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Reign of Shadows: The Untold Stories

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One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two. The Rahkshi led a swift march, almost too swift for Macku to handle. Still, she kept up her pace. To drop behind and disrupt the column of Matoran would bring punishment that she might not be able to endure. Better to march to Ga-Metru for forced labor than to be beaten past the point of ever working again.

As she marched, Macku turned her thoughts to the events of the past few hours. It had all happened so quickly, she barely remembered how she had gotten here.

Makuta’s takeover had thrown the Coliseum into a panic. Thankfully, the Turaga had kept order, and carefully, quickly, shepherded the Matoran into the Archives. From there, Turaga Whenua led them to a series of vaults far beneath the surface, deep in the sublevels of the city. The Toa fortified their defenses and launched rescue missions to find stragglers. The experience was harrowing, but after the work was done, at least they had enough shelter to feel safe.

It was an illusion. Makuta toyed with them for a few days, but soon dropped the act, and devoted all of his resources to reclaiming his labor. Using his powers, he tore open the earth, guiding a swarm of Rahkshi into the chambers. Confusion and panic seized hold of the crowd. Some, mostly Ta-Matoran, tried to fight, but they were quickly subdued. Others tried to run, but they didn’t get far. Most of the Matoran huddled together, trying to protect one another and wait for the Toa to save them. But the Toa never came.

It was only later, through whispers and rumors, that the Matoran would learn what had happened. The Toa Mahri had tried to beat back the Rahkshi, but there were too many at once. Outwitted and outmatched, Jaller had made a difficult decision, and decided to retreat. Fighting and dying there would have accomplished nothing for the Matoran’s liberation. Before he left, however, he had told Hafu where they were planning to hide. If any Matoran were in dire danger, they would know where to go.

For now, though, Macku knew not where the Toa were, or even if they were still alive. She knew that the Turaga had been led away in chains, bereft of their masks and badges of office. With their leaders imprisoned and their heroes gone, the future looked bleak for the Matoran.

“Wait - look!” Kai gasped. She nudged Macku, who looked and saw two tall, armored figures striding down the street. “Toa! We’re saved!”

Macku glanced around. The nearest Rahkshi were several paces away on either side. There was a window. If she went now…

Risking it all, she broke away from the line. “Toa Norik! Toa Iruini!” she cried, waving her arms wildly. “Help us! They’ll work the Matoran to death!”

The Toa Hagah looked down at her with surprise. “Macku, what’s gotten into you?” Norik asked. “You know as well as I do that your labors are for the Great Spirit Mata Nui himself. It is your duty to sustain him.”

A new fear crept into Macku’s heart. She looked into Iruini’s eyes and saw none of his usual mischief in them, only bewilderment.

“No,” she said. “He can’t have… Not you, too…”

Norik shook his head. “This is no time for you to be playing games, Macku. There’s important work to be done, and shame on you for neglecting it,” he said, even as a Rahkshi’s staff beat Macku to the ground.

“Go on, now,” Iruini said, chuckling. He waved as Macku was dragged, half-conscious, back into the line. “Get back to your work. Maybe we’ll join you for some games during breaktime, eh?”

But Macku knew there would be no break for some time... perhaps not ever.

~~~

From within the darkest chambers of the Coliseum, the thumping sound of a hand striking a thick metal door echoed again and again, accompanied by exclamations of an increasingly vile nature. “You had better watch out, you shadow-slime Rahkshi, you!” bellowed a particularly irate Turaga. “You aren’t just watch-guarding any old dissenters -- you’re guarding true Toa-heroes! Older and age-wiser, maybe, but still not the weakest trees in the forest!”

“Matau! Calm yourself,” said Nokama. “We need to wait and think, not strike out immediately.”

Onewa scoffed. “We may not be the Toa we once were, but we can’t just sit here, waiting for Makuta to run the universe into ruin.”

“And what would you propose we do? Nothing like this has ever happened before,” said Whenua. “And nothing like it is likely to happen again.”

The Turaga turned to Vakama, but he shifted on the cell bench and held his head in his hands. “My visions show me nothing. Perhaps they vanished with the Great Spirit when Makuta exiled him.” He sighed. “We are helpless.”

“Well... that is not entirely true,” said Dume. As one, the other six Turaga turned to share his gaze. “There is one path left for us to follow… one prophecy left to fulfill. But the time has not yet come.”

He stepped forwards and placed a hand on Nuju’s shoulder. “Look to the stars, my brother. They will tell us when to act. Until then… we wait.”

~~~

Ahkmou stood at the windows of the Coliseum, looking out over the sprawling skyline of Metru Nui. From here, he could see its immense beauty. Yet it paled next to the shimmering sky and the vast ocean, the domains of his master. Of course he would give me the city as a prize only when he’d won something far greater.

He noticed the distasteful thoughts, and pushed them out of his head. After all, Makuta had done so much for him. Makuta had rescued him, reared him, and now, rewarded him. Was this any way to repay him -- with petty resentment?

No, better to thank Makuta for his blessings, and to handle them well. I’ll prove he wasn’t wrong to give me this city, Ahkmou vowed. I will keep order here with every tool I possess. And I will make Makuta proud!

~~~

Islands. Seas. Continents. Domes. Makuta felt his power ripple through and pervade all. He felt the ripples of life ebb and flow through the civilizations within his body, and he felt the incredible strength of a god in physical form. Truly, I am the Great Spirit, he mused. The greatest spirit of all.

He called on his motor mechanisms. Beneath the Silver Sea of Metru Nui, massive cogs ground past one another, craning his neck upwards. Beyond the upper atmosphere, he could see a shining mosaic of gleaming, glittering stars. Each of those stars has its own set of worlds, he marveled. I can see them all, contained within Mata Nui’s vast memory. So many different worlds… worlds of rock, worlds of ice, worlds of fire, worlds of gas… and worlds of water. Worlds where life exists only in a brutal, primal competition, and worlds where none have lifted a weapon in eons. Worlds where life is just beginning, and worlds where time ran out. Worlds that have lived, and worlds that have died, and worlds that can see no end.

“Marvelous, isn’t it?” he remarked, his voice echoing through the Core Processor.

Toa Helryx opened her eyes from her meditative stance. It had been several days since she had been imprisoned here, and still she saw no escape. She had tried, several times, just when she thought Makuta was distracted. Once, she had gotten as far as thirty steps away. But his thoughts always came back to her, and the lethal traps of the dungeon blocked her path. And the pain… the pain of punishment still lingered, fresh in her aging body and mind.

“What nonsense is this now, Makuta?” she growled. “It had better not be another Toa you killed in some ironic fashion. I am getting quite tired of your cruel jests.”

“Are you familiar with planets, Helryx?” asked Makuta. “I imagine so. Mata Nui’s records indicate that you predate the construction of his body by some years. Somewhere in that battered old head of yours are memories of a world long gone… a world from which we were all born, and one which we were meant to save.” There was a rapture in his voice, the tone of someone who has just devised a thrilling idea. “How very tantalizing .”

A wave of horror washed over Helryx. She had thought Makuta would be content to lord over the Matoran Universe, to focus on tormenting his old allies and enemies alike. She had never considered that his ambition could grow any larger.

She thought back to her earliest memories, of awakening on the world of Spherus Magna. The images were vague and dim, but she remembered what she had felt: joy and wonder, and awe at the immense and fantastic landscapes. It was a glorious world, full of vibrant energy, life, and light. But Makuta would destroy that glory and suck the joy from the planet. This, she could not allow.

I assumed the Matoran would be his only victims, she thought, but Makuta poses a threat to all life, everywhere… even Paradise itself. Let him live, and she would doom the planets and all the stars to an unrelenting conquest of darkness. And he would make her watch it all, just as he had for the deaths of her agents, the destruction of her base, and the razing of countless villages and towns.

I can’t put the lives of this universe over the lives of all those outside, she decided. Sacrifices must be made. And as it happens… I have the chance to make the biggest sacrifice of all.

Helryx sat quietly, as Makuta admired the galaxy beyond, and began to gather up her energy. When the time was right, she would strike.