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Journeys of Darkness
Date Set

Journeys of Darkness is a story written by user Chicken Bond. It focuses on the adventures of the Order of Mata Nui member Mersery and his allies during their struggles with Millennium and the Shadow of Ages on the newly reformed planet of Spherus Magna.


Chapter 1[]

On a distant island far to the north of the now non-functional Matoran universe, a dark, twisted being, cloaked in darkness, sat on his mighty throne. Although the figure's body could not be seen, his dark crimson eyes shimmered in the darkness. The figure let a light chuckle echo through his chamber, as he deactivated his telepathic powers.

"As I predicted," the being said to himself. "Spherus Magna has been successfully restored as planned. No doubt the inhabitants of this universe have already fled to the surface of the planet to mingle with the Agori."

At that point, a door opened. A dark figure emerged from it, walking towards the throne, clearly confident of being in the presence of a more powerful being than himself.

"Good evening, Millennium," the being said. Millennium nodded slowly. He knew this figure as both his greatest spy, and his group's go-between and representative with other factions.

"What news do you bring me?" asked Millennium as he rattled his clawed hand against the arm of his massive throne.

"Your spies have successfully infiltrated the new society that is being formed on Spherus Magna," the spy replied. "I doubt they will bother searching for you or the Shadow of Ages anytime soon."

"Excellent! What of the... negotiations with that group of Skrall?" asked Millennium, his tone slightly darker.

"Discussions are... intense, in a manner of speaking. The Skrall are unsure that joining us will make a difference. Besides, they find our secretive nature unnerving, to an extent. Therefore they find us untrustworthy."

"Hmm," answered Millennium. He lifted himself from his throne, and walked towards his agent. "You know what must be done if they refuse," Millennium said, his voice no more than a whisper. "If they refuse our offer, they must be dealt with. No one must know that we exist, especially now that my plans near their completion."

"Yes, Millennium," replied the figure. Millennium turned away from his ally, and walked to another part of his chamber. It was a large room, and had been carved into the heart of one of Chrone's most active volcanoes. He had based the room's design off the laboratory he had been created in by the Great Beings near the outskirts of a village that would later be known as Tajun.

His throne room was part of circular spire that descended into a pool of lava. Connected to this spire were several bridges and pathways, each leading to either a door or a portal leading to other dimensions.

Millennium stopped his pace when he stood before a large table, decorated with charts, records, and texts of untold age.

"This stratagem of mine has been strained by time and unexpected interferences, though everything is now falling into place."

As Millennium's spy bowed and departed, he couldn't help but flinch as the sound of Millennium's dark laughter echoed throughout his chamber.

Mersery stood atop of a small ledge in a region of the jungle known as Bota Magna. He smiled for the first time in perhaps months. Things had been very grim during Teridax's reign over the Matoran universe, and now that he was gone, everyone was more than overwhelmed. The Mersion looked down at the village bellow.

Ever since Makuta's death, the Matoran, Agori, and other species from his universe and this one had agreed to get along peacefully and forge a new and better society. Thanks to the efforts of Mata Nui, the languages of this world had been placed in minds of the inhabitants of the Matoran universe and vice-versa, making it easier to socialize.

Mersery strode down the hill, and into a village. Agori and Matoran were well underway in their work, scurrying about here and there to aid in the construction of their new town. Mersery turned to face a Turaga. He had recently been elected to lead the village.

"Hello there, warrior," said the elder. "Are you here to assist in the construction efforts?"

"Perhaps," replied Mersery, "Though not for long, I need to be with my own people. They are in the middle of migrating to the region known as the Northern Frost."

"Very well," the Turaga answered. "Though stay long enough to see the completion of our village. As you may see, we are already nearing culmination."

With a smile, the Turaga turned and departed, as a group of Agori and Matoran beckoned him to inspect a new structure.

Mersery stared at the working villagers and sighed sadly. He had learned that the Agori had suffered great hardships during their lives, and had also reached the logical conclusion that they were uncertain about living in harmony with other species after spending so long competing to survive. However, debates and disputes would be resolved, and old wounds in both societies would heal over time in the way they always did.

Mersery then walked off, intending to get a better look at the jungle beyond the village. As he ventured deep into the forest, Mersery found himself unable to restrain his fascination for the bizarre plant life and creatures that he came across. He knew he had to study them later.

After several minutes of walking, Mersery entered a large clearing with some noticeably peculiar features. The plant life in the area was arranged to disguise everything around him but the clearing itself, making it the perfect spot for an ambush. What made things even more peculiar, was that the earth before him had been disturbed, as if someone had been attacked or captured.

At that point, a horde of warriors adorned in black and red armor emerged from their hiding places, aiming their swords and launchers at the being who had stumbled into their trap. Mersery recognized them as the same warriors who had previously battled the inhabitants of this world during Mata Nui and Teridax's final confrontation.

The Order member remained still, not wanting the beings to recognize him as a threat. At that instant, another warrior appeared. He was larger than the others of his kind, and was dragging a small red armored Agori by the throat.

"I take it, you're in charge," said Mersery in a remarkably calm tone. The warrior spat on the ground.

"Indeed I am. My name is Tervok, I am a Skrall of the Elite Warrior class. An exile and a castaway. This pest here is an Agori named Falmed. Now, surrender yourself before I am forced to remove his head."

Mersery assumed a offensive stance. "Sorry, my friend, but I'm not in the mood for death dilemmas," he replied in a cold tone.

"Very well," replied Tervok. "Kill him!"

At that second, the surrounding Skrall raised their blades and charged. Mersery closed his eyes, raising his arm into the air, and began focusing his thoughts. He knew he couldn't risk losing his concentration if his plan was to work. At that moment, vines and other plant life erupted from the ground, attacking the Skrall, and forcing them back. Mersery let on smile before turning to face Tervok.

"Your move," he said in a light tone.

Tervok growled in anger. Suddenly, he barked something in a different language that beckoned the still-active Skrall to retreat to Tervok's side.

"If your so powerful, why don't you stop us all?" he roared.

With a bone-chilling war cry, Tervok and his warriors charged, weapons drawn and ready to kill. Mersery drew his staff, and awaited Tervok's attack. However, at the last second, Tervok lowered his sword, and launched a Thornax at his foe. The explosive hit Mersery dead center, distracting him for a second, though long enough for Tervok to tackle Mersery, and send reeling onto the ground. Before he could recover his weapons, Tervok had already kicked his staff and launcher away from his reach.

The Skrall chuckled. "I've fought Vorox tougher than you. Now then, what shall it be? Your life..." Tervok began. A Skrall warrior then approached with a captive Falmed, and pressed his blade against his throat.

"Or his?" finished Tervok with a smile.

Chapter 2[]

Mersery eyes flickered towards the captive Falmed, and back onto the being who stood before him: a charming fellow named Tervok.

"Make your decision," said the Skrall, mockery never escaping his voice. Mersery knew that he himself was in every right more powerful than him, though was also aware that if he dare use his vast array of abilities to defeat Tervok, it would give his other warriors the chance to kill Falmed.

Which now explained his current dilemma.

"Very well," muttered Mersery bitterly, defeat echoing in his tone. "You win."

Tervok laughed hard. "Very well, then. Meet your fate at the hands of the Skrall!"

As Tervok was raised his blade, Mersery noticed out of the corner of his eye what appeared to be plant life melting to ash.

He turned his eyes back to Tervok, a new plan in mind. "Wait!" cried Mersery.

The blade of the red and black armored warrior came to a halt mere inches from Mersery's mask.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked in an attempt to stall time. "Why do you not join the new civilization being birthed on this world at this very moment? The Agori and Glatorian speak of your kind in bitterness, though I believe that if you try hard enough, you make up for your past crimes."

Tervok laughed again. "I'd rather die by Tuma's blade than join your culture of weaklings. The only way my people would rejoin Spherus Magna is as its conquerors!"

As the gathered Skrall let out a roar of approval, they failed to notice the continuing disintegration of the nearby flora.

"We are warriors, not laborers. We don't scurry around attending to mundane tasks, we dominate cities, burn villages, and rule over all. I believe the old saying among our tribe was: We fight. We win. We take. We are--"

Before he could finish his sentence, a massive explosion erupted just outside the clearing Tervok and his allies were gathered in. Flames began consuming the trees nearby, and soon everything in the area was alight, preventing anyone from escaping. A figure, roughly the shape of a Toa, began approaching the wall of fire that burned between itself and Tervok.

Mersery had no idea who this being was, though Tervok certainly seemed to. He called to a pair of his warriors.

"Attack! Ensure he doesn't come into the region until I've dealt with this one."

The two Skrall nodded obediently, and charged forward until they stood before the raging wall of fire that surrounded their territory. Suddenly, the figure seen on the other side raised a sword, and all the flames instantly retreated back into their tool.

Now standing in the clearing, was a warrior adorned in pitted crimson and yellow armour, wielding a menacing sword and a primitive-looking launcher. As the warrior strode forward, his weary eyes blazed with a fiery determination Mersery had not seen in centuries.

"Flardrek," Tervok spat. "I should have known you would have come, when you learned your Agori friend had been--"

The rest of Tervok's words were cut off by the force of a beam light, focused by a launcher held in Mersery's hand. The sheer ferocity of the blast sent the Skrall flying back into a nearby tree.

Mersery then jumped to his feet, grabbed his staff, and slammed its pommel into the ground, sending out shockwaves that knocked everyone but Mersery off their feet.

Tervok's Skrall warriors quickly recovered, and in an instant, had regrouped, staring menacingly at their foe.

"Let's go," cried one. "We can't take them both."

"No! Skrall are not cowards," roared another.

Several Skrall nodded in acceptance, their gaze never faltering from Mersery's.

"Indeed, we are not. But we cannot win when we have two foes with superior power. Now, let's go!"

The other Skrall muttered in agreement, and if somewhat reluctantly, ran off into the jungle without their leader.

Flardrek got to his feet, and raised his sword. In an instant, the remaining flames ravaging the nearby trees were absorbed back into the weapon as if they had never existed. He then looked intently at Mersery. He didn't know who he was, though he looked like an ally. His musings were interrupted by the moaning and cursing of Tervok as he struggled to get to his feet.

Flardrek strode over to him and kicked him hard. The Skrall went spiraling into the dirt. Flardrek then raised his sword and pointed it at Tervok's neck, flames dancing off its tip.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't just let you burn here and now," Flardrek said in a chilling voice. "I lost many good warriors during that battle at the outpost; many dear friends. All at your hands."

Tervok sneered. "They died the death of a warrior, Flardrek. I would of thought that is what you would have wanted."

Flardrek growled angrily.

"They died in cold blood, Tervok. Something your kind are all too well at ensuring."

Tervok let out a mocking laugh. "You believe you were the only one who lost good soldiers that day? My own Skrall warriors died at your hands in an ambush orchestrated by you. Their blood is just as much stained on your hands as they are on mine. However, unlike you, I can easily rally a new battalion of warriors to my cause without ."

"Then where are they?" asked Flardrek, as he eyed the area. "Where have your numerous warriors fled to?"

"They'll be back," said Tervok in a tone mixed with a combination of bitterness and panic.

Flardrek snorted. "I don't think they'll be coming back anytime soon."

"Then what will you do with me? End my life, as you did those of my soldiers years ago?"

"No, I won't. I want you to live a long life, overshadowed by the humiliation that you were defeated by myself and this warrior here," Flardrek said as he gestured towards Mersery.

"I want the world to know that your life was held so easily in my hands; so easily determined by my choice. And because of that, no one will ever remember you with honour, just like none of your kind remember the name of your old leader, Tuma, with the acclaim you once held him in."

With that, Flardrek turned and walked away, stopping only to free Falmed from his chains before continuing. Only Mersery stayed behind to look at the stunned Tervok, and after a heavy sigh, turned to leave. In a fit of anger and rage, Tervok raised himself from the ground and charged at Mersery with his sword, intending to finish off the one who had brought dishonour to his name.

In quick motion, Mersery whirled around, blocked Tervok's blow, sent a kick to his midsection, and delivered a punch to the face that sent Tervok on a collision course with the ground. Mersery looked down pitifully at the Skrall before he left to join Flardrek.

As soon as the three had vanished from sight, a tall, winged figure materialized before Tervok, staring down wearily at the warrior who had fallen before his master's enemy.

"Now do you see your situation," said Makuta Dredzek. "Do you realize why you must accept our offer? You must know you cannot last long on your own. If you join us, we can reunite your forces. And once Spherus Magna has submitted before my leader's empire, the Rock Tribe can be reformed... with you as its head."

There was a long silence following Dredzek's words, which was only shattered when Tervok added one final word to the matter.


Chapter 3[]

Far within the region of the Black Spike Mountains, a lone green and lime armored figure strode through the treacherous terrain of the land.

It had been days, maybe even a few weeks, since Teridax's death, and this warrior had craved to be free of his reign long before the Makuta had finally met his end. But as the former Skakdi warlord Freztrak had always said to his warriors, "never anticipate what the sights of the future may hold. Sometimes death may be a joy, and peace can become a dread."

In this case, life had become an undeniable dread. This planet, Spherus Magna, had been reformed by the Great Spirit Mata Nui himself, and following this, he had opted to remain dormant within the mask of life. Freztrak himself had felt barren dunes turn to vast valleys of hearty vegetation beneath his feet; dried ditches flood with the purest of water, and great mountains rupture out of the ground to tower over the new world.

Many would consider such a miracle something to be praised, but Freztrak had stood out of the crowd for any number of reasons. He was a Skakdi, for a starter, and where he came from, they were not the most welcomed species in the universe. It was not unusual for a Skakdi to be brawled, stoned, or even stabbed by the locals of other lands. Luckily, most Skakdi never left their war-zone of a homeland named Zakaz, and therefore, the opinions of the rest of the universe could not affect them.

Freztrak arrived at a small stream, where numerous strange fish swam. He plunged an arm into the water, and with lightning speed, grabbed hold of a fish, pulled it out of the water, and chucked it into his mouth.

As he chewed and swallowed the unfortunate fish, Freztrak reflected on the days of his life prior to Teridax's reign. Those days were ones of battle, conquest, destruction, and glory. Zakaz was an unstable region; and unstable lands required unstable leaders. Freztrak was one such leader, having previously ruled the northern lands of Zakaz with an iron fist.

He was feared and respected by many of the inhabitants of Zakaz, and has name was spoken in hushed and whispered tones among the Skakdi for his mysterious and aloof nature. These elusive characteristics were only increased when he, if a little reluctantly, joined the Order of Mata Nui, a secretive organization dedicated to serving the will of Mata Nui.

Freztrak had never felt at home among the ranks of the Order, and their leader, Helryx, showed little (if any) care towards the way he felt about his "occupation." So long as he performed his missions effectively, she was happy.

Freztrak was brought back to the world of reality by the sound of twigs crackling. He turned his gaze towards an open clearing, and out of the woods strode a series of black and red armoured warriors, commonly referred to as a Skrall. Each carried numerous weapons, ranging from swords to shields to spiked clubs.

In an instant, a figure emerged up before then from nothing. The figure was shrouded in shadows, and as soon as the silhouette surrounding its body faded, the whole area went dark, before anyone could glimpse at it's features. Suddenly, the sound of screams and armour being shattered echoed throughout the valley.

Skrall cried out in vain for help, one even babbling about a creature called a "Baterra" being the cause of the attack. Finally a chilling roar escaped the mouth of what seemed to be the attacker, and the shadow encompassing the area faded, exposing dozens of injured or dead Skrall.

All of this had occurred in a maximum of twenty seconds.

The survivors panicked as the figure cloaked in darkness approached them, taking strong yet soft strides; concealing the masses of power that it possessed. Finally, it stopped in his tracks and spoke one word. It was in a voice that sounded it had been birthed from darkest pits of the realm of Karzahni; though nonetheless the word was said.

"Run," it said in a chillingly quite tone.

The Skrall warriors, trembling with fear, dropped whatever they had left of their weapons and fled the area, scattering themselves into the forest.

A light chuckle then ruptured from the being's mouth as it faded into nothingness, leaving only Freztrak to view the battlefield. Swifter than a Shallows Cat on the hunt, the Skakdi sped off into the woods.

His destination was undetermined, yet the person he wished to meet was; and Freztrak prayed in his mind that he could only be quick enough to warn him of what now threatened this brave, new world.

Falmed crouched behind a burning shelter, barely being able to comprehend what was happening. It had been only a several hours since Mersery and Flardrek's battle with Tervok when they arrived at the village, and already they were locked in combat with another, powerful, warrior; not exactly Falmed's favourite day-to-day hobby.

He looked over his hiding spot, Mersery and Flardrek were still locked in combat with a being who had identified himself as Skorr. He levitated lightly above the ground, using a pair of wing blades to balance himself. Mersery summoned his telekinetic powers, and lifted a pair of merchant stalls, before hurling them at the bounty hunter.

Skorr dodged the first, still remaining suspended in the air, and used the weapon he carried in his left hand to melt the second into superheated magma. The being chuckled.

"You're going to have to do better than that if you expect to defeat me, Mersion. I've dealt with foes that can command the power to warp people's minds and shred their sanity."

"Then let's try an alternative strategy," cried Flardrek as a he sent a blast of fire at the Zeverek. Skorr performed a mid-air back flip, avoiding the first blast, though was hit in the chest by a second, yet he still remained aloft in the air. The bounty hunter cursed under his breath as Flardrek sent another volley of fire towards him.

This time Skorr did not move. Instead, he pressed a series of buttons on a strange gauntlet mounted on his right arm, and suddenly, a strange, red energy shield that encompassed his whole body was formed. The shield withstood the force of Flardrek's blast, and when Skorr deactivated it, he raised his weapon and showered the Glatorian with his own barrage of destruction.

Rock was reduced to magma in seconds, and Flardrek was sent flying into a small shack by the impact of the blast. Skorr let a smile cover his face. As he eyed the smoldering crater where Flardrek had once stood, he felt his vision abruptly blur. Skorr laughed as he strengthened the mental shields that guarded his mind.

"Nice try, Mersery, I must admit. You managed to disorientate my sight even with my mental shields up."

"How do you know my name?" asked Mersery as he deactivated his telepathic powers.

"I know many things, my friend. I also know I'm getting paid a great amount to complete my mission. So if it's no problem with you, I'm going to kill you, remove your head, mount it on my wall, and collect the technology my client desires. Oh yeah, and make myself a remarkably rich individual in the process."

Mersery chuckled bitterly. "Bounty hunters. You're skills are wasted on mass slaughter and profit. You could become so much more should you have given yourself a true purpose in life."

"I do have a purpose," said Skorr as he swooped down and kicked Mersery in the chest. "And that purpose is offering my skills and talents as a mercenary to anyone who wish to see their enemies' faces wiped off the face of the world. And believe me, It's not a bad lifestyle."

Mersery had just about had enough of this. Standing to his full height, Mersery raised his staff and focused a blast of energy that knocked the bounty hunter out of the air and onto the cold, hard ground.

Skorr chuckled slowly as he rose to his feet and activated his armour's cloaking function, turning himself completely invisible. Knowing the Zeverek would be moving in to make a final strike, Mersery raised his staff, and entered a defensive stance, aware Skorr could strike at any moment.

Suddenly, all forms of combat discipline were forgotten when Mersery felt a massive shock of pain erupt on his left side. When he turned to look at the wound, a tremendous effort considering the agony he was in, Mersery saw the bladed tail of Skorr embedded in his armour. A quick scan of the wound revealed that the stab had not damaged his organic tissue, though was deep enough to cause him great sensations of pain.

The blade then dislodged itself from Mersery's side, prompting the Mersion to slump to ground. Injured, exhausted, and weakened by the venom of Skorr's tail blade, Mersery was unable to even raise his fists as Skorr materialized before him.

"No, I won't let you die today," he began in a faint sing-song voice. "I'm a bounty hunter of the finest class, and as such, I have few truly worthy foes. You'd be surprised as to how dearly I miss my enemies when they're dead and gone. Killing a warrior like you will only allow the enjoyment of such a hunt to die far too quickly, but to prolong it, to toy with your mind whilst I stalk you in the shadows, that'll be much more pleasurable. Now if you excuse me, I have an artifact to steal."

Mersery tried to lift himself, though found he couldn't; his pain already taking it's toll. He tried to rage, to fight, to stand, to prove his might, but the venom rooting itself in Mersery's body proved too much, and he fell to the floor again, watching as Skorr walked slyly towards a burning shelter, blast the door open, and cackled as he walked inside. Mersery then closed his eyes, as he gave into the poison within his body, and then only the darkness greeted him.

Chapter 4[]

Mersery felt he shouldn't be here. Something was nagging at him. Perhaps it was because he had no weapons. Perhaps it was because his armor appeared to be in it's original state prior to that battle with the Makuta who had ruined it. Though perhaps the thing that was nagging at him the most was that he was now standing on one of the snow-capped hills of his home, Versuva, an island in the now powered-down Matoran universe.

No, there was something else not right here. And then he realized what it was. Where were Flardrek and Falmed? Surely they should be with him at the moment. He turned around desperately to look for the two, but they couldn't be found. He calmed himself and tried to think logically.

Obviously, It would appear he was now back in the Matoran universe, though how was the confusing bit. Teleportation? No, he would have regained consciousness during the experience of such a move. Being kidnapped and returned to the island? No, he would have regained consciousness during the long period of time it would of taken to travel here.

As Mersery pondered, a figure emerged from the valley before him. It was a member of his own kind, a female Mersion. She was young, and with a slim, yet strong build. Judging from her youth, it wouldn't surprise him if she was still learning at Versuva's Great Academy.

The female walked up to Mersery and asked, "Are you one of the academy's teachers?"

Mersery wasn't sure how to react to the question. Sure, he had been one of the most revered scholars and scientists on Versuva earlier in his life, but those days were long since behind him. And besides, he had never qualified as a teacher at the academy on Versuva. No matter, Mersery replied in the way that he knew would help solve this confusing matter.

"Yes, I am. I was merely... studying the flora of this valley."

"Well you'd best finish up," replied the female. "The class is waiting to learn."

The young Mersion strode down the hill, followed closely by Mersery. After a short journey, the two arrived on the outskirts of a small city, standing just beyond the gates of the city, was a small group of Mersions being lectured by a much older looking member of Mersery's kind.

The female strode up to the older Mersion, and spoke. "I managed to find a teacher for you, Sir. Judging from what he has told me, I think he's a teacher from the academy."

The older Mersion smiled. "Thank you, my dear. Now return to the rest of the class."

The younger Mersion nodded and joined the rest of her fellow students. The old Mersion then turned to face Mersery.

"Ah, you must be the teacher sent to replace me for today. I'm afraid I'm feeling ill at this moment, and the administrators at the academy said they'd send me down a substitute whilst I departed to rest. I hope your up to the task instructing my class today."

"I hope so," replied Mersery in a slightly puzzled tone. "Tell me, what subject am I supposed to be teaching?"

The Mersion laughed. "Didn't the instructors tell you before you came down? You'll be instructing my class on the ancient mythologies of the universe. Not my favourite subject, as I personally prefer the study of science, though it is a necessary study nonetheless."

Mersery nodded.

"Now if you excuse me," said the elder with a cough, "I must leave now."

Mersery turned to face the class before him. The students stared at him blankly, waiting to learn. Mersery sighed and turned to face a carving with ancient Matoran lettering carved on its large, stone face.

"Well... er... students, I expect you to be taking notes on this translation."

The class nodded, and waited attentively.

"Right," Mersery added with a feeble smile in an effort to conceal his confusion.

"This text is the highlight of your studies, I presume, so listen carefully. It would appear that this script was carved several centuries ago. It's a poetic sort of myth, so it must have been carved by a being either very fearful or skeptical of what he was recording."

Mersery cleared his throat and read the transcript.

"Away from the light, this one strides,
Through barren lands and burning tides.
Deep in darkness this one laughs,
Even the Great Ones raise their staffs.
"Long and treacherous, his path is steep,
Yet he fails to notice those who creep.
His tale is long, and steeped in blood,
Though everyone knows he caused the flood.
"He says he knows and understood,
Though has his learning been for good?
Power is raised, and placed on his crest,
Yet all who live consider it a jest.
"On his whim, the world shall crack,
yet all will cheer within his pack.
He will join the darkness, as it were,
Yet deep inside a light will stir.
"The Wall of Time will soon burn down,
It is here where this one shall be bound.
Though the eye of the storm will have been by,
To say he has perished would be a lie.
"He will wait and watch for his time,
Pray in your mind he is past his prime."

The carving finished there, and Mersery eyed it again to make sure it's contents were certain. The class muttered their thoughts in silence. Mersery eyed the tablet again and again, this time more frantically. He had heard a myth or... prophecy, so to speak, similar to this one some time ago. He knew when he had heard these words ushered, and who had said them, though prayed in his mind that it wasn't who he thought it was.

Suddenly, Mersery noticed something strange. A gap, a flaw, a mistake in the world around him. A lean figure, dressed in a dark cloak with an overshadowing hood, stood in the darkening shade of a alleyway, merely staring at him. No features could be distinguished, only a pair of sinister crimson eyes. Somehow, Mersery knew he shouldn't be there.

Mersery charged at full speed after the watcher, who reacted by running away himself. Mersery chased him into a street filled with stalls and hard-working Matoran. The entity, moved past them in a style that would seem time had slowed down for him, and he dodged the villagers almost effortlessly.

Mersery, on the other hand, was not having such luck; and was ramming his way through Matoran, Rahi, and a few stands. Eventually, he caught up with the figure, and leapt at him, pinning him to the floor.

He stared at the figure's black velvet cape. It was adorned in ancient Matoran symbols which were incomprehensible to the common eye. Mersery quickly scanned the being's clothing, and with a heavy regrets, removed the being's hood. Mersery's eyes widened. For there, now exposed to the glowing sunlight, was the face of Millennium.

"What are you doing here," Mersery asked in a threatening tone. Millennium didn't respond. Instead, he laughed as his evil eyes glowed. Suddenly the air went sour, as if someone had poisoned it's scent, and it soon became infected with a bleak mist. This was followed by the sun's colours altering to that of a red velvet, projecting crimson light in every direction.

To make things even more confusing, white energy began to violently erupt from the eyes of the beings walking the streets, and they screamed. It is horrible. It was a nightmare. It was, Mersery finally realized, the world Millennium intended to create.

Mersery lifted himself off Millennium and walked into the centre of the chaos as the stone ground cracked and reality collapsed around him. Or was it reality? At this rate, Mersery couldn't tell what was real and what was madness.

As Millennium continued to laugh, one final atrocity was added to the cataclysm at hand. A crack emerged in the crimson sky. As Mersery stared at it, the crack opened, and out beamed blinding, white light, bathing the suffering inhabitants of Versuva in pure light. Mersery thought that this would relieve them, but it didn't. If anything they screamed even louder from being in even greater pain.

One Matoran fell to the ground, being in too much pain to continue standing. Mersery rushed to his side and held him, and watched as the light that the crack endowed on him began to dissolve the Matoran. Mersery continued to watch in shock, as the Matoran faded into nothingness, only to reform in black, twisted armour. Mersery dropped the creature that had once been a Matoran in surprise.

The Matoran stared at him for a few seconds as if it was trying to categorize him, before scuttling to Millennium's feet and bowing before him. As Matoran and Mersions alike continued to burn and scream, Mersery, amidst all the chaos, turned to face Millennium and in pure shock and horror said.

"What have you done?!"

Millennium continued to laugh as rock and buildings shattered around them. Then, in a shocking turn of events, four tendrils made of pure darkness ruptured out of Millennium's mouth and ensnared themselves around Mersery. The Order member tried to break free of Millennium's grip but nothing seemed to shatter Millennium's concentration as he began to constrict Mersery.

Tighter and tighter the tendrils squeezed, as Mersery's vision began to blur all the while. Millennium rose to his feet and let out a mighty roar before speaking.

"This is my realm, Mersery. Soon this will become reality, and I will rule!"

With that Mersery finally broke down as Millennium's tendrils squeezed their hardest one final time. The world then vanished into darkness, as Millennium continued to laugh before he faded from sight. Mersery was now in a void of nothingness, his thoughts alone being his only company. Is this the end? he thought. Is this where I meet my death? In a reality that doesn't even make sense?

As Mersery continued to contemplate his doom, a voice could be heard that echoed throughout the whole empty void, shattering Mersery's thoughts.

"Mersery? Are you alright? Can you here me?" It was the voice of the Fire Agori Falmed.

Mersery tried to speak but found he couldn't. Then, the void split open and light bathed into the blankness, much like in Millennium's reality, though this time, the light brought peace and comfort. And again Mersery's vision began to blur and he drifted into the light, whilst the voice of Falmed gradually grew softer and softer.

Mersery gasped and opened his eyes. He was back on Spherus Magna, back in the village he had been in before he had been knocked unconscious, back with Falmed and Flardrek. Falmed stood beside him, treating a wound. He looked up and smiled.

"Ah, at last, your awake! We were getting worried you had slipped into a coma."

"Not a coma," Mersery began. "More like a very bad dream."

He looked around. Agori and Matoran were attending to the damage to their homes, whilst Flardrek was inspecting a small house on the outskirts of the town with the village's Turaga and a number of others.

Mersery tried to stand, but a stabbing pain forced him to sit back down. Falmed sighed.

"Your lucky some of these villagers had the necessary herbs to cleanse your body of Skorr's venom," said the Agori. "Had they not had them, well... we don't need to go into details, but I doubt you would be speaking with us right now."

Flardrek turned his head, and upon realizing Mersery was conscious, raced to his side.

"Mersery, you've got to come with me."

"Why," he asked. "Is something wrong?"

Flardrek placed his arm on Mersery's shoulder, prompting him to wrap his around Flardrek's, and the Glatorian managed to lift Mersery to his feet.

"I think you'd better take a look at this," said Flardrek as they walked towards the house he had been inspecting earlier.

Chapter 5[]

A Skrall warrior slumped down in front of a warm campfire and stared up at the star-lit sky of Spherus Magna. Surrounding him were fellow members of his kind. His gaze returned to the dull fire, the flames weakly flickering, and he contemplated the last few days.

Contemplation was not something Skrall did often. They didn’t look inwards or backwards, instead, they preferred to look forward. To the future. To conquest. To victory!

However, these last few days had been trying indeed, even by the standards of a Skrall. After the great battle between two gigantic mechanoids, and the reformation of Spherus Magna, most Skrall warriors had either been captured or scattered into the wilderness.

This particular Skrall warrior had been under Tervok’s command in the aftermath of the massive battle, and under his leadership, had attempted to journey back to the Skrall’s original homeland within the jungles of Bota Magna, with the rest of his comrades. During their journey, the group had stopped to make camp in the forests, but their position was unwittingly discovered by a fire Agori named Falmed, who had been searching for resources to aid in the construction of a small village.

Not wishing the Toa and Glatorian to discover them, Tervok had the Agori captured and held hostage. That was perhaps the elite Skrall’s most fatal mistake. Shortly after Falmed’s capture, a search party was formed to find the Agori, forcing the Skrall to remain on constant alert.

After a being named Mersery stumbled into their hideout, Tervok blackmailed him into submitting to a death sentence in order to preserve Falmed’s life. Before they could kill him, however, an old war rival of Tervok’s, named Flardrek, arrived and defeated elite warrior himself in combat.

Fearing capture, the other Skrall had fled and abandoned their leader. Things only got worse when the fighters wondered into a clearing where they were brutally ambushed by a mysterious entity cloaked in darkness, who swiftly injured or killed a large majority of the Skrall’s number.

The Skrall warrior raised his head at the sound of footsteps approaching, and promptly grabbed his saw shield. The other surviving Skrall grabbed their weapons too, and readied for whatever creature was coming their way.

When the figure emerged from the shadows, all Skrall lowered their weapons in shock. The being who they had expected to see the least was now standing before them yet again.

Tervok’s mouth curved into a smile.

“Good evening, traitors,” he spat. “What has brought you into such a ravaged state?”

The Skrall warriors didn’t reply.

“H-how did you escape,” asked one curious Skrall. “We all thought you had been captured by that Glatorian fiend and his behemoth of an ally.”

Tervok laughed.

“You know me better than this, my friends. Did you really expect a weak warrior like Flardrek to keep me captive? I commend your failure at trying to predict my fate.”

The gathered Skrall remained silent for seconds, before Tervok spoke up again.

“Though I do know you abandoned me out of fear, my allies. You left me to face the wrath of a newly formed civilisation just to save your own hide.”

Silence continued to echo following Tervok’s words.

“However... I’m feeling strangely merciful today, and I will allow you to serve under me again.”

“Really,” asked a soldier. Tervok lowered his head into a menacing posture.

“Of course… Though I expect absolute loyalty, starting from now.”

“We submit,” said the assembled Skrall in unison.

“Good…” whispered Tervok. “Good.”

“Leader, we have much to tell you of what has happened as of late,” said one warrior.

“As do I,” added Tervok. “As I have made an alliance with a group that could possibly reform the Rock Tribe; and set us up as the rulers of Spherus Magna!”

“Who are these people,” asked another Skrall.

“Why should I tell you,” started Tervok. “When I can show you!”

At that moment the air chilled, and leaves and twigs gave way as the bat-like form of Makuta Dredzek materialized beside Tervok. The other Skrall whispered in shock and fear, and slowly started to back away. Dredzek shot them a glance that froze the warriors right dead in their tracks.

“W-what manner of creature is that,” spluttered a fearful Skrall.

“I am a Makuta. One of the most powerful beings in existence, and one of the last to still breathe the air of life… If I could breathe.”

“It talks?! How does it talk? How does it do that?”

Dredzek snarled, and a dark arm of crimson energy shot out from his chest, grabbed the terrified Skrall, and retracted him into his body. The other Skrall stared at Dredzek, total fear flickering in their eyes.

“I am not an ‘’It’’, as that fool put it. If you wish to continue living, then you will show me some respect.”

The other Skrall nodded in fearful obedience. Then another warrior spoke up again, expressing enough bravery as to question the Makuta.

“Why do you want to help us?”

Dredzek’s fanged mouth shaped into a smile, an uncharacteristic feature for one such as him.

“Because my master believes it would be… beneficial for both our groups if we work together to further our agendas. And if you are willing to join us, then the plans of Millennium and the Shadow of Ages will set us up as the rulers of all that exists!”

An icy storm chilled a mountain on Spherus Magna. The mountain was a new formation on the planet’s face, having erupted from the ground when Mata Nui revived the planet. Now, it towered as one of the tallest mountains one could see.

Near the very top of the mountain, a single figure stood, eying the world below. Although he could not clearly see the villages and settlements before him, he could easily distinguish their rough shapes. At that, Toa Soalaz turned away from the mountain peak and started his trek down the mountain.

This place had everything he required to call a home. It was uninhabited, it was quiet, and above all, no one would journey here. At least that’s what he believed until he noticed a silhouette shifting in the shadows.

Soalaz removed his sword from its scabbard, and assumed a battle stance. A few seconds passed before the veteran Toa spoke.

“Show yourself.” He said in a chillingly calm voice. Nothing emerged out of the blizzard.

Soalaz sighed, and activated his eyepiece. After mentally adjusting the device to suit his needs, Soalaz began scanning the area with infrared vision. Minutes passed as he viewed the landscape until he heard the delicate sound of snowflakes being crushed.

He turned his head to the area of the noise, and examined a distortion in the snow.

A footprint, he thought. Roughly the same size of that of a Toa or a...

Soalaz eyes widened, as he realized who his unseen enemy was. Or a Skakdi!

Soalaz spun around too late to see what has happening, though when he turned his head, his eyepiece could make out the form a Skakdi warrior leaping at him, weapon in hand. As the warrior landed on him, Soalaz could only look at his attacker in shock as he roared and added a mind-numbing blow to the Toa’s head.

As he fell unconscious, only one word echoed throughout Soalaz’s mind as the world around him blurred. Help.

Chapter 6[]

Shadows shifted off Skorr's body as he strode through a towering canyon. He had retrieved what his employer desired, and now he was searching for the beings he had agreed to meet with in order to exchange the fruits of his victory. For his employer, it was a mysterious artifact. A strange component of an unknown design or purpose. For Skorr, it was a reward so great that it made the fees the Brotherhood of Makuta had once offered him in the past look puny.

The fact that he had fulfilled his mission only served to increase Skorr's impatience to retrieve his payment. And an impatient Skorr was the last thing a client wanted becoming a problem. Skorr stopped. He sensed a... presence. Something strange, something alien.

When he turned around, his gaze met nothing. All he saw was an expressionless face that showed no emotion. And the word 'expressionless' described the being's face almost perfectly. After all, he had no facial features to express.

"Faceless," muttered Skorr bitterly. "I... wasn't expecting you to be my payer."

"Whether you like it or not, Skorr, Millennium has sent me to 'reward' you. Now hand over the artefact."

"Please, old friend, save me the friendly little demands and pay me before I am forced to remove one of your limbs. Or maybe two."

"If you two can please stop arguing perhaps we can reach an arrangement."

Skorr looked down to see a small orange and black armoured Agori standing beside Faceless.

"My name is Hanzek. I'm an ally of Millennium. I was sent down to make sure negotiations... ran smoothly."

Skorr nodded. The fact that he had not throttled the pair to death was a miracle enough as it was. Finally, almost reluctantly, he passed over the artifact into Faceless' hands.

"Excellent," the Dark Hunter whispered.

Skorr raised his sword menacingly. "Perhaps we can return to the subject of my payment. I would like it now."

Hanzek pulled out a small bag, which Skorr snatched out of his grip in an instant. His eyes gleamed greedily as he counted his loot.

“Your mission doesn’t end here though,” added Faceless.

“Oh? I was under the assumption that I was hired to retrieve this device for your master.”

“Yes, one device out of six.”


“Yes, Skorr. We have recently deduced that there is more than one of these... things across the planet. Unfortunately, you had already gone off to collect the first one before we could inform you fo this revelation. Millennium wants all six relics for his purposes.”

Skorr's eyes narrowed. "How do you expect me to find these devices? Where are they located?"

Faceless cleared his throat as he lumbered forward. He was a behemoth of muscle, armour, and dark green, and his arms looked powerful enough to rip a Rahkshi in two.

"The Great One has been studying the incomplete myths surrounding these devices," he began, gesturing to the relic Skorr had kept attached to his utility belt. "However, not long after you set off, he discovered something new in an old fragmented transcript he was rereading. He discovered what was left of the original tablet actually doubled as a map. It held some kind of secret compartment, that when opened, revealed what was left of some strange scroll made of an unknown material. This scroll turned out

"Why didn't your boss discover this sooner," inquired Skorr.

"This was one of the few tablets in his collection that provided him with any information on what he sought," said Hanzek in a 'matter-of-factly' tone. "He did not want to risk damaging it in any way. This tablet was ancient and very fragile."

Faceless then came forward and put something in Skorr's palm, rather forcefully the Zeverek noted. When the brute stepped back, Skorr saw a small piece of parchment (that felt it was made of some soft, thin and musty material) lying in his hand.

"That map will give you a general idea of where to find the objects we seek."

Skorr removed his eye from the scroll (which he had already began examining extremely closely) to eye his employer's envoys. "General idea?"

"The map only specifies the regions of relics; it does not actually pinpoint their precise location. You will need to be resourceful and find ways to find their exact resting places. Still, this should pose no problem for a hunter of your experience and expertise." Faceless said those last words with a heavy amount of mockery present in his voice. The Zeverek ignored it.

Skorr paused for a moment as he unclipped a compartment of his belt and placed the map inside. He then looked up at the two representative's with a rock-hard stare. “You do know you’ll have to pay me extra for the gathering of these artefacts?”

“Indeed," said Hanzek as he stepped forward. "We are willing to pay you for your services. Thirty thousand is our offer.”

“I’ll take your offer, though I request thirty thousand for each artefact I retrieve.”

“Each?!” screeched Faceless, a mixture of shock and anger contorting on his face. “Thirty thousand is enough as it is for all the equipment!”

“If you want my services you must first fulfill my requests. If you cannot pay me, then I won’t help you.”

A silence that felt like an hour passed by before Hanzek replied. “Very well, we shall accept your demands. You will receive thirty thousand for each artifact you retrieve.”

Skorr nodded silently, a smile curving onto his face. No words needed to be said as he handed the stone-like relic over into Faceless' open claw. This was all simply good business. Then, in a motion faster than the eye could follow, he activated his wing blades and soared off into the sky, leaving behind his two speechless employers.

Millennium sat on his throne, the thoughts of his plan rolling through his mind. It was a truly brilliant scheme. One which encompassed not only the events of the present, but those of the past as well. He chuckled softly as he leaned back into the dark overshadow of his throne, his bloodred eyes piercing the darkness.

Using his telekinetic powers, Millennium forced a stone tablet to rise from one of his desks, and float gently into his hands. He gripped the tablet firmly as he scanned its contents. Two beings beings were depicted on it; one a Toa of Fire, another a winged Makuta.

Oh, you two fools had no idea what a part you are playing in my plan, he thought to himself.

The way you stubbornly walked around, blind of my intentions, is almost humorous.

Millennium leaned forward to get a better look at the carvings, toying with the tablet in his clawed hands. But if anything is certain this day, then it is that no would ever suspect that Toa Vakama and Makuta Teridax have evolved into the pinnacle of my entire plan!

With an almost mocking laugh, Millennium lunged the tablet into the air, which eventually collided into the far wall with a satisfying shattering sound.

No one can oppose me. No one can stop me. And soon, all of existence will have no alternative but to bow before my will. Yes... At long last.

Mersery stood inside a small hut, his eyes scanning the bizarre sight before him. Beside him were Flardrek and Falmed, who shared his equal view of confusion. Though whilst they looked at the sight before them with puzzlement, Mersery stared it with pure fascination and interest.

"And your certain something was taken from within this... 'chamber'?" asked Mersery.

"Indeed," answered Flardrek. "That bounty hunter left behind a series of distinctive marks in this room that indicates he stole something."

Mersery nodded slowly, and proceeded to advance towards the chamber. It was a very strange room to find in such a small simple hut. After all, unknown rooms hidden behind the wall of your home, tend to have that affect. Mersery had examined several times the exterior of the hut, which had been built against a large rock formation embedded in the ground. The far wall of the hut's interior was entirely made of rock, and right now, a majority of that wall had been melted down to reveal a descending set of stairs that lead to a chamber with a small, stone column.

"Fascinating," began Mersery. "This chamber has some kind of... perception filter."

"perception filter?" asked Falmed.

"Yes, Falmed. A telepathic effect which misdirects the senses around itself or the being using it. If you were to use such a method of perception, you would direct attention away from yourself, rendering you unnoticeable."

"Then how could some break into such an 'invisible' chamber?" inquired Flardrek.

Mersery spoke. "Simple: The person who broke into this chamber already knew it existed. In this case, Skorr knew it existed."

"You've lost me there," replied Flardrek.

"A perception mechanism of this kind can only work if the beings it is affecting does not actually wish to locate the entity or object being shielded. In this case, Skorr was looking for this shielded room, and since he knew where it was, it was unable to shift his senses off it."

Mersery strode forward, the pain and strain inflicted on him earlier having finally vanished. Perching himself on the edge of the first stair, Merery scanned the room for anything that might suggest theft.

"The question is, what did Skorr steal?"

Mersery, Flardrek, and Falmed strode out of the hut, and stared out into the distance as the sun set, marking the end of the day.

Mersery's mind was buzzing with unanswered questions, theories, calculations, and dark concepts. What was the meaning of his dream? And what significance could Millennium be playing in all this? Among all of Mersery's worrying questions, however, one certain goal emerged: Millennium must be found.

Suddenly, noises were heard in the distance. Agori? Skrall? Skorr back for another raid?

In fact, it turned out to be none of those possibilities. When Mersery and his companions turned to see two figures striding across a dune, dull sunlight glittering off their armour. One of these beings was a Toa, bearing pitted and battle-scarred white armour. The other was a warrior that both Mersery and Flardrek knew of old. Flardrek raised his sword to attack, though Mersery gestured for him to not. When the pair were close enough Mersery spoke.

"So, Freztrak. And the famous Toa Soalaz, what brings you here?"

"Many things," began Freztrak. "We have much to talk about. And Mata Nui protect us if we're too late."

Chapter 7[]

Rain fell in great clumps as it melted into the soaked the sands of a long beach that stretched across the border that divided the mainland from Spherus' Magna's vast seas. Once, more than a few months ago, the inhabitants of a now-destroyed island that had floated out in the depths of this landless region had called it the Endless Ocean. That place had now since been destroyed by a 40-million foot tall robotic being hosting a universe of strange biomechanical beings, designed as nanotechnology within the machine. In the language of the Agori, this ocean was called Aqua Magna, which literally translated into the Great Sea.

The rain mingled with the roaring wind that screamed across the beach to form an almost fearful storm, that tossed the sea around in the darkness that determined the time of the day. It was nightfall. Even as the howling winds hit the cliffs and scratched at the shore of the beach, it did not faze two dim, ember-like eyes that shone faintly on the beach; unblinking and staring out onto the screams and churns of the downpour and the stormy sea. The clouds grumbled and rumbled and spat down at the ground below with incredible hatred on the few who weren't sheltered below.

The eyes' owner scanned the area, totally unfazed, as if a light summers' breeze was brushing against his armoured form. These eyes stared out at the ravaging storm just below the horizon line, noting and taking in every detail as the wind met the sea, and sprayed water out everywhere, even as the thunderous clouds above cackled and laughed like amused forces of nature.

He frowned. That notion to his character had been developed so as to allow him to observe his surroundings from afar and calculate a strategical plan for whatever situation my befall him. It shamed him. He had been designed for battle. He had been intended for killing. He had been intended to be used as a weapon of mass destruction; the slaughter of the innocent and the massacre of the good. Everything that had defined him was solely intended for the purpose of dealing death to others, which fit his creators' plans just fine.

Had it not been for an error in the thing his creators had viewed as his "programming," a glitch so to speak, then it is likely he would not have developed a conscience of his own and proven he was indeed an intelligent and truly sentient form of life, not a mindless, artificial bringer of doom. he had been wise enough to flee his masters' vengeful wrath, and taken refuge in this new strange world in exile and refuge. A world that was totally alien yet vaguely familiar at the same time. It had taken him many years to learn the trades and customs of the multiple races and species that resided here, all bumping into each other.

Their ways, societies, languages and habits were much different from the ones he knew, and they were all very fascinating, and easily worked into the background life of the universe. A precious bounty one rarely took notice of in the wake of all the warring brought around by resources, greed, distrust and sometimes the forces of destiny. The peoples of this world were all unique and interesting, and he and taken much joy and pleasure in researching and studying the intricate nature of all these lands and places. But the time for relaxation and leisure and study had now passed. The time for seriousness and contemplation had finally come to his doorstep.

Rain dribbled down his navy armour, melting in with the clolour and leaving a wet trail behind as the drops continued to slither down. He remained undaunted in the task before him. He closed his eyes, and then lightning flashed, a bright bolt of light that struck down and crackled like nothing in the world. The sound was striking, but the traveller on the beach neither flinched nor retreated.

And when he opened his eyes again, a hazy, slightly transparent figure stood before him, a concerned look on his face that seemed just a tad wistful. He was unnamed, but whoever this person was, he radiated pure power and authority with grace that belied any other being in existence, and he seemed to do this almost effortlessly.

"I see you have summoned me, master," said the traveller as he stared at the ghost before him, for lack of a better word. Ghost was the only thing he could coin to this character; spooky, not quite there and yet very much here.

"Indeed," he replied. "Events are moving forward, even in this time of peace and rebuilding. Spherus Magna is not safe. Ancient evils and forgotten foes are starting to gather their resources to strike out against not only this world, but the uncharted realms beyond it. We need to initialize our stratagem. It is now time."

"Surely there is another way?" pleaded the traveller somewhat desperately. "There must be some other alternative to what we must do to set up events."

"I'm afraid not, my friend. As much as I wish there could be. The failsafe must be initiated now before events spiral beyond our control. The pieces have been put into place, but now we can only hope that we can execute the plan with emotionless precision. Destiny is calling on the key to our safety, and the key of our plan must carry out the plan no matter what. It will be your job to make this so."

"Is this my mission?" the traveller asked. "To set in motion an unstable plan, that if unsuccessful, could doom existence as we know it?"

"It is a risky plan that was rushed in its final developments," the other admitted. "But its the only hope we have. Would you rather we do nothing and cement the fate of everything, or take a gamble and try to save everything that matters?"

The traveller didn't reply. Instead he let an inaudible grunt escape his lips.

"What would you have me do?"

There was a short pause that felt like it spanned eternity, and the rain fell and hit the ground in-between.

"For now, nothing. The time that will beckon you to begin your task will come soon, but not now. For now, you will wait for met to give the signal, and then your duty to your place that has become your refuge may begin."

"But how will I know when to begin? What signal shall be given to bring forth my service?"

The ghost began to fade slowly, smiling gently as he did so. "You'll know when the time comes. We'll be in touch."

And then he was gone.

The traveller sighed and turned away from the spot where his secret mentor had stood. And as he hobbled away from the scene, leaning heavily on his great staff for aid and support, Rernahk couldn't help but feel a twitch of worry cross his brow.

Smoke drifted across the night sky somewhere else, far away. The dry, tentacles of wispy air smeared the beautiful portrait of the deep night sky, as the stars above glimmered like the lights of Metru Nui. Somewhere in the constellations and courses of these uncharted orbs was a single, glowing Red Star. No one knew what it was, and no one expect to ever know what it was.

And the source of the wispy smoke flickered lightly, and the dying flames of a campfire licked away at the dry wood as several figures sat gathered around the glowing flames. Each were of varying size, colours, builds, and races but all had the same look in their eyes. And one of those seated around in the gathering, wearing bright white armour that shone out in the darkening nightfall, decided to finally speak up, and break the silence that had echoed in their minds for minutes.

"So once Freztrak told me all he knew, we decided to head back down here to find you in regards to this... incident. He suggested we find you; saying you'd have an idea of what to do."

The white one finished his tale. The one he had directed his words to didn't reply, his gaze instead fixed on the the dancing fire. His eyes looked weary and tired, and he radiated a feeling of ancient age and otherworldly perception. He was taller than the rest of them, even as he sat there staring at the burning wood, but all felt he was thinking exactly what they were thinking. Without so much as even shifting his gaze he spoke.

"This is very troubling news you bring, Toa Soalaz. A terror attack against anyone, even the Skrall, by a force as powerful as you imply, is something worth worrying about. We cannot afford to let this creature or entity stay out there without being kept in check."

A smaller character, adorned in grey and crimson armour looked at the taller being. His armour was weathered and cracked in some parts, and sand was caked in some of these gaps. His helmet bore a design from a different time, and his eyes gleamed with the inquisitiveness of someone much more youthful than himself.

"What do we do now? What are you expecting us to do?"

Flames suddenly burst out from the almost dead fire, and an ornate sword shaped like a flame glowed and then dimmed out again. Its owner was staring balefully at the being sitting across from him.

"How do we know this... this savage has information we can rely on? For all we know, he could be leading us into some kind of trap set up by the rest of his kind."

The being across sneered and spat on the ground. "The name's Freztrak, fire-head. Just because I nearly killed you a couple of weeks ago, doesn't mean that you have any right to judge the quality or accuracy of my information. Besides, Mersery and I go way back."

The one named Flardrek shot a narrowed-eyed glance at his taller companion. Mersery shrugged wearily.

"He speaks the truth. I once saved Freztrak from a very close execution, and employed him as an ally in my... circle of friends. He was a spy and informant on his people's activities, and he still owes me a favour for saving his life, so he might as well be telling the truth."

"But Mersery!" growled the Vulcanus Glatorian. "That desert slime tried to help that robotic mechanoid creature you called Teridax! For all I care, he betrayed your world and people to save his own hide. Sand worms like him don't deserve the trust and forgivingness of others."

"That isn't the way people should be portrayed," spoke a new voice, as the sound of something resembling a metal pommel scrapping against the muddy ground resounded around them. The assembled watchers turned their heads to see a small, Matoran-like figure leaning on an antique staff approach them, taking slow and steady steps towards them. Mersery knew him as the Turaga elected to lead this half-ruined village that he had met earlier.

"Turaga," he said respectfully, as he inclined his head. "What brings you here?"

The Turaga's expression looked grim in the light of the campfire, and his eyes were wide with worry.

"Huts burned. Equipment destroyed. Shacks half-destroyed. Villagers injured. Furniture and statues ruined. This village is now in absolute tatters! It was one of the most important and hopeful projects set up by the peace leaders of our world to establish a firm building block in the relationships between the Agori and the Matoran. And now that this social experiment has been ruined by some overly-ambitious mercenary, tensions are going to spark between the two societies and maybe result in a total meltdown if things get out of control!"

The tribe leader looked like he would stumble and fall over in response to the pressure, yet he remained unyielding. That had always been one thing Mersery had admired about Turaga: their bravery, wisdom, and level-headed perception in times of stress and danger. The Turaga continued to approach them until he stood right beside Falmed, looking intently at the Fire Agori.

"Get a message out to Tahu, Ackar, and Kiina and tell them what's occurred here tomorrow morning, Falmed. They need to be informed of what has happened here."

"Very well, Turaga," Falmed nodded. "I'll set off to the main camp site when the sun rises at dusk tomor—"

"Wait!" barked the Toa named Soalaz, as he jumped off the seat he was planted on. "Turaga, name yourself! Who are you?"

The Turaga reacted with bewildered surprise. "W-why I am Turaga Feex. Recently-appointed elder of this settlement. There's nothing particularly intresting about a silly, old..."

His eyes widened. "By the Great Spirit! Soalaz? Is that you?"

There was a silent pause. And everyone else in-between watched in anticipation. The Toa and the Turaga simply stared at each other, shock visible on both of their faces. It was slightly creepy to see Soalaz's emotions so exposed like this.

"How many centuries has it been?" asked Feex. "At this point, I've lost track."

"Centuries pass by too quickly for old friends," replied Soalaz. "Perhaps I can associate that with the busyness of my personal lifestyle."

There was an exceptionally grumpy growl from the muscled green warrior in the corner, whose toothy face bore a frown in the wake of this conversation.

"Mind telling me who this walking Stone Rat is? He doesn't look particularly important in my opin--"

Freztrak's words were cut off when he was sent flying backwards from a bolt of ice and spiky frozen shards that knifed through the air and straight into his armour. Soalaz lowered his blade slowly when he thought the ex-warlord had suffered enough.

"Feex here, was one of the very first Toa in existence in the early days of our universe, one of the first Toa of Iron of the day. He was the protector of my homeland, west of the Southern Continent. Eventually, he sacrificed his power to turn me into a Toa, and he became a Turaga. We were split from each other when Zyglak invaded our homeland. I thought him dead after we migrated."

Feex chuckled lightly. "Obviously I avoided the fate that befell so many others. Our homeland may have been lost, but the spirit of its villagers lived on through the survivors. Mata Nui blessed us that year with the strength and courage to withstand those hardships and build a new village. Now, I can only hope that that same spirit can be reincarnated here in on this new world."

"Home," muttered Flardrek. "I haven't known my own home for centuries. I may seek it out once this rogue killer is dealt with. I have longed to stand in the place I once called home again."

"And where was "home" to you?" asked Feex inquisitively. "Where was it?"

The Vulcanus Glatorian smiled, though his face looked tired. "Long before the great war that devastated this world, I lived in a valley deep in the land of neutrality. A place between the blazing heat of the Great Volcano and the treacherous nature of the Black Spike Mountains. It was a small settlement, and the community was hardworking and prosperous. We were expert forgers and were among the first of the Fire Tribe's villages to receive the ores and metals the now disbanded Iron Tribe sent to us.

"I was never a blacksmith myself. At the time, when I was as young as that Gresh kid from Tesara, but I wanted to see the world beyond my home. So, naturally, I signed up and became a convoy navigator, and I led caravans to the numerous cities and towns across the world. But no matter where I traveled, that sleepy village I came from never ceased to amaze me the most. A place I could always come back to. Of course, that was all before the war started."

Feex nodded slowly, having taken in every last drop of information and stored it into his head. Freztrak laughed.

"You've all lived the life of luxury! Where I come from, war is a fact of life. It was much like this place before Mata Nui revitalised it; barren and decaying."

"Well, what can we say," grumbled Soalaz. "Zakaz has never been a very popular tourist destination."

Then Feex turned to look up at the gigantic form of Mersery, who was relying heavily on his staff like a cane. His eyes looked drained and exhausted as they gazed into the fire.

"And what about you, stranger?" asked the Turaga. "Tell us of your homeland. The way I've heard it described, Versuva sounds like a paradise."

"Perhaps a paradise to look at as an outsider. And it was, it was stunningly beautiful. A snow-capped land of ancient cities and majestic temples, each home to sources of knowledge and insight that could be found almost nowhere else in the universe. As crystal-coloured streams flowed down from the soaring mountains into meadows of the deepest navy-blue, the colours of the water would reflect off the copper leaves of the thick and ancient oak trees.

"Further away to the heart of the land, the endless mountains would go on for days until you reached the core of the island. In-between the gigantic twin mountains of Cardon and Doriah, there lay the ageless city of Keadrah, caught on the slopes, with each building styled like the Great Temple on Metru Nui. In the mornings, the clear and cloudless aqua blue sky would be bathed in the orange light of the sun, and would make the trees and the water look like they were on fire. And on the coasts and peninsulas of my home, the seas would shine like a supernova as the crystalline-coloured coral reefs sparkled with pride, as if the soul of Mata Nui himself was passing his blessing onto them."

The group was quiet as they tried to imagine such a place of raw beauty and peace. Then Flardrek asked the question which had been on everyone but Freztrak's mind for a while now.

"Who are you?"

Mersery looked away from them, his eyes heavy and elsewhere. "I'm simply a traveller. A traveller with an old score to settle with Millennium and his religion that worship him the same way the Matoran worship Mata Nui. It is truly disgusting."

"But you must be more than that," said Feex. "What can you tell us about yourself?"

Mersery paused for a moment to flip through the chapters of his life. He looked over his little-known defeat of the Xevthian Empire. His membership in the Hand of Artakha and the Order of Mata Nui, both the secretive defenders of the universe. His actions during the bitter war against the Brotherhood and against Teridax. His personal fruitless hunt for Millennium across the universe. Then he decided on something.

"I'm a scholar, a scientist and a philosopher all rolled into one. On my homeland, I was a Grand Scholar. Due to having the most revered position on the island, perhaps even more so than the position of actual ruler, I was given greater permission to fiddle around with chemicals and mixtures, odd bits-and-bobs and fancy concoctions. I was allowed to study whatever would be beneficial to my people or would have a breakthrough in science."

Mersery shot a glance at Freztrak, as a sign he didn't want either of their allegiances to the Order revealed.

"Then why did you go to become what you are now? Why choose to become some vigilante fighting bounty hunters, Skrall, and megalomanic tyrants?"

Mersery smiled lightly. "Some people can be be blissfully ignorant of the cruelty and injustice around them, and others can't. I like to think I fit into the latter of the two categories."

There was a brief silence around the campfire, where everyone stared deep into the flickering light. Finally, the emotionless and cold voice of Soalaz shattered the quietness like an stone shattering an icicle.

"Then what do we do now?" he asked. "What do we do about this Millennium?"

"Well, certainly the first thing we are going to do is see if we can track down this bounty hunter and see if we can get any leads from there. Then we can go on to try and locate these suspects and see whether we can gather any information to take us straight to Millennium. We should..."

Flardrek's mind trailed off as he gazed into the fire, Mersery's voice quickly faded as his eyes were drawn deeper and deeper into the fire, until it felt the whole world around him was blurring out of existence. All that mattered was the fire.

The person was walking.

No, limping would be more precise.

He was limping across the sand; the look of guilt, regret and sadness plastered on his face. His brow was troubled, and his eyes were weary, as if a great decision was weighing on his shoulders.

The grey sky rumbled with thunder.

"Flardrek," something whispered. "Flardrek. Flardrek!"

"Flardrek? Flardrek are you with us?"

Flardrek blinked hard as he snapped back to reality and looked at the others. Their eyes were fixated on him as if he was the most captivating form of life in the universe. Flardrek almost winced.

"Sorry, just had a bit of a daydream there. The plan you got there sounds good, if a little improvised. Perhaps we could refine it a bit in the morning. I personally feel like I need some sleep."

Mersery gazed at him deeply for a moment before speaking. "Very well. Of you go. I will remain behind to take watch in case the bounty hunter should decide to double back for another raid. I advise the rest of you to get what sleep you can."

The others nodded in agreement and began to shuffle as they rose from their seatings. Turaga Feex had already got to his feet and was offering the other accommodation and temporary residence for each of them. Several minutes passed before they were all away and gone, leaving only Mersery behind with the dying campfire.

Mersery stood still as eyes gazed at the region beyond the town's borders, his body rigid and stiff, though still reliant and still. He sighed and shut those same eyes. How many lies and half-truths would he have to continue making about his life? How long until someone caught whiff of his lies?

Mersery brushed those fears aside and forced himself to enjoy the peace and serenity of the present, which he highly doubted he would be granted in the future. Because he had greater knowledge of what was going on than the others, a lot more weight rested on his shoulders.

But Mersery forced himself to look away from those facts and focus on his current duty. After all, he may as well maintain his focus, for he had much darker prospects coming for him in the coming weeks.

Chapter 8[]

Lightning bolted across the sky as the hailing storm of the night continued to swallow up the world. Shades of black coloured everything in sight, and the dark clouds overshadowed the stars to prevent their beams from shining down on the land below. Rain fell on an open expanse of desert that lay between the Sea of Liquid Sand and the site that had once housed the ancient village of Vulcanus.

It was a deep, towering and treacherous canyon that the rain fell on, perfect for an ambush by the local nomads and savages that were the Vorox and Bone Hunters. Jagged rocks aimed upwards as if they were accusing fingers pointing at the concealed stars in the sky. Tonight as the thunder rumbled deep in the heavens above, the sound of footsteps echoed up in the dusty canyon, cementing a harsh challenge as someone came through the area. The possibility of edginess and tension spiced into the air, as a being as dark as the nighttime sky itself picked their way down the slops of the rocky canyon.

An obvious sign that this person had be scaling the cliff walls.

Another flash of lightning lanced across the sky, and suddenly, the figure had the energetic urge to charge forward and run. Run forever. Run without limits or boundaries.

And he did.

Ignoring the fierce fury of the lightning, the figure charged down the remainder of the slope and followed his instincts, the same instincts that others like him had once tried to bury and control. Animalistic they called them; savage, primitive and uncivilized they called them. He, however, saw them as a gift. A gift that had uplifted his views, and now he realized that the world was nothing more than territory. Oh, there were those fools who claimed that they were more civilized than those they deemed animals, and then went on to try and conquer entire lands and worlds.

They didn’t realize how “savage” that was in its own right. They were doing what the “animals” did; trying to claim more territory for themselves, only they tried to hide and justify it behind fake morals and reasons. Whilst it was true he walked on the fine line between civilisation and savagery, those who deemed him an animal didn’t realize how much their subconscious was like his own.

The figure ran through the canyon with an intimidating speed that one would not expect. He let his senses take control and he felt his muscles tense eagerly as he tirelessly ran. Suddenly, his senses homed on something specific and his legs came to a stop in front of an open space in the centre of the canyon. The figure looked carefully at the sands. Fortunately, the storm had only just began, otherwise the tracks left behind would have vanished forever.

There were two sets of tracks that came to and from this spot. A pair had come here then abruptly circled back in the direction of Iron Canyon. Then there was a set of tracks that seemed to have no beginning and no end. The prints of a two-toed being seemed to come out of nowhere, then abruptly disappear again. Shadowplayer’s breathed in the smell of the air and found the answers were there.

He could smell some kind of metal tang. It was electrical and very strong, and it didn’t take too long for Shadowplayer to figure out it had been caused by some kind of teleportation device. Or teleportation gauntlet.

“Skorr…” Shadowplayer hissed venomously. So he has been here. But whom has he been meeting?

Shadowplayer growled as he raised one bulbous, twisted hand and clenched it, though perhaps 'hand' was a word too strong. Perhaps "monstrous claw" would be a bit more accurate. It was a constant reminder of the pain and torture he had been put through. He couldn’t remember who had done these things to him or why. Whenever he tried to think about those people, the memories seemed to turn away and vanish. Only when he wasn't actively thinking about them, when his mind was distracted, could he vaguely remember that time of pain, as if his subconscious was calling out to him. It felt like a sharpened claw scratching against the interior of his brain. It drove him mad.

Long ago, he had been a Toa. A true protector of what was good and what was fair. Then, a mysterious force had abducted him and poisoned him; both morally and physically. He had awoke mentally scarred and forever changed, and when he decided to turn back and hunt down his enemies in vengeance, he knew there was no turning back. The Toa Code meant nothing to him, now there was only a blazing, fiery maelstrom of hate and anger left inside.

If Skorr’s being employed to raid small villages for puny artefacts, then my suspicions tell me that he’s in league with my tormentors. I will find him, and once I’ve drained every lost drop of information out of him, I will kill him, track down his employers and then kill them too. I will have my vengeance, and it will burn like the scorn of Mata Nui himself.

Giving into his primitive instincts again, the misguided Toa charged off to follow the footprints left behind by Skorr’s employers, as the rain fell down like hailstone. The night was already dark, and the shadows cast on Sandray Canyon were deep.

But it was soon to darken even more.

Thunder rumbled deeply in the distance, but the far away storm did not intimidate Mersery's soul in the slightest. It was fair to say the Mersion scholar had seen more than he probably ever should have. Been forced to keep secrets that he would rather not know. Done things that would plague his conscience for the rest of his days. He had always respected and upheld the ideals of the Order of Mata Nui; their intentions were very noble. The 'greater good' was always a priority. Always. But the things it had called him to do were sometimes too much, even for him. Now, he wasn't even sure what he'd do.

With Mata Nui's destiny fulfilled, and negotiations taking place between the societies of the Agori and the Matoran, he wasn't sure what he could do. The Order itself had barely survived the war with Teridax, and with Helryx's disappearance, he wasn't even sure if they could properly recover. They had just emerged from two wars, one with the Brotherhood and another with a tyrant imposing as the Great Spirit. Their entire world had just changed dramatically, (quite literally, in fact) and they would need to wait and see if the Order would still be required.

Mersery's ears abruptly prickled at the sounds of footsteps coming behind him. The person's strides were slow and weighty, but Mersery didn't need that information to guess who his guest was.

"Freztrak," he said amiably, his eyes not shifting from the distant storm. "I am surprised to see you up so late."

Freztrak sneered. "Skakdi warlords don't usually get the luxury of sleep. You never know when your neighbouring rivals are going to attempt to launch a raid. How did you know?"

"Your mind," replied Mersery, who had yet to turn and face his comrade. "It is the only one in this village that is shielded from telepathic intrusion. You really do stand out."

Freztrak chuckled slightly and moved to stand beside the Mersion scholar, who had perched himself on a large boulder. For a moment there was silence between the two, as both stared out into the distance, as if they were expecting an army of Rahkshi to launch out at them. Finally, Mersery chose to break the silence.

"Why are you helping me?" he asked, his tone carrying no indication of malice. "You are no longer part of the Order, and you kind are certainly not liked around here at the moment, so why put your neck on the line for me?"

"I suppose some of the Order's 'defeat all injustice' attitude has washed off on me. I wasn't just going to sit around after watching some strange shadow creature butcher an entire group of those Skrall. Besides, I owe you a debt, and contrary to the Skakdi stereotype, I intend to honour that debt."

"You owe me nothing," answered Mersery. "I was simply in the right place at the right time."

"Don't understate what you did. You saved me from a public execution at the hands of that foolish traitor, Nektann. Were it not for your intervention, I'd be a corpse rotting on Zakaz."

Mersery then turned to face Freztrak, setting his green eyes deep into the warlord's. "I find it interesting that you refer to Nektann as a traitor. Didn't you join his forces when he allied with Makuta after he took over?"

Freztrak's face contorted with undisguised rage. "I did not join him willingly! I was overwhelmed by legions of Rahkshi and forced to join their ranks. For the sake of survival, I allowed my tribe to join Nektann's army. Did you really think I enjoyed serving under that Doom Viper?

"But you still fought for him."

"Only because I had no choice. I was planning to split off from that strike force of Rahkshi and Skakdi when we reached the Southern Islands. Then, Makuta used his powers to part edge of the universe and expose us to this new world. I thought he was opening a portal to another reality, but when we emerged out of universe, and I saw this alien planet and the true form of our 'universe,' I knew I would have no choice but to fight. Where would I go? I couldn't go back and I couldn't run away. What would you do when you have nowhere to run?"

There was a pause between the two as both considered carefully what the other had said.

"Fair enough," replied Mersery plainly, his tone neutral.

"Glad you see things my way," grunted Freztrak. "Speaking of the Order, I noticed you didn't mention our true loyalties to the others. Why was that?"

Mersery raised himself from the boulder and paced a few steps forward until his back was facing Freztrak.

"Would they really want to know?" the Mersion asked. "Would these Agori and Glatorian really want to know of the existence of such a group, especially at such a critical time? You know very well what we've done in the past and we're capable of; maybe not to the same extent as me, but you still have a clear idea."

"I know what we've done, and I don't see how the Order's goals would scare these Agori runts."

"You don't?" asked Mersery with bewilderment as he turned and stared down Freztrak.

"From what I gather, some of these Agori were terrified of what their own Glatorian warriors could if they banded together, prior to Mata Nui's arrival on the planet. How do you think they would react if they learned that the Order could eliminate any one of their leaders without even trying? How we could make them disappear without a trace. How we could manipulate things to ensure our people came on top of them and ruled their world. No, they do not need to know that such a group exists. Let's hope they never do for the next two decades or more."

For the first time since he had known him, Freztrak looked lost for words. "I see," he simply said.

"Good," replied Mersery, who was actually surprised how passionately he had invested himself into the topic. "Now, I believe you should at least try to go and get some rest. We will be splitting up in the morning and then embarking on a very long journey. If you will not sleep, then you may as well try and prepare for the challenges we will face in the days to come."

Silently acknowledging Mersery's request, Freztrak turned and started walking back into the village, leaving his scholarly ally to continue his duty as the village's sentinel, its unthanked protector and guardian. Whilst great darkness lay beneath his friend's surface, Freztrak knew that with all the things Mersery had seen in his time, he would not betray the key morals of the Great Spirit that he had so thoroughly devoted himself to. What he did fear, however, was what Mersery those morals would shape him into by the end of this next struggle, as he knew that Mersery's resolve what not emerge from the fires untested.

It was now fair to say that Tervok was experiencing something of a return to form.

True, he had experienced humiliating defeats at the hands of an old rival, some strange warrior scholar and an Agori trader, but now things were starting to come back together. Since he had made his alliance with the shadowy Dredzek, his Skrall comrades had now fallen under his authority almost eagerly. Perhaps it was because they had faith in his leadership and decisions, or perhaps it was merely too terrified of falling under Dredzek's command that they chose to follow him.

Since cementing their allegiances, Dredzek had instructed Tervok and his group to head back to the region that had once been the Bara Magna desert. They were to meet with with a small group made up of their new allies for something Dredzek had referred to as an 'inception ritual.' Tervok had found this bit somewhat laughable. Skrall were not superstitious nor were they fond of being forced into other society's customs. But for the sake of this alliance, Tervok had agreed to partake. They had been told to meet by Skrall River at the middle of the night and not to get distracted attacking Agori and Glatorian outposts.

As Tervok and his minions approached the river, he raised his hand into the air and called for silence.

"Be still you Sand Bats, or I will personally feed each of you to a herd of wild, hungry Spikit!"

Almost immediately, the other Skrall warriors fell silent. Tervok smiled smugly, basking in the power and respect he commanded. It was exhilarating. As Tervok scanned the perimeter for any traces of his mysterious new allies, his second-in-command, an elite warrior by the name of Grazael, began to approach him. In one hand, he carried the traditional Skrall shield, in the other, he carried a large thorned club usually reserved only for the Special Forces class.

"Tervok, do you really think allying with these superstitious losers are worth allying with? They have power, but they seem like characters I don't want to see the Skrall, the mightiest and greatest warriors to ever live, associated with a bunch of eccentric crackpots!"

Normally, Tervok would have beaten another Skrall for insubordination. As a member of the relatively small Elite Warrior caste, he was expected to be looked up to with respect and admiration; he had heard nasty tales of rebellious Skrall soldiers who had questioned the decisions of their socially superior brethren. However, he granted Grazael the right to speak with him to him as an equal. He was both named and loyal, with unwavering commitment to the goals of his people.

Facing his companion, Tervok spoke.

"For now, we shall accept the power they offer. We are only a small splinter of a much larger group, and if we want to establish ourselves as a major force in this new era, then we must horde as much power as we can. But when the new Agori villages have finally been wiped out, these new aliens made to bow before us and the Baterra hung as decorations in our fortresses, we will have no further need of this... cult. Once they are gone, we shall reform the Rock Tribe once again, and unite Spherus Magna under the banner of the Skrall, as we carve out a new empire for ourselves!"

Grazael nodded in approval, before looking at something over Tervok's shoulder and clenching his fist on his club. Catching the gesture, Tervok spun around to see a bizarre trio of creatures facing him from the opposite side of Skrall River. In total, there were three.

In the middle of the group was the instantly recognisable bat-like form of Makuta Dredzek, by his left side was a small black and grey creature that seemed the pass off as his servant. It resembled one of those Agori-like Matoran, only this one shared his master's bat-like appearance, with wings and a hideous, fanged mouth. On the Makuta's opposite side was an Agori, whose presence Tervok was surprised to see. The Agori wore the orange armour associated with the Iron Tribe, yet was adorned himself with a helmet and other armour pieces that were clearly stolen from the nomadic Bone Hunters. The Agori was Hanzek, a bandit who had disappeared many years ago.

So my new friends have had spies scattered everywhere, even on dustball like Bara Magna, thought Tervok. How many more individuals did they have on Bara Magna? How many of them were in positions of power?

These were questions Tervok knew would not be answered today.

Abruptly, Dredzek raised a hand and all three of them vanished, only to reappear before Tervok. Grazael flinched slightly, though he had seen the Makuta do it the first time he had appeared before them, it still slightly freaked him to see them do it. Dredzek paced towards Tervok menacingly, until they were standing toe-to-toe.

"I see you obeyed my commands," hissed Dredzek in a somewhat reserved tone. "Good. Keep this attitude up and you slip into our ranks very quickly."

"I did not come to you to prove my receptiveness to your orders," barked Tervok defiantly. "I came to partake in this... inception ritual of yours. Do not mistake me for some lowly Sand Stalker, who obediently plods before its master when summoned."

Several of Tervok's warriors muttered in approval, whilst Dredzek simply stood there, his face cold and emotionless. "That is enough, Skrall. Your defiance is noted. Save your resolve for our enemies. For now, you will stand alone before us."

On that note, Grazael instantly lunged forward towards Dredzek. "Oh no you don't! You're not laying a finger on our leader, even if its part of your ridiculous mumbo-jumbo! You--"

Grazael's words were cut off when a blast of shadow hit him and sent him lurching backwards. The brute slammed into a nearby boulder and slouched, clearly dazed by the impact. Dredzek snarled

"Stay back, you mindless thug! Otherwise next I will show you what it truly means to feel pain!"

Tervok looked over to his comrade and gave him a look which clearly told him to back down. Turning back to Dredzek, Tervok stood to his full height and stared the Makuta in the eye.

"I am ready."

"Good," replied Dredzek. "Kneel."

Although reluctant, Tervok complied, and bowed down on his right leg. Dredzek sneered at the clear gesture of servitude. Then spoke in a voice loud enough to be heard by all of Tervok's warriors.

"The ritual will now be conducted by an old friend of yours. Someone who I believe you are all well acquainted with."

Before any of the Skrall soldiers could muster the courage to inquire, a cold wind spread through the region, one which cut through their armour like a rusty dagger. Abruptly, a figure rose up from nothing, silhouetted by shadows and with eyes gleaming with malicious intent. Every Skrall instantly felt a wave of panic wash over them. This was the one; the one who had attacked them earlier with shadows and killed half their number. Many reached for their swords, but all froze when they gazed into the shadowed entity's eyes.

Then, the shadows faded, allowing the warriors to get a clear look of their former enemy. He was a bulky individual, with armor coloured in dark crimson and black. His face was ugly and roughly shaped, with a horrible snarl to top it all off. In each hand he held a weapon. In right, he held a massive warblade, and a strange chain-gun weapon in the left. He bore an aura of contempt and hatred that rivalled or even surpassed the one surrounding Dredzek.

"Velnax. Glad you could make it to this special occasion," said Dredzek, a sarcastic wring to his nasal tone.

The individual by the name of Velnax simply nodded. "If this is the one we shall perform the ritual on, then I suggest we get started. I see that you brought his warrior clan too. They were most fun to terrorise, even if it was only to make them return to the side of their original leader."

"You mean you only attacked us to scare us back under Tervok's command, now that he's joined your forces?" cried out one of the more courageous Skrall present in the small crowd. Velnax's face twisted into a smile.

"Indeed. Our latest servant needs a legion, and we can't just have the galavanting around doing whatever they want. Better you remain under his command than become an enemy of ours. I only killed so many of your warriors to give you an idea of what betrayal would be like if you ever dared it. Now, Brother Dredzek, please assume your position. Corzakx and Hanzek, I recommend you do the same."

The Makuta nodded cordially and took a spot behind Tervok, on the opposite side of Velnax. Corzakx and Hanzek stood on opposing ends, until the four agents of chaos had formed a circle around Tervok. The other Skrall looked on nervously. As one, Velnax and the others raised their hands and a ring of crimson energy began to form around Tervok. Hanzek and Corzakx began chanting in a strange language, whilst Dredzek shut his eyes in concentration. The Skrall warrior before them regarded each of them with a highly skeptic and slightly bewildered look.

"Tervok, I need you to open your mind," said Velnax. "Dredzek is beginning the process that will allow you to join with us. Do not resist him."

Tervok inclined his head slightly and closed his eyes, his expression almost peaceful it seemed. It was almost as if he were in some kind of trance, as the wheel of energy danced and hummed around him while Hanzek and Corzakx continued to murmur their chants. Abruptly, Dredzek's eyes blazed a deep crimson as a hue of dark light began to dance around the sockets of his mask. Tervok's hand went immediately to his head, clutching his skull the same way a person would clutch a ledge if they were falling off the side of a tower. It seemed as if his fingers were piercing the metals of his helmet, embedding themselves and trying to crush the Skrall's skull like a fruit. Slowly a prolonged wail erupted from Tervok's mouth, which grew in intensity until it became a scream.

Many of Tervok's warriors grabbed their swords, clubs and shields, with Grazael preparing to charge into the midst of the ritual and strike Velnax across the face. Then abruptly, the ring of energy faded, Hanzek and Corzakx stopped chanting and Dredzek's eyes reverted to their normal, steely selves. Tervok slumped to the ground and said nothing, his form limp and motionless. Velnax sighed a breath of relief and recomposed himself just as quickly.

"What did you do to him?! roared Grazael aggressively, his saw blade spinning menacingly as he marched towards the Millennium's followers. Velnax turned and let a trail of black smoke escape his clenched fist, which then went on to grab Grazael's weapons and scatter them. The Shadow Hand then grasped the elite Skrall as it solidified, then squeezed and constricted him until Grazael raised both his hands to show the traditional peace sign. The hand then abruptly vanished and Grazael slumped to the ground, wheezing horrendously.

"We have simply completed your friend's induction," said Velnax coldly. "Dredzek simply entered his mind to purge him of doubts to our cause. Cleanse his mind of distraction and discontent. He is now a refined tool for the Shadow's cause."

Grazael clenched his teeth as he forced himself to one knee. This was borderline brainwash.

Velnax and Dredzek then turned to the kneeling Tervok his face was as blank as an unwritten book. "I am yours to command, Brothers Velanx and Dredzek," he said in a tone so peacefully subdued that Grazael instantly believed he was listening to someone else. "My destiny is Millennium; his wishes are my wishes, his goals are my goals, his purpose is my purpose. I am ready to obey. What is my duty?"

Velnax chuckled as he walked towards the still-kneeling Tervok. "Your first mission is your test and trial. To try your newfound commitments. We have decided your mission will require both the services of yourself and your small legion. And I have a feeling you will thoroughly enjoy your mission."

"May I ask what it is?" inquired Tervok. Velnax's grin widened as he kneeled next to the Skrall and whispered something in his ears. Grazael tried to listen in, but in the end, he couldn't make out the words that were spoken. Abruptly, Tervok's face lit up with an unusual and disturbing amount of glee, prompting him to rise to his feet and bow his head before Velnax.

"It shall be done."

Velnax nodded respectfully, then resumed his place beside Dredzek, Hanzek and Corzakx. The three shimmered and disappeared, leaving nothing but three sets of footprints to indicate they had once been there. Grazael couldn't help but grimace slightly as Tervok turned and began to speak of their new destination and objective. Not only could they no longer avoid servitude to Tervok's frightening new masters, but they had now been dragged into a crusade that was disturbingly elusive. Only time would tell him what would become of the Skrall's future now.

Skorr hated a lot of things. After all, spending so long at the top of the 'most successful bounty hunter' list for a couple thousand years meant he'd have made quite a few enemies in his time. You didn't earn a reputation like his without coming across a few dozen people or so who you couldn't help but despise. The same went for his enemies; a lot of them tended to have a very passionate hatred for him. Whether they be age-old rivals, employers who he had double-crossed (and survived), or simply archetype heroes like the Toa whose outdated moral codes simply dictated him a threat to their 'pure, unbiased justice,' Skorr was universally hated by those who had crossed his paths in the wrong way.

The Toa's morals were usually topped all else as his favourite pet peeve. Once, they had been the pinnacle of all righteous warriors; they had been symbols of prosperity and guardianship since their selection Mata Nui's chosen champions. But part of the reason why Skorr hated them so much is how their monastic structure had made them unadaptable to change. They refused to accept it. Sure, he had both added and removed 'evil' from the world through the varying moralities of his many contracts, but the Toa still viewed him as a true image of corruption.

Whilst it was true he was really fond of his profit and had done some really bad stuff in his life, he was not the enemy. In a world that had become as grey as their's, the Toa still perceived to view everything in absolute truths. Their black-and-white perspective had made them believe Skorr was an injustice, when his very job simply made him a grey aspect to an already grey world. He had done things others had viewed as heroic, though not out of the goodness of his heart, of course. A lot of money was always involved. One day, he could be barricading Matoran villages against Rahi attacks, then raiding merchant Airships the next. He'd stick his neck out for a well-paying employer, then find himself trying to kill the guy a little later down the road. It was a ruthless, unforgiving business, one that had made him adaptable and aware of what real life was like.

So when a Toa accused him of corruption, he knew they just couldn't understand that he was simply being true to himself and the ways of a universe that hated them. It was known fact of life. Perhaps that's why there were so few Toa left today and perhaps why Skorr had become so knowledgeable in ways in which to kill them. They had simply refused to change.

But right now, however, there was one thing that Skorr really hated right now, more so than his dislike of morally incorrect viewpoints. What he despised right now was trying tracking down old contacts following a cataclysm that had forced everybody onto an entirely new planet. It was really rather tedious to track down one person when everyone had just evacuated en-mass. Fortunately, Skorr had become a very good tracker in his days as a bounty hunter, and even though this certainly put his skills to the test, he knew it was still possible to find the soul he searched for. Well, soul was a bit of a stretch, seeing as his contact had none to offer. He was cold and selfish in a manner that made Skorr look like the friendliest Ussal Crab tamer in existence.

Skorr looked at his destination, which was nothing more than a small hill that overlooked a collection of of dark green geysers which were coughing up a surprising amount of steam. Skorr recalled bumping into a wondering Agori who had labelled them the Hot Springs. That was before the poor sap had received a punch to the face that had left him with a rather severe case of concussion. The whole ordeal had made Skorr chuckle to himself. Nothing like a good, old blow to the head to damage somebody's memory and to also see their priceless facial expressions as they collapsed to the ground.

Still, if his mission was to succeed, he would need to use every resource and every asset available to him. He did not want a repeat of the Great Cataclysm, where his only options were a suicide mission involving big, scary mazes, the strange mysteries of life and very, very disturbing imagery. Skorr fought back a shiver.

Let's not go back to that place, he thought to himself. Contemplating the outcome of that particular contract is about as fun as being forced to go through an expensive Po-Matoran pottery shop to admire the antiques. Without any explosives.

Refocusing himself, Skorr brought himself to the tip of the hill and stood motionless, his body glowing vaguely from the green light of the Hot Springs below and his eyes seemingly glued to their hue. Despite the darkness cast by the night, the Zeverek didn't need to search his area or look for footprints and clues to know his contact was already there. Not that there were many places to hide anyway, other than a conveniently located shrub, which had obviously been ripped out of its original spot in ground and planted there. Skorr cracked an almost whimsical smile, which was only contrasted by the steely defiance in his dark red eyes.

"You can come out now, Jekart," he said in an almost annoyed tone as he inspected his right gauntlet.

Slowly, a hunchbacked creature emerged from behind the bush, a nasty-looking blade in his hand. Though Skorr could not (thankfully) recognise the newcomer's features, he recognised Jekart's crimson eyes almost immediately, which shared the predatory glare of a Muaka and the coldly manipulative gaze of a Makuta. And despite having seen them so many times in the past, those two eyes still slightly succeeded in giving Skorr the creeps.

"How did you know I was here?" Jekart inquired in a flat voice. Before the great exodus to the new world, he had been an information broker - one of the best and most successful in the business - so to have him asking the questions for a change was a very rare thing to witness. Usually, he knew all the motives of his customers before they bought information , and only asked the simple questions like, 'who,' 'what,' 'where,' and 'why' as a simple courtesy.

Skorr grinned at the informant's puzzlement.

"I've spent centuries honing my tracking skills. I've had to hunt down targets who've led me on chases all the way down the southern chains of the universe. When people evacuate en mass and don't expect to be found because their in such a large crowd, then things become easy. Once people settle down and stop moving, targets like to think they've had their trail thrown off, so they get sloppy and lazy. And you, Jekart, are exceptionally easy to track down. Ask a few wanderers drifting outside the main Matoran camps if they've seen some creepy hunchback with the face of a deformed reptile and they're bound to point you in the right direction."

Jekart grunted slightly. "I can't say I like this new way of living, but back to the matter at hand. What do you want?"

Skorr turned away to look down at the Hot Springs, his mind determining the appropriate response. He had to be careful around Jekart. He was observant to every detail and could be extremely invasive when something caught his interest.

"I'm looking for something. To be specific a variety of somethings."

Jekart groaned. "For Mata Nui's sake, Skorr, you expect me to be able to provide you with information? Our entire social environment has literally just change. We're still building a new society from scratch, and you expect me to have already weaved a web wide enough to barter with you? I'm still trying to figure out what happened to my previous contacts and networks."

Skorr could tell Jekart had been clearly stressed about the sudden change of scenery, and it didn't really surprise him. Jekart had worked extremely hard to build up his information business and then set himself up on top, and to then have all his comforts and power so abruptly snatched from him by the events surrounding Teridax's death would've have been more than just frustrating. If there's one thing Jekart couldn't stand, it was being out of the loop and totally cut off from events. Still, Skorr was confident the slippery backstabber knew what he wanted.

"I don't care how bad you feel for yourself. Even without your regular channels, you still here things, and I'm dead-certain you'll know exactly what I want to know."

"You'll need to tell me a little more than that," grumbled Jekart.

"I signed on a contract not too long ago. The head of some small military outfit hired me to track down a number of weird artefacts. Six to be precise. They provided me with the information to find the first one, but didn't give much on the others. They only told me the basics during my latest meeting. Fortunately, it's enough to get me moving."

"Then why come to me?" inquired Jekart, his eyes still gleaming with hungry curiosity.

Skorr crossed his arms arrogantly. "The closest artefact destination me is in the region these Agori refer to as the White Quartz Mountains, if my employers' information is correct. However, the exact location is unknown. I was wondering if you'd possibly heard any rumours from some of the locals, maybe from an old war veteran who keeps boasting stories of his glory that nobody couldn't care less about."

Jekart paused for a bit as he considered Skorr's proposal, his grey metallic armour gleaming under the light of the Hot Springs. "I don't normally give out the goods for free, but... I'll let it slide this once. You've been a good customer, and considering the state of society right now, I doubt your payments could get me anywhere."

There was a brief pause, the air stiffening as if the two were in some kind of to-the-death standoff. Finally, Jekart spoke.

"Not long after we all arrived on this world, just before my operations crumbled completely, one of my contacts told me he'd heard a Ga-Matoran boasting about finding the fragment some kind of map that apparently pinpointed to six locations. My agent told me she intended to go on a solo expedition, with the mountains being her first target. Perhaps this foolhardy adventurer has answers you seek."

"It's not much, but it's a start. At least I have a lead on someone who may have the specifics of what I need. I'll track down Arzok and Invex. I'll need some witty banter for this job."

Skorr then turned to leave. "Thanks for the information, Jekart. Until we meet again...."

"I want to know more about your employers," inquired Jekart, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. His voice was deadly cold and it made the Zeverek freeze in his tracks. He was now getting too curious for his own good. Slowly, he turned back around to face Jekart down. However, even his best granite stare was at times no match for Jekart's, which was some feat.

"Can't tell you much," Skorr reluctantly admitted, almost sheepishly. "I was simply given a tablet with the details of the job on it by a cloaked representative, who also gave me a quarter of my pay upfront. He didn't say too much and he was gone just as quickly as I arrived. Technically, however, they hired me a while back."

Jekart raised an eyebrow. Skorr fought back a grumble. he hated describing the details of his job, especially to Jekart. So much for carefully-wording his conversations.

"An envoy of their's came to my base of operations on the Tren Krom Peninsula, not long after I signed on with the Order during their war with the Brotherhood. He said his masters be requiring my services in the future, and that they would expect me to work for them when the time comes. Didn't even flinch when I told them what my regular rates were."

Jekart scratched his chin, obviously interested. "They must be making an extremely significant gamble if they're willing to retail your services. How much do you think they have at their disposal?"

"All I know is that they're financed well enough to pay my fee - which says a lot. But not only that, but they are also offering me a lot of money to make sure this job is completed through any means necessary. They're definitely not afraid of getting their hands dirty. This mission's easy enough work, and it allows me to become familiar with the world I'm going to spend the rest of my life on. To top it all off, it's on somebody's else's payroll. Simply put it, fighting for their payments is a lot simpler than fighting for their cause. So I'll be doing exactly what I was paid to do: get their technology no matter what the cost."

"Not many bounty hunters would take up missions from employers who don't even give you their names," Jekart pointed out.

"Not many hunters get an offer like the one they sent me. Every individual knows where their loyalties lie; my loyalty simply has a huge amount of zeros punched into it."

"You haven't changed," smirked Jekart sarcastically. "No sense of loyalty."

"I'm a mercenary, Jekart," Skorr retorted. "Real loyalty is above my pay grade. I don't make friends, I make money."

"I see," the informant replied. He finally seemed satisfied, even behind the veil cast by gleaming lime lights of the Springs. He proceeded to straighten his back slightly to give a more formal stance. "A very interesting job you have here, Skorr. I'll take the information you've given me on your employers as payment enough, but in any case, I've given you all I know."

Skorr grinned. "Good. I have a lot riding on this mission. A real lot. This has the biggest payload I've ever been offered, and I'll really be needing to stash up after this job."

Jekart's eyes flashed again. "What? Why?"

Skorr tried to break away from the dealer's gaze, but Jekart had figured out his meaning in an instant.

"Oh no. Don't tell me you're being serious! Don't tell me you're actually retiring after this assignment."

Skorr took a deep sigh before confronting Jekart for what he hoped would be the last time.

"I've been bounty hunting for around 100,000 years. First it was so I could survive, then it became an occupation, then it became a lifestyle when I entered the major leagues. Mixing business and pleasure at the same time, I suppose. But I've been in this game too long. I'm getting slower. My body keeps telling me I'm too old for the hardships of this trade. I need to get serious about making a comfortable retirement before this job kills me. If it doesn't do it on a mission, then it'll be because of some novice bounty hunter who's finally remembered I've still got a generous price on my head. Hence why I've made sure my payment is extra large this time around; this could make me for life."

"Well, you've picked a perfect time to retire," added Jekart. "A brand-new world that offers the possibility of a fresh start and a fresh identity, employers whose identities are practically unknown, making it nearly impossible to trace your final contract..."

"It's an ideal time for me to make a quiet exit," Skorr said in agreement. "Better to bow out in my prime than lose my edge and wind up becoming some low life's flunkey or debt collector. I'd probably make a living as a career scoundrel, con artist, or maybe even become a thief again. Do something fun in my twilight years, that'll challenge me and keep me on my toes, yet not overly strain me."

It was at this point Jekart noticed something. "Why tell me this?" he asked suspiciously. "You know what I could do with this information for the right price."

Skorr chuckled in his deep gravelly voice before staring deep into Jekart's eyes. This time, the menace was on the Zeverek's side. "Because you'll know what I'll do to you if you even dare to tell anyone else of my... retirement plans."

Jekart felt an overwhelming wave of fear, panic and uneasiness wash over him as Skorr's hand flashed over his holster. Before another pause could bleed into the conversation, the worn down mercenary began to gradually disappear as he faded into the blackness of the night.

"This conversation is over. Goodbye, Jekart. Thanks for the information."

And without another word, Skorr vanished into the background like a phantom. Jekart turned back to his view of the Hot Springs, his great brain trying to digest and catalogue everything it had just been told. Though his logical side had already began playing out the scenarios Skorr would face on his mission and calculating the likelihood of his success, an irrational part of his consciousness was telling him that things were about to change for worst from here on in. And that he was due to be caught in the crossfire.



  • The story's header image was provided by user Toa Hydros.
  • The main image of the story is inaccurate, as it depicts Mersery and Flardrek in their prototype designs. This was because the header picture was created prior to both their upgrades.