It was late afternoon, the sky a pale yellow from the sun dipping into the horizon while a warm breeze blew through the small town of Ignacia. As per usual at this time of day, Nya was polishing the merchandise in her father’s shop, just in case a customer happened to stop by.
Ever since her father’s death, business had been slow. There wasn’t a very large demand for weaponry or armor nowadays, especially not in the small, peaceful village. But somehow her father had always managed to reel in customers from far and wide to make a decent profit. With him gone, there was no one to maintain sales, nor stock.
Of course, Nya had some knowledge of blacksmithing, but she couldn’t quite put her heart into it like he had. She’d always had more of an interest in engineering than forging, and as a result, she didn’t have much hope in keeping the shop running for much longer. But she couldn’t bring herself to shut down the old family business.
Nya sighed to herself, eyeing her own reflection in a now squeaky-clean suit of armor. It was hard, being alone. Over the years, she’d managed to lose her whole family and now struggled to make a living just because she couldn’t let the stupid shop go. She didn’t know what she was going to do when she finally ran out of business. She had no one and nothing else to go to.
The girl jumped when she heard someone tapping on metal behind her. She whirled around, surprised to see a strange man inspecting a suit of armor. Strangers weren’t very common in Ignacia. But here was this man, with a full head of gray hair and a thoughtful expression that was accented with wrinkles to tell of his age. He wore dark robes bordered with green and a white overcoat. In his hand he gripped a bamboo staff.
Nya hadn’t heard anyone approaching her home. Where had he come from?
“Oh! Hello, sir!” she greeted him, composing herself. “Can I help you?”
The man hummed as if disappointed. “All this armor is loud and heavy, forged for a samurai. But I see nothing for a ninja.”
“Ninja?” Nya repeated, stifling a laugh. It was strange enough to see an elderly man in a weaponry shop, and now he was speaking of ninja, in Ignacia of all places. “There aren’t any ninja around here . . . But I’m sure I could still find something to your liking. We have plenty of weapons to choose from, suited for ninja or samurai alike.”
“Actually, I’m not here for weapons or armor. I’ve come searching for something much more special.”
“Okay . . .” Nya said, not sure how she was supposed to respond to that.
The man opened his mouth to say something more, but then paused, as if a sudden thought had struck him. He turned, watching the horizon.
Nya followed his gaze. An ominous horde of dark clouds was creeping over the distant hills, seeping into the afternoon sky like poison. As darkness fell, a shape appeared over the rise, followed by even more, smaller forms that shone with bright lights. Nya squinted, trying to make out what they were. Vehicles, by the looks of it, the largest one taking on the shape of a gaping skull. Nya grabbed for a staff as the truck came rumbling down the hill, closely followed by the rest of its entourage.
“What in the world. . . ?” As they neared, she could see that the invaders looked less than human. They appeared to be living skeletons clad in armor, with glowing red eyes and nasty smiles. She’d never heard of creatures like this before, even in her father’s stories, and she couldn’t imagine what they wanted.
“Stay here,” Nya instructed the old man as the invaders drew closer and she stepped outside to meet them.
The truck came to a stop right outside her home. The other, smaller vehicles clustered around it, like rats around homing in on a scrap of food. Then a handful of skeletons dismounted and rushed toward her.
Nya swung the staff with all her might, managing to knock down three at once. She swung at another, but its head popped clean off making her miss. Nya gasped and stepped back as it attacked without missing a beat. She blocked, then kicked it in the rib cage and it went flying. She felt a brief moment of success before realizing that they had the advantage of numbers. Dozens more still surrounded her. She swung and jabbed and kicked, but they wouldn’t stop coming.
She was starting to think that she may not be able to defeat their entire army by herself when she found herself face-to-face with the largest skeleton she had seen yet. A huge scar was etched across his bony face, his brow studded with piercings. But he stood hunched, and for a moment Nya hoped that he wasn’t as dangerous as he looked. Then he pulled out four daggers – with four arms! – and her hopes were dashed. Nya tightened her grip on the staff. She was determined to fight until the end.
The scarred skeleton lunged forward, blades slicing through the air. Nya blocked them as best she could, but she could tell that her staff wasn’t going to last much longer. As soon as she thought this, it was cut in half by one of the monster’s blades. One kick put Nya on her back and she found herself helpless as the skeleton cackled and twirled his four blades.
Nya scrambled backwards, but there was nowhere to run.
Right as the skeleton was about to strike, a shout of “Ninja-GO!” and a flash of purple overcame him, pummeling and punching the skeleton away from her. When the colors faded and the whirlwind slowed, Nya could see that it had been the old stranger.
“Sensei Garmadon,” the skeleton said, apparently familiar with the stranger. “Your Spinjitzu looks rusty!”
“I still have better form than my son,” Garmadon quipped. “But at least he’s not as sloppy as you, Samukai.”
The skeleton growled in retort, and Nya wondered if it was really wise to taunt him like that. While they spoke, Nya took this as her chance to get back on her feet. It looked as if this Garmadon fellow had things under control, but he might still need some help. She glanced around for something she could use, maybe a weapon one of the skeletons had dropped.
But Samukai caught her unawares. With a throaty chuckle, he flung all four knives at the older man. Garmadon was easily able to dodge them, but it soon became apparent that he wasn't the target. They landed with thud into the leg of a nearby water tower. The structure became unbalanced and was sent crashing toward Nya.
“Ninja-Go!” Garmadon quickly whipped into another tornado and pulled Nya out of the way. As she once again struggled to stand, Nya glimpsed the skeletons, Samukai included, clambering back into their vehicles.
“We have what we came for,” Samukai called out. “Wu says to return to the Underworld!” They revved their engines and shot back up the path they had come by.
“They’re getting away!” she shouted, hoping Garmadon would do something to stop them. But he only stood at her side and watched as they drove off, vanishing back over the horizon.
In an instant, she turned on him. “Why didn’t you stop them? They could come back. The whole village will be in danger!”
Granted, he was just one, elderly man against an entire army of skeleton monsters, but with that spinwhatsit move, she was certain he could take down the whole army. But the man simply shook his head. She looked fearfully back at the trails of dust fading over the distant hills. “What were they?”
“That was Samukai, general of the Skulkin army,” he answered. “And if it’s true that he’s carrying out orders for Wu . . .” He sighed. “. . . Then things are far worse than I had feared.”
By now, Nya was seeing this man in an entirely different light than when he first walked into her shop. “What’s going on here? What did they want?” This man had come at just the right moment and seemed to understand everything that was happening. He must have an explanation. “Why did they come after me?”
The gray haired sensei smiled. “Please, Nya, take a seat. I want to tell you a story.”