guess that this enemy will be our problem now. If we can defeat you, then we can defeat anything! Goodbye, my leaders. It hasn't been pleasant."
And then, in a mighty flare of horrible, blinding light that stunned everyone for a second, the three dark emperors disappeared and were gone. Their exile had begun. Though even as the three resistance fighters departed the room that had once contained their three former subjugators, and strode down the grandiose, empty corridors of Atero, only Ixtil left with concern on his face, his fellow friends obviously concealing theirs’.
What if the emperors were telling the truth? What if there really was a greater menace lying beyond the boundaries of Spherus Magna? I suppose time would tell.
Ixtil decided to dismiss the idea as he, Hydros, and Jareroden approached Atero’s main arena to partake in the victory celebration. And as the three passed through the open doors that lead into the weary, old Arena Magna, and were bathed in blissful feeling of cheers and jeers from a crowd of every species imaginable, Ixtil could not help but smile to himself for the first time in many years. This was now a time of peace, was it not?
Dredzek stood inside the cave that had once been part of the Benjarmin’s fortress. Beside him, Skorpix and Sovnoron sat on small thrones carved into the rock of the walls, their armor and weapons highly scarred and pitted from the battle they had fought in not too many days ago.
Around them, the dark, dusty black coffins and tombs of the Great Beings spread an aura of coldness and death about them, a feeling that sent a chill down even Dredzek’s spine. The Empire was lost, and their supremecy was shattered. The backbone of the Empire that had been the Veiled One Empire had already collapsed, and the few reaming remnants of their army were now fighting amongst themselves with the Empire od Shadows and the Shadow of Ages to grab what little power there was left to pick at, following the Empire’s collapse.
Kingdoms established by Imperial warlords and loyalists were already beginning to pop up here and there, mainly around what was left of the few, outlaying Imperial outposts on the edge of the Empire’s territories in the dead regions of Spherus Magna. These splinter factions were innumerous, and it seemed a different Imperial splinter faction had been established in every single small fortress imaginable in the outskirts of the Empire’s domain.
However, Skorpix, Dredzek, and Sovnoron had all survived, despite the beliefs of the resistance and the public of the world. Their masters may be gone, but their ambitions and goals lived on through their three generals, and they had vowed to live up to their leaders’ legacies.
Finally, Sovnoron spoke up.
“We are in chaos,” he said. “Politics are spiralling out of control. The faceless, backstabbing, venomous delegations that make up our bureaucratic system are all scattering themselves out and grabbing out for power, and our military force had already collapsed, meaning the Empire has been effectively overthrown. We have reached the endgame. We have lost.”
“No…!” growled Skorpix. “It shall not be! The Empire may be divided, but we are not defeated! We have not fallen!”
“We’re not even an Empire anymore,” muttered Dredzek as he seated himself in the third, coal-black throne carved into the room. “We are more or less the fragments of a organization that once existed. We are merely… remnants of the past.”
“You’re not suggesting we surrender ourselves to the resistance do you?!” roared Skorpix.
“Certainly not!” Dredzek barked back. “Doing so would instantly mean public execution as war criminals! No… if we are going to win, and regain our throne, we’re going to have to stretch ourselves out into the shadows, and wait for things to cool down until we are ripe to strike.”
“Our forces are already at each others’ necks,” growled Sovnoron. “Without our leaders, there is no way our groups would remain banded together. We are the only stable variation left of the Empire!”
“Exactly!” snapped Skorpix.
“With the numerous kingdoms left after the fall of the Empire, which will divert the resistance’s attention, we can let them wear themselves down and exhaust their resources until we are ready to strike them down. Let them fight multiple foes rather than one. We will kill them off slowly until we can overwhelm them with ease. We still have a small, united portion of the Empire in our command. We can still overwhelm the resistance and rule reality if we simply think clearly.”
There was a long pause as distant water droplets hit the cold stone ground loudly in the backround.
And then, with that said and done, the three diabolical followers of Eostra, Millennium, and the Dark Lord began hatching their new, centuries-long stratagem.
Nightwatcher stood above a desert dune as the early morning sunlight reflected off his pitted and scarred armor. The final battle between the Empire and the resistance was over, but the outcome had definitely changed him. For better or for worse was not for him to judge, but he definitely felt changed. Inside he did. He sensed a change around him in the aura field, and even his very mind felt... out of character.
Perhaps that was because of what he had learned. During the mental and physical clash between himself and the emperors, Nightwatcher had attempted to strike out at their minds with his Psionic powers, but instead had found himself able to slip into the depths of their minds without them knowing as their minds were as open as a book. He had let his mind linger through their thoughts, and was both disgusted and repulsed at the twisted and dark thoughts that lurked in their mind.
Their mental dreamscape was like an endless, lightless maze, with darkness lying behind every single turn. No wonder their presence in the aura field was such a dead, black spot. The amounts of evil and darkness lurking in their heads’ would tell anyone that. However, behind all of it all, h had realized that there truly was a real threat beyond the Empire. Something dangerous, destructive, and utterly ruthless. It was a monster that was disgusting to even think about, and Nightwatcher could now understand why.
There truly was a darker evil lurking beyond the boundaries of the Empire's grip, and this evil is waiting to be awakened for the first time in 300,000. To be brought through the darkest archway of all. A place which was lost. A place which was old. An place which IS preparing to be stirred...
Nightwatcher stared down at the Girahk in the palm in his hand. It was a miracle that both himself and his pet had survived the final battle in one piece. The Rahkshi stared back at Nightwatcher attentively, obviously waiting for some kind of command.
"Come along, my pet," began Nightwatcher. "We have places to go, enemies to kill, and universes to save. And before you give me a look that suggests that you want to know where we are going, allow me to tell you: We are taking a trip up north to the Spirit's Wish, and this is exactly why..."
And as Nightwatcher talked and chattered off to his pet Rahkshi as he walked off into the first few outcroppings that marked the outskirts of the Black Spike Mountains, Makuta Serrakaan stared off at him in the distance, and made a strange facial jester that should have been a smile.
My time is coming. He thought to himself. My time is coming, and with it is the storm of eternal darkness. And if Nightwatcher believes he can stop the power that is to come, well… I believe it will have to be my solemn duty to… rectify his flawed viewpoint.”
And then, as ghostly quietly as he had arrived, Makuta Serrakaan faded away into nothingness, and vanished from sight as if he had never been there.
And somewhere else, far away into the depths of the Spherus Magna wastelands, the Cold One led his army of Vakra warriors through the empty, sandy hills of the giant desert expanse. He turned to face his warrior army, with the cleansed commander that had formerly been Zaktan at the head of the mighty, white force.
“Come my subjects,” said the overlord in his beautifully musical voice, as he twirled the Scythe of Creation in his fingertips. “Let us see what challenge this… ‘Ultimate Enemy’ has to pose to me and my conquests... and when the apocalypse is over, let the Cold One stand over the ruins of both this universe and my own!”
To be continued in Broken Worlds
- Though Chicken Bond, Varkanax39, and Jareroden97 are the three main writers of Dark Realities, TheSlicer is considered the fourth and honorary writer of the serial.
- Chapter 27 was specially written by Toa Hydros.
- The header image was designed by Jareroden97.
- Though the characters of Fairon, Iruka, and Serrakaan were not originally entered by their respective creators into Dark Realities, they were officially accepted into the story as a special reward for achieving first, second, and fourth place respectively in The Eternal Game.