|The Leviathos Chronicles|
The Leviathos Chronicles
|Setting||Matoran Universe, Noctxia Magna|
|Concurrent||The Deception Chronicles|
|Next||The Darkness Returns|
The Leviathos Chronicles a story in the Gigas Magna Storyline, set on Noctxia Magna immediately prior to the end of the Gigas Magna Civil War. It details the war between the Noctxia Guardians and the Brotherhood of Fear, as well as Nightwatcher's second meeting with Leviathos.
- Continued from Leviathos' Story...
Nightwatcher was annoyed. He was floating high in the air above the island that Shadrus had told him the Noctian was. The island apparently did not exist, and, most likely, neither did the Noctian. He suspected it had been a wild Vandrox chase, an attempt to embarrass him in the eyes of the Brotherhood. However, a thousand years of extremely skillful bounty hunting made him able to tell if a being was lying — and he doubted Shadrus was capable of lying very well.
Islands do not vanish without a trace, he thought. Either it is hidden, which my X-ray vision proves impossible, or it is gone. This island has been either destroyed or relocated.
Or perhaps not without a trace. If the island had been moved, it would likely not have been moved neatly. He focused his X-ray vision and saw that there was a very, very large smooth sunken area. The island had been torn out by its roots, leaving a gap in the seafloor. Now all that remained was to find where it had gone.
"Oh, that," said Shadrus. "There's been a little... change of plans. It, along with Leviathos and ourselves, was moved to another planet."
"Not this one," said Shadrus. "Kaluu went out to learn about this place, and I can tell you for sure that it doesn't belong to your Empire. It's called Noctxia Magna, and there's something very odd about it. No idea what it is, but..."
"Supply the coordinates or I will find you myself and relieve you of the troublesome burden you call a head. Now get on with it."
For millennia, the Vandrox had been regarded as primitive creatures below the intelligence of Matoran, only a very small amount — one in a hundred thousand — intelligent enough to exist in society. Or so the planets' inhabitants thought.
In reality, the Vandrox were a very advanced race. They were capable of complex thought, and communicated through telepathy. Unfortunately, the most advanced form of speech most could contrive was a growl. They were not permitted to interact with outsiders, even if a Vandrox's life was forfeit — they wished to be left very alone.
So the Jungle Vandrox, Kanias, was making a very dangerous decision by choosing to bring her to the Vandrox healer.
She is the One of the Prophecies, he thought. It is time. She is the hope of our kind. If she dies, there shall be only darkness.
As Kanias dragged her barely breathing form to the camp, he was unaware that another pair of eyes was looking at him in the darkness. The body that carried the eyes unsheathed his sword and followed the Vandrox, the Vandrox that had absolutely no idea that he was being followed by his death.
Leviathos and Jetrak had explained what the Great Being had done to the inhabitants of the former Noctian Islands, and they had gone off to explore the new planet. As they flew into the sky, Jetrak changed from his Mask of Vacuum to Mask of Speed and carried Leviathos along for the ride. They saw a vast ocean, filled with scattered islands that gave way to more stretches of ocean. They were above one of these stretches of ocean when the Toa of Shadow arrived and suddenly stopped their motion.
"Give yourself up, Noctian," said the Toa. "The alternative is rather painful and not worth the trouble."
"Shut it," said Jetrak, firing a plasma blast at the Shadow Toa.
A short moment passed, and the Toa of Plasma went plummeting to the ground. Leviathos made a sudden dive to catch his friend, but the Toa of Shadow went in front of him, suspended in midair, and fired bolts from his high-energy plasma launcher. Leviathos evaded them quickly, but was startled by a blast of powerful lightning to the chest. Leviathos was knocked out of the sky, but activated his Makuta power of quick healing.
He saw Jetrak recover by activating his jetpacks, but the Toa was suddenly surrounded in a sphere of energy, courtesy ot the Shadow Toa. Leviathos activated his Kanohi, a hybrid of the Killphi and Eliki, and tried to inhale the Shadow Toa. He had been absolutely sure that it would work, so he received quite a shock when the Toa dissolved.
He stopped using his mask, and the scattered particles of his adversary converged. Leviathos attempted a distracting maneuver, but his adversary was not fooled. Reaching into the sky, his enemy reached into the sky with one claw, and all was suddenly black. A giant storm was forming around them, one of not just lightning but fire, and the Shadow Toa was directing it towards Leviathos.
The storm converged on one spot — that of the Noctian. He tried to escape, but lightning jarred him and fire burned. Weakened, he found himself in chains of an otherwordly metal.
"Don't even try to escape," said the Toa. "I'm surprised that you weren't smart enough to try to teleport away earlier, which is why I entrust idiots with my things, but it wouldn't have worked. I have created a teleportation block. And these chains aren't meant to be cut through. They were made on the planet Javnak on another world."
"Who are you?"
"Call me Nightwatcher. Bounty hunter. Assassin. Mercenary. Whatever the situation calls for. I don't usually deal with imbeciles like Makuta, but I was told that you were a particularly slippery type. They got that completely incorrect. I should not have expected more from them," said the Toa of Shadow.
"Why don't you just kill me?"
"I do not like to take living prisoners," said Nightwatcher. "They have such an annoying tendency to try to escape later. All my values are telling me to break your neck and make it look like an accident, so be glad that I prefer my morals to my values. I have no morals, so I am able to do whatever I wish."
"So you're keeping me alive?"
"Yes, unfortunately for you. If I know them, Krakanus is going to have quite a bit of fun before you die."
"What?" demanded Nightwatcher.
"You think you know Krakanus? I have known him longer than any being. The day he returned to the Makuta pool was the day I was created there, and we fought over its essence and discovered a prophecy that neither of us will ever tell a mercenary like you."
"There are good ways to reveal information, but I won't even bother. It's likely something too boring to interest me."
Kaluu came crashing through a window.
"I finished my second scouting mission. I've already recruited several Glatorian," said Kaluu.
"Sounds good to me. I will go tell Necuas and Shadrus."
He started to fly out the broken window when there was a banging sound. The Makuta turned to face the newcomers and smiled.
"Hello, Leviathos," said Krakanus.
"Scum," replied Leviathos, but, surprisingly, not to Krakanus, but Kaluu.
"It's not my fault," said the Makuta.
"Another one of your Makuta friends with a long history, I suppose? You must socialize rather often with these people," said Nightwatcher.
"Now, before I kill him, I need you to confirm for me that the Gigas Magna Empire will not be settling on this planet," said Krakanus. "And we'll know if you're lying," he added as Kaluu changed his Kanohi into a Mask of Truth.
"No, I won't tell them."
"He speaks the truth."
As those words came out of Kaluu's mouth, an earthquake appeared and a vine wraped around Nightwatcher's throat.
"Too easy, ha! Well, it's too bad my job doesn't prevent me from snapping your neck," said Leviathos as the vines squeezed even harder against the bounty hunter's throat.
Shayla awoke in the darkened jungle. She was being awakened, and she was rather surprised that she had still been alive to wake up.
She did not know who spoke. She did not care. She did not even remember who she was. All she remembered was the image of a tall, dark being that had tried to kill her.
It was time for her to kill him.
"You should drink."
She drank. She attempted to sit up, but pain overtook her, pain in waves and waves of agony. Shayla lay down again, but decided to open her eyes to see who her rescuer was.
The face of her rescuer was ugly, in Shayla's mind. She jumped back, but stopped due to the pain.
I am Veniad. My friend here is Kanias. We mean you no harm. You have been severely wounded. You should relax.
Shayla did so. And as she let herself be treated, she vowed utter vengeance on the evil being that had made her forget everything she had ever known.
A shadow watched Shayla awaken. It was good, he thought. He would tell his Master. Things were going according to plan.
The shadow did not feel any particular emotion as he watched her, nor when he stalked away, making absolutely zero noise. Insectoid Rahi scattered away at his presence. If he had been a lesser being, he might have chuckled.
He was not a lesser being.
It was a being of powerful evil, pure evil. He radiated a powerful terror that affected all in the vicinity, and he had only one wish, one hope, one destiny:
Nightwatcher collapsed to the ground. His eyes went black, and his heartlight stopped flashing.
Krakanus stared. "That idiot! He could have saved himself!"
"Why didn't he?" asked Kaluu.
"I have no idea," said Leviathos. "But I don't honestly care." And he vanished in a fraction of a second.
Krakanus spat on the ground. "That was all for nothing! Nothing! We brought in the best bounty hunter in the universe, who lets himself get killed, and then we lose his prisoner! That Leviathos irritates me so."
"Didn't Nightwatcher use to say something about prisoners escaping?"
"Living prisoners have an annoying tendency to try to escape later," said the being that calmly walked into the room.
"Nightwatcher?" shouted Krakanus. He looked at the stiff body on the ground. "How did you—"
"I used illusion," said Nightwatcher, "to the best of my abilities. At any rate, you seem to have been fooled."
Kaluu attempted to activate his Mask of Truth, but Nightwatcher levitated it away from the Makuta's reach.
"You were so concentrated on whether or not my double was telling the truth that you forgot to make sure that my double actually existed. Now, I would like my bounty."
"What bounty?" asked Krakanus.
"The word 'bounty', fool, as in 'bounty hunting.' I don't work for free."
"So you thought this was a favor? A nice little piece of help, perhaps, from the depths of my warm and fuzzy Matoran heart? As I said, I don't work for free."
"Do you know what I do to dishonest beings that cheat others out of their hard-earned widgets?"
"I end their dishonesty. Permanently. And that is what I intend to do to you."
The flashes of light on Valmai Nui's beach attracted attention from a large number of flying Rahi. They slowly swooped down from the heights to watch the climatic battle unfolding below. They found themselves hypnotized by the light of elemental energy bursting forth from the beings' hands, blasting their opponents. However, as soon as they realized that none of the elemental energy could eat them, and that they could not eat it, they flew away like good flying Rahi, considering it of little importance and completely forgetting about it.
Had any of them stayed perched on the volcanic rocks of Mount Voya, they would have seen the Shadowed One, a massive army of Dark Hunters behind him battling the Order of Mata Nui, shout to Helryx: "You can't win! We outnumber you. Surrender and your death shall be less painful."
"Oh, really?" said Helryx, swiftly moving about the black rock of the mountain. "You know as well as I that your 'great army' will collapse if you die. My army will not. And I shall ensure that you shall die, even if I do as well."
The Shadowed One sensed the brawny figure approaching him from behind, and dodged as he swung the giant sword. Within two seconds, The Shadowed One had decapitated the assassin and blasted away his body. Two seconds, however, were enough for Helryx to sneak up behind him, disarm him, and put a knife to his chest.
"Call off your army and I'll call off mine," she whispered. "Your other choice is for you to die, which would, as I have said, cause your army to collapse. You fear death, I know, and you're not going to make such a gamble, are you?"
The Shadowed One spat in her face, but she only dug the knife deeper into his armor.
"How fast do you think you can fire your little eyebeams at me? Do you think I won't be able to stab you by then? Please remember that I have much faster reflexes than you."
The Shadowed One tensed, and Helryx prepared herself, but then he relaxed.
"Very well. I'll surrender."
Helryx sensed that he was telling the truth, and therefore let him go.
"Call off your army," she said. "I admit it; the Order's ruse failed, but now we have bigger things to worry about, you and I. It's time to leave this planet."
"He's not one of us," Pridak growled. "We shouldn't trust him."
"I say we find him," said Mantax. "He's our ticket out of here. If he can breathe air, then we must be able to do so as well. We learn to do it by finding him. It's simple."
"But where is he?" Kalmah muttered.
"Most likely, he left with that island," Mantax pointed out. "Let's investigate the area, to see if there's information we can use. And if we can, then—"
A shadowy being dropped into view.
"I know you," hissed Pridak. "You are Makuta Necuas. What do you want?"
"What's in it for us?"
Out of the shadows, a small army of Maxilos robots appeared. They circled the Barraki, enclosing them in a tight ring.
"You get to live another day."
Kaluu and Krakanus braced themselves for very painful annihilation. They stood in a battle stance, weapons at the ready. Nightwatcher snorted.
"Do you truly believe you can destroy me? You will not be the first Makuta whose particularly horrible deaths are attributed to me. Nor will you be the last."
"We shall die fighting," menaced Kaluu.
"Does the manner of your death really matter? Death is the same for every being: an empty void, oblivion. Death does not care how you die, only that you do, and I shall ensure that you shall."
"Then come to us and ensure it," said Krakanus. "I do not fear death as you do, Nightwatcher."
For the first time in hundreds of years, Nightwatcher became visibly angry. His mutated face became contorted with fury; he raised his staff in a tremendous pose, and outside, the sky seemed to darken. It was a sight that few beings ever saw, much less lived to tell about.
Then, as the two Makuta prepared to die, Nightwatcher relaxed.
"No," he said. "I will keep you alive. Perhaps Tetrack and the Gigas Magna Empire can think up more painful ways to die than I can. The only reason you are still alive now is because I want to see your pathetic expressions when you rot in a prison cell, all your great plans ruined, and begging for death. Then, perhaps, you shall be obliged."
"It was part of our agreement that you would not reveal—"
"You did not keep the agreement. Why should I? I am going now. See to it that you make as many more insignificant conquests as possible before we kill you. Have fun, and good-bye."
The Toa of Shadow vanished, leaving the Makuta to contemplate their fates.
There was a large crashing sound as a wall came down. Five Maxilos robots walked into the base and opened fire upon a group of beings. Some ran, while the others made an attempt to defend. However, they where slaughtered by a combination of Exo-Toa and Maxilos robots. Those who ran found themselves trapped in Visorak webs.
The army began to progress. They had taken out the weakest, but had yet to confront the higher-ranking members of this organization.
One of the beings among the defending organization heard a sound, clearly meant to be a signal: the grinding of Visorak teeth. On cue, he stabbed the being next to him and disintegrated another, turning into Makuta Necuas, who unleashed a nova blast of Shadow, scattering the members as the Barraki army rushed in from the other side of the building, trapping the defenders. A group of Rahkshi and Venom Flyers entered with Shadrus in a third location.
The armies fought. Necuas calmly watched as his organization's army crushed their opposition. As he exited the building with Shadrus and his army, he spoke:
And all the Plasma Rahkshi, aided by missiles from the Exo-Toa and Maxilos, obeyed Necuas' command. Within seconds, the building and everything inside it was annihilated.
The Brotherhood of Fear had made their first attack against the rival organization of the Noctxia Guardians.
It would not be the last.
Shayla stood up, satisfied that her bodily injuries had been repaired by the Rahi healer. "I thank you for all your kindness, however odd your species may be. Where is this place?"
The Western Continent of Gigas Magna, said the one named Kanias. We are the Vandrox, who inhabit this jungle.
"Thank you. Can you tell me who I am?"
The two Vandrox paused, gave each other meaningful looks, and then the older one, the one named Veniad, responded:
Do you remember nothing?
"A shadowy being with green eyes choking me," she responded. "And then... yes... a barren desert with a burning hut in it, structures gone from sight..."
The Vandrox shared brief telepathic exchanges.
The being is Nightwatcher, a bounty hunter, said Kanias.
"Then I know what to do," proclaimed Shayla. "He is evil, pure evil. That much I know. I will hunt him down and kill him."
You will leave us?
"Clearly. Is there a way out of this jungle?"
We are on the very outskirts. A few miles away or so from the Settlers' land.
"Then I'll find my own way," said Shayla, who vanished into the bushes. For many minutes, the Vandrox looked in silence at the spot where they last saw her.
She is the chosen one, said Kanias. I am sure of it. The Prophecies provide a perfect description of her.
Don't be too sure, the elder warned. Prophecies have been mistaken. We are but mortal beings, attempting to seek the vaguest sense of truth in our minds, forever—
"Philosophical garbage is not what I would choose for my final words," said a shadowy being, who suddenly appeared before them. His red eyes glinted in the night, and the taint of evil could be seen upon them.
I know of you, said Veniad. You are that Nightwatcher. A bounty hunter, are you not? What do you want of us?
The being laughed, a mockery of nature were his chuckles. "I am not Nightwatcher. I am his twin, created out of a substance dark as the night I thrive in. And I want little out of you. What I do want is to kill Nightwatcher, and I want it for very good reasons, yes, important reasons indeed."
Shayla is following him, said Kanias. There is nothing you can learn from us. Can you leave us in peace?
"No," said the being. "No one sees Void and lives. Absolutely no one."
And with one sweep of his blade so quick that they never saw it, he terminated the lives of the two innocent Rahi.
Leviathos found his mind spinning through the dimensional void. He had not yet gotten used to the feeling of teleportation; he much preferred the feeling of moving through the sky atop his Aquaeris Bbard, and much preferred the breathless feeling of wind against his face than the breathless feeling of being squeezed in a relentless purple maelstrom.
The purple maelstrom stopped. The darkness cleared away, and Leviathos found himself where he intended to be: on the shores of Valmai Nui, Or at least, it had been Valmai Nui before the islands had been merged; he was as yet unsure of what the inhabitants of the new island were calling it.
He brushed those thoughts out of his mind; his primary goal was to find Jetrak. He remembered that Nightwatcher had trapped him in an energy bubble over the ocean. He hoped that the Toa of Shadow had not intended the field to be permanent; Leviathos would likely never be able to get through it. Perhaps the field vanished after its creator's death, though Leviathos doubted it.
He set his flight path for the spot where he had battled Nightwatcher. He knew that the best thing to do would be to teleport there, but Leviathos did not know whether or not the anti-teleportation shield was still enabled, and decided not to risk it. Who knew what would happen to him if it was?
After a time of traveling at uncomfortably fast speeds, he slowed down when he saw a familiar atoll in the water beneath him. Soon after, he saw where the energy field had been.
It was gone. All that was left was a trail of smoke — apparently from a being's malfunctioning jetpacks — leading off into the distance. It was accompanied by two, whiter trails that were still in the process of dissolving into the mist.
Someone got here first, thought Leviathos, and followed them.
Peering through the doorway, Necuas could see Krakanus seated on his metal throne. The Makuta was impatiently tapping his fingers on the armrests, and the emotion was clearly visible in his eyes. It was anger, Necuas knew, yet he detected quite a large amount of fear.
What would a leader of the Brotherhood of Fear be afraid of? Necuas thought.
Krakanus' eyes suddenly flashed toward the figure in the doorway and alighted on Necuas. His face made a wonderfully horrible attempt to quickly hide his expression, and then gave up on it.
"What news, Necuas?"
"The Barraki agreed to an alliance, after some... persuasion," said Necuas. The words were meant to please Krakanus, but his leader only responded with a scowl. Ignoring it, he continued.
"With our unified army, we proceeded to attack of a base that one of my spies has informed me of. It was the headquarters of the Noctxia Guardians. Do you wish to continue our campaign against them? I assure you that they will not forget us."
If Necuas had been scowling before, that was nothing: his rage exploded in an emotional fireball that led Krakanus to grasp Necuas tight by the throat.
"You made a military move?" Krakanus roared. "They could have allied with us! In a situation such as this, we should take the opportunity of an alliance! Instead, you started another war that we have to wage! You are a useless burden that I have to carry, but I have made my decision: I shall carry you no longer!"
"What situation... are you..." Necuas gasped.
Krakanus could take it no longer, and in a surge of enormous strength, Necuas was hurled out the already-broken window of the tower.
Shayla stepped slowly into the building. To all appearances, it was a secret base of operations, and very well-hidden; she doubted that anyone other than the Vandrox knew of it. The rugged metallic construction suggested to her that it meant to sustain harsh weather; and for it to be so rugged, it would have had to have been there a very, very long time.
Alert to the slightest sound, she crept through the narrow halls, opening one door after another. She did not know what she wished to seek, but something in her subconscious told her that she had been there before.
No one was in sight, and comforted by that knowledge, she doubled her pace. Some doors were locked; those that weren't contained an impressive zoological display of Rahi and creatures in cages. Shayla was disgusted at the sight of them; there was something about them, besides their hideous, contorted appearance, that made her know that they had not been created with good intentions.
She was all but ready to give up when she fell through the trapdoor.
The floor had opened, suddenly, and she tumbled into space. With her acute sense of balance, she was capable of landing feet first. She had planned to do a brief, inconspicuous search for whatever she was looking for, but that was impossible.
She was in a cavernous room, so large it goggled one's senses, and the electronical equipment that covered the tables and the enormous screens mounting the wall had only one purpose:
To monitor the bounty hunter named Nightwatcher.
Leviathos' first glimpse of the monolithic fortress was from miles away. In front of the setting sun, it blocked out large portions of the star; it was a dark mass in front of the light. The Order of Mata Nui's base on Daxia seemed pitifully small in comparison, and it encompassed a large portion of the island of Daxia.
Whoever made this base must be quite powerful, though Leviathos. He flew quickly in the fortress' direction, and activated his Makuta power of camouflage. He noticed rather large weapons emplacements located on a number of towers, and decided that he did not want to know exactly what they did.
A solid gate, as monolithic as the fortress itself, greeted him at his destination. One quick glance with his X-ray vision showed him that the gate, not to mention the rest of the fortress, was made out of a maddeningly strong alloy of protosteel; only astronomical strength could make the slightest dent in it.
Leviathos swore, and summoned up a colossal amount of energy. With all his willpower, he focused it into a microscopic point, then shot the minuscule package at the gate.
An explosion of pure energy; fire, light, matter transforming into radiation. Leviathos erected a shield to guard himself from the blast, but he was nearly blown away by the force blowing into him. When the explosion dissipated into smoke, Leviathos saw the impossible:
A completely untouched, extremely stubborn wall.
What now? Leviathos considered magnetically summoning asteroids in orbit of Noctxia Magna, but there seemed no point; if the fortress could hold up against the energy he had released, surely it could stand up to an asteroid storm.
Then the Noctian had the answer.
Magnetically. The protosteel alloy was not magnetic, but the controls were almost certainly mechanical. Leviathos seemed to leave his body as he released light waves of electricity that coursed through the enormous building, sensing what they came in contact with. After a few moments, he found the controls for the gate and brought his consciousness into the devices. It required all his willpower, and slowly, ever so slowly, the gates opened.
Now we're getting somewhere, the Noctian thought, and he slipped into the shadows.
Shayla did not believe in destiny. Despite her unpredictability, she was an analyst by nature: rational and highly unwilling to accept an idea without evidence. She scoffed at the idea of predetermined fates: was there no such thing as free will, then, if what she did was already going to happen?
The new Shayla, the one without memory, did not remember any of her philosophical debates with her friend Colix or any of the mulling over she had done in private, but she still reached the same conclusion: destiny was irrational. Yet she had been led to a place where she could learn everything there was to know about the being she was looking for with terrible resolve. What explanation could there be?
Again, Shayla shook herself. It had been two days since she had discovered the building, and she had gathered a rather large biography of Nightwatcher. She knew nothing about his origins — the database had only said that he had come from another universe, which was something Shayla doubted — and there were a number of missing pieces, undocumented points in his life where he had vanished from sight for time periods of up to years, returning to bounty hunting shortly after as if nothing had ever happened. From what was present, though, Shayla learned of his various strategies and his cold, calculating methods of killing. She knew all his abilities, a number of his fighting styles. She never slept, devouring information, remembering it all: apparently, she had gained a photographic memory somehow after he had strangled her.
She was convinced that she knew everything she needed to know about the bounty hunter. And she was convinced that she was ready to kill him.
Shayla, in her original searches of the building, had discovered a small, one-person spacecraft. It reminded her of the Giant Kiglo Papaya she had seen in the jungle, though the Giant Kiglo Papaya lacked wings and a cockpit. Had she been an expert on spaceships, she would have found it curiously outdated. But she was not, and she did not, and she noticed nothing.
As she boarded the spaceship, initiating the launch systems and going through the lightspeed procedures in her head, another possibility came to her, one that had absolutely no supporting evidence and yet seemed horrifyingly plausible:
What if she was being manipulated?
"I should kill you where you stand," growled Krakanus at Shadrus, who was quivering under his crushing foot.
"Well, I'm not really standing," said Shadrus.
"You're pushing your chances, Toa."
"Why am going to kill you? Because I reviewed your comm-device's records. You promised that bounty hunter Nightwatcher a bounty. Now the Gigas Magna Empire will kill us all!"
Krakanus stomped on the Toa's stomach. "Congrats. You can go kill Nightwatcher or I will kill you."
Shadrus stood up and began walking out the door when he threw up and continued out.
Drastic times call for drastic measures, Krakanus reassured himself.
"We will be recruiting a new Makuta to the Brotherhood of Fear," he said to the two Makuta kneeling before him.
"Really? Who?" asked Necuas.
"Don't get your hopes up. It's the Noctian."
"What?" both Makuta replied to their leader's answer.
"Capture him and bring him here for negotiations."
"Do not dare anger me while we are on the brink of death! Is this clear?"
"Um, Krakanus. may we bring Shadrus and Skraaki for reinforcements?" said Necuas.
"Skraaki is all yours, but Shadrus is trying to kill Nightwatcher."
"But why send him? Nightwatcher is far superior. That's suicide!" said Kaluu.
"It is his fault if we die, so I will not let him live to see the day when his leading us to our deaths bears fruit!"
"Yes, Krakanus," replied the two almost simultaneously. Both made a mental note never to question their ruler again.
As the two Makuta exited, feet and claws padding on the marble floor, Kaluu whispered to his partner, "Look at Krakanus' eyes. He's been days without sleep. He's looking around the room, as if seeing things that aren't there. He never leaves his throne. I swear, he's gone mad!"
"How true," Necuas murmured.
The two Makuta parted ways in the corridor. Kaluu went properly marching down it, so properly that he never once turned back to see what happened behind him.
Unseen by any eyes except his own, which penetrated every corner of the building, Necuas transformed. His tall, skinny body became a taller, wider, gait with eyes green as nebulae. He was an unmistakable figure, or he would have been if anyone had been there to mistake him. Nightwatcher always made sure, in one way or another.
Nightwatcher found his plot amusing in a fashion that bordered on enjoyment. He could achieve his goal simply, he knew, but he found it much more interesting to throw the Brotherhood of Fear into disarray. Taking control of Krakanus' mind had been easy enough, as had been the murder of Necuas. Of course, he did have to make Krakanus forget what he had done so he could impersonate Necuas himself without suspicion, and what better way to do so than to drive him mad? It was almost a game to Nightwatcher, where he watched the pawns scurry about, attempting to achieve power they would never assume.
He was almost sorry that he would soon have to end it.
Leviathos the Noctian was utterly lost. He had entered the fortress many hours before, silently passing by the surprised guards that had watched the impractically large gate open without warning. Invisible, he slipped past all the beings that had swarmed to the gate to inspect the security breach, and followed one of them back through the maze.
For it was a maze, Leviathos decided. He was surprised that anyone could ever navigate their way through the fortress, though he supposed the being's certainty when traveling the pathways was the result of years of living there. So far, he had visited a number of small rooms, but nothing that even hinted as to where the prisoners were kept. He hoped there was a map somewhere, but it seemed like the only maps in the building were contained inside the inhabitants' heads.
He was about to lose his patience, as well as his temper, with the green-colored being he was following, when suddenly he whipped around, grabbed Leviathos by the arms, and slammed him against the wall.
"Do you think I can't hear you?" the green being whispered. "Even invisible, you're not cautious enough. You have five seconds to tell me your name before you're blasted into a quite disgusting pulp. Hurry up."
In response, Leviathos began to generate vines to wrap around his foe, but he found his arm sharply twisted back.
"Don't even try it," said the being. "I was trained by the Order of Mata Nui to detect attacks before they come. One more trick like that and I'll break your arm, your leg, and possibly your skull as well. Tell me your name!"
"Leviathos," he whispered.
"Leviathos?" chuckled the green being. "I know who he is. He was one of the Order's Makuta hunters, like me. He has absolutely no reason to sneak into a hidden base with absolutely no Makuta in it. Tell me your real name!"
"Ask me something only Leviathos would know, then," said the Noctian. He was growing very irritated, but worried as well; if he was unable to convince this being of who he really was, it was possible that he really would carry out his threat of inflicting physical harm. Leviathos supposed that he could defeat his adversary, but at the cost of remaining inconspicuous.
You're thinking like a Toa, he realized. It's time to start thinking like a Makuta. You had better get used to it.
"All right, then," said the being. "Tell me about the prophecy."
Leviathos' eyes widened. "How did you know—"
"About the prophecy? I have near-top-level access to Order information. I've been with them for only a month, but they trust me. More than Leviathos, anyway. He's dangerous, according to Helryx. Can't tell him too much or everything will be ruined. Besides, how do you know about the prophecy?"
"Because I am Leviathos!"
A brief moment passed, and the being let go of Leviathos.
"Very well. Either you're a spy that has learned enough about Leviathos to acceptably pass off as him, or you're the real deal. My name is Chameleo."
"Hello, Chameleo," Leviathos nodded.
"Thank you," said Chameleo. Suddenly, two rather large black robots emerged from their hiding place on the ceiling and grabbed Leviathos by the arms.
"Did you really think I was alone?" said Chameleo. "You're more gullible than I thought. Our leader will decide what to do with you now."
Void watched, unseen, as Shayla double-checked her instrument controls and lifted the small craft off the landing pad. The craft stayed in the air, still, for a number of seconds, before she blasted into the purple dimensional void that greeted all beings that traveled through the worlds.
He emerged, took one final, almost longing, look at the large building, and the illusion vanished. In its place was barren desert, nothing more than sand.
The first stage of his master's plan was complete. He had slowly, carefully guided her to kill Nightwatcher without arousing too much suspicion. She had gone off to do the deed. And then, once she had killed him, she would die, as Nightwatcher himself had ensured. It was very neat, he had to admit.
And neither target suspected a thing.
The robotic guards had dragged Leviathos for what seemed like an eternity before he was dropped in a large, circular room. It was encircled by a gigantic glass dome, with the sun shining through it. It was setting now, and the room seemed aflame with the brilliance of its twilight. The Noctian found himself almost blinded by the mesmerizing sight, and he was forced to turn his head away.
When he turned his head back, he was lying on the floor in front of a Vortixx. The Vortixx stared down at him, then made a gesture with his hand. Behind Leviathos, two more robotic guards threw Jetrak on the ground next to him. The being made another motion, and the glass dome suddenly appeared to turn into the same dark metal that comprised the rest of the fortress.
"Impressive, isn't it?" said the Vortixx. "The wall is made up of hundreds of electronic plates that respond to my preference of scenery. That sun is just a recording, one of many thousands in our possessions. We retrieve them from their owner's memories — and that is just what we can do to you if you don't comply. We were about ready to do it to your friend here as well, but you saved him the experience."
Leviathos focused on the being. On the outside, he was clearly powerful, and radiated a fierce aura of leadership, but on the inside, he seemed... empty, somehow, as if there were something missing. The form the leader had taken was not his true one, but Leviathos was unable to find out what his original form had been. If he could, then he just might have a chance of understanding what his motives were. A Makuta? No, a Makuta would be capable of completely deflecting his mental inquiries. A Toa? Certainly not, unless it were a mutant, for no ordinary Toa possessed that type of power. And then he remembered Nightwatcher...
"I am a shapeshifter. A Krahka. I do not have a real form," said the being, who had apparently sensed what Leviathos was trying to do and was now looking into the Noctian's eyes. "I have never had one, and never will. This is the form I am accustomed to, but I can become anything I wish."
"I can become virtually anything, Leviathos, and because of that, I see virtually everything."
"Let us go," said Leviathos. "We have nothing you want. Why keep us here?"
"I see your mind, Noctian," said the Guardians' leader, settling back down on his stone chair. "We have something you want, so far as I understand, and I want to know what it is."
Jetrak strolled along the path encircling the Noctxia Guardians' fortress, enjoying his newfound freedom. True, he could have stayed indoors and jogged on one of their holographic walkways, but he had always been attached to nature. Besides, if the terms of Leviathos' deal were correct, he wanted to make the best out of the next few days: as he had told his friend various times, his plan was more than suicide: it was insanity.
Suddenly, a shape he had not seen for a hundred years swooped from the spot where he had been hiding and dragged him off the walkway. Jetrak began to yell, but the sound was cut short when The Shadowed One grabbed him by the neck.
"Who are you? Actually, I don't want to know. I care nothing. But what is this place? Why are you here?"
"Noctxia..." Jetrak rasped, "Guardians... this... their base... aargh! Let... go..."
"This is Jetrak, one of our operatives!" said Helryx. "Let him go or I'll spear you."
The Shadowed One let the Toa of Plasma drop. Jetrak gasped and looked around at the massive army of Dark Hunters and Order operatives. "Shadowed One," he breathed, "what—? How—?"
"Doesn't matter," said the Dark Hunter coldly. "Now, I want you to do something for me. I want you to go inside and arrange a meeting with them, or else you'll wish that you had never been born. Now follow your orders. Is that clear, or do I have to express my desires in a more painful means?"
Jetrak nodded and scurried back indoors as fast as his legs could take him.
"Gullible fool," spat the Shadowed One.
"You came to this part of the universe on a ruse," said Helryx. "Who's the gullible one?"
"Quiet," said the Dark Hunter, walking away. "They'll hear."
Yes, thought Nightwatcher. We will hear. And we shall soon see who is the real gullible fool...
Fero was trapped in a nightmare. The dreaded Bara Magna sandstorm swirled around him, engulfing him in pitch darkness. Somewhere nearby, Skirmix screamed, and Fero could hear the noise of the Rock Steed's quick footsteps. It was scenting him out, and it would only be a matter of time before he caught up to him.
Then we can die together, thought the Bone Hunter as he groped in the blackness for some shelter (not that he expected to find any). Curse Xev for getting us into this.
It had all begun when Xev had left the camp six sunrises ago. He had gone without informing anyone, had even left his rock steed at the camp — shocking behavior for a Bone Hunter. After a long period of speculation as to what had happened to him, Fero had confessed his plans to abandon the tribe. As punishment, Nilias had decided, he would leave to search for Xev and would not return until he had been found alive. So here he was — lost in a storm without any sense of direction at all. All he could do was wait until the storm passed.
Curse Nilias, too, he decided. A member of the Iron Tribe, not to mention a female, has no business with a Bone Hunter clan. If I ever see her again, I'll wipe that ugly Vorox grin off her face.
Skirmix's growls grew nearer. Fero whistled to the beast, and then the growling stopped — but something was wrong. Skirmix whimpered, and judging from the quick padding of his feet against the soft sand, he was running away. Fero swore, then began to blindly follow in the Rock Steed's direction, dodging the merciless sand that was pelting him and the wind that drove it.
Then he noticed something that made the nightmare seem almost like a good night roasting Sand Bats over the fire.
The roaring sound of the dust storm had suddenly become louder, and now Fero could see why: a sand cyclone had started in the center of the larger storm. If sandstorms were nightmares to all Bara Magna travelers, sand cyclones were a dream about being ripped apart by mad Spikit. They had a bad reputation for leaving no survivors in their devastating paths. One had passed through Tesara once, and the damage it had made was inconceivable. There, at least, there had been shelter. Out in the open desert was another matter.
Ignoring the Rock Steed, Fero ran as fast as possible in what he judged was the safest direction to go. Skirmix began to scream, which made Fero pause for a fraction of a second — but then, falling in his direction, came a monstrous red mass. He quickly ran over to inspect it, momentarily ignoring the howl of the wind, but he had not even reached it before he saw the truth: it was only the body. The head and limbs were nowhere in sight, and what was left of the Rock Steed was impaled by shrapnel. He briefly wondered where it had come from, then decided that he didn't want to know.
The roaring sound grew louder.
Time to go, thought Fero.
The Bone Hunter, in a split-second decision, dumped his pack on the sand and began to run as fast as his legs could take him. But all of a sudden, he found himself in a monstrous wave of circling sand: not blowing in one direction as the sandstorms did, but rotating...
As the cyclone slowly lifted him into the air, Fero screamed. But the storm's roar drowned out the cry, and no being on Bara Magna ever saw him alive again.
It was dark on Noctxia Magna. The side of the planet was completely facing away from the sun; it was midnight. There was a noise as a Toa wearing an Olmak appeared with four other beings. "Right that way."
The four beings began to move forward when the one in front turned around. "You are as early as you requested." They started again, and when they were out of sight the Toa took a different shape.
"Looks can be deceiving."
They arrived at the old base of a Noctxia Magna faction that was destroyed in the early stages of the planetary power struggle. It was already overgrown and without a roof. The beings stepped into the dimly lit center, and The Shadowed One stepped into view.
The Shadowed One's eyes had began to get used to the darkness, so he saw a shape just outside the light. "Why are we here?" he demanded.
"Well, the Dark Hunters are somewhat useful to me, so I would like to negotiate."
"Negotiate what?" said the Shadowed One. The voice sounded, to him, familiar, but he just couldn't figure out who it was.
"An alliance. You will learn more soon," said the being stepping into the light.
The three Dark Hunters jumped at the sight of him, all preparing their weapons, but only The Shadowed One spoke.
"You," he said.
"I didn't die that day on Metru Nui," said Leviathos.
"Obviously," said the Shadowed One.
The Toa reappeared with Helryx.
"Hello, Helryx," said the Shadowed One and Leviathos.
"Leviathos, what are you doing here?"
"Noctia came here. I followed."
Another being stepped into the light.
"Who are you?" said Helryx.
"Hello. I am the leader on the Noctxia Guardians, and I am proposing an alliance."
"I'm listening," said The Shadowed One.
"Hopefully, by the end of today, I can say I have only worked for one organization," mumbled Leviathos to himself.
"You worked for them?" said The Shadowed One, pointing his staff at Helryx.
"Let's get back to this alliance," said Leviathos, a nervous Jetrak standing next to him. "And now, let me tell you of a despicable order named the Brotherhood of Fear..."
Shayla emerged from lightspeed near a large blue planet. Checking the small data packet with information on Nightwatcher, she double-checked to make sure that Nightwatcher was still on the planet. He was, and Shayla began the descent through the atmosphere.
Once through, she set the ship to autopilot and gave it the coordinates that she wanted. Here, at last, was her chance to kill the bounty hunter that had come so close to killing her. She was ready, or at least as ready as she would ever be. Now was the time to carry out her mission.
Within a few minutes, the ship stopped above a base. A quick analysis showed that it was ninety-six square kio in diameter, and that its exterior was comprised of an alloy of protosteel and a strange, unidentifiable metal. As she had expected, a radio message had been sent from the base:
"Unidentified aircraft, you are on Noctxia Guardians' airspace. Please land your craft or force shall be used."
Shayla merely hovered in the air.
"Unidentified aircraft, do you copy?"
She readied the plasma cannons...
"Unidentified aircraft, this is your final warning, Prepare to be boarded."
"I don't think so," said Shayla, as she rotated the plasma cannons, checked the instrument panels, and fired.
The throne room with the dome had proved remarkably flexible. The walls were now a smooth silver color, and the throne had vanished to be replaced with a large, rectangular table with five chairs circled around it, while levitating on top of it was a holographic model of a crudely constructed fortress. The reconnaissance missions had done fairly well in recording the structure of the Brotherhood's base, and, relative to the Noctxia Guardians', it seemed quite fallible. Unfortunately, the advanced defenses made up for the measly design, and it seemed that all assaults by land or air would fail save by an enormous military sacrifice.
"Odina's base is not impenetrable," said the Shadowed One. "This base of your new Brotherhood isn't nearly as well-protected, so if there are ways to get into ours, there will likely be some into theirs. Sadly, most of our ways involve the inability to run away, as running is a rather difficult task when there is no head to control it. I imagine most of their entryways will be the same."
The intense scribbling came once again from the corner of the room. The Recorder, a creature with the sole purpose of taking note of everything Shadowed One said, had refused to accept a holographic keypad and instead continued the traditional form of recording, to the great annoyance of all in the room.
"Get that thing away from me," said Ancient. "You know I can't put up with it."
"Very well," said the Dark Hunter leader. Almost yawning, he said, "Get out," and the creature complied, albeit unwillingly.
"Thank you," said Helryx, seated in another of the chairs. "And on the topic of Krakanus: he may be intelligent, but he's no genius, and is very capable of making mistakes. If I recall correctly, he once tried to get into a secret rebellion. The fool — he never imagined that they planned to get rid of him once they got what they needed. He nearly ended up back in the claws of his Brotherhood, who would have certainly executed him for treason. Krakanus is a traitorous tyrant, treacherous tyrants grow paranoid, and paranoid beings inevitably make mistakes."
It's time to speak up, said Leviathos. His plan had to go perfectly, or else he would undoubtedly end up dead. But what cost would speaking up make? How would the organizations that considered him a friend react when they discovered that he had been keeping secrets from them.
Then he remembered what Chameleo had told him: Helryx knew about the prophecy as well. He knew now that she was keeping information from him, but how much? What other secrets could the Toa of Water know that she wasn't telling?
Either way, it's worth the risk.
It was now or never. He hesitated for a few seconds, then made his statement:
"We need someone to get on the inside, gain their trust. Then, once they're in, they corrupt the Brotherhood's defenses. We win — and with a near-bloodless victory. Once that's happened, it'll be an easy job mopping the rest of their forces up."
"But if it fails, it will be our forces that will be mopped up, not theirs," said Helryx. "Are you absolutely sure of this?"
"Besides," said the Shadowed One, rotating his personal chair (able to support all his three legs) in Leviathos' direction, "you don't seem to be paying much attention. Hasn't our generous Krahka here told us already that there are already numerous spies in the Brotherhood of Fear's infrastructure, ready to strike when needed. If I am correct in believing that you want to go in yourself, I see no point. It's not as if—"
"I'll go in as a prisoner," said Leviathos. "just as they want me. I'll turn myself over — not too conspicuously, mind you, but I'll let myself be captured."
"They'd kill you on sight!" yelled the Shadowed One. "You're the most wanted target on their list. Every bounty hunter in their army is out looking for your hide at this very moment. Besides, what could you possibly have that they would want?"
So the moment of truth comes, thought the Noctian...
"They're afraid of me," said Leviathos. "And they can use me. There's a prophecy about me, you see, which I know they're deathly terrified of. They can't kill me; so the best they can do is get me on their side. And once they think they've succeeded, I'll destroy them all."
"What kind of this prophecy is it?" asked the Shadowed One. "How do you even know it'll come true?"
"I don't," said Leviathos, "and the Brotherhood of Fear certainly doesn't want to find out. They're terrified of me, or at least Krakanus is, and I'm sure he'll tell his accomplices about it soon as well."
"I suspected something like this," said the Krahka. His eyes were closed, and his hands were together. He seemed at peace, meditating; Leviathos realized that he had been waiting for what he had been about to say. "But you are overconfident, Noctian. If your plan were to fail, and you were to die, the entire universe may suffer. I know not your secret, but I can guess; and if your secret is as important as I believe, why risk your life doing this when you could be doing something much greater?"
"Because I'm a Makuta hunter," Leviathos replied, "and a Makuta hunter never gives up."
Any further words from any of the speaking parties were drowned out by a blaring alarm. An even louder voice announced:
KIGLO-11 SERIES SPACECRAFT ATTACKING. REPEAT, KIGLO-11 SPACECRAFT LOCATED .4 KIO ABOVE NORTHEASTERN QUADRANT, CURRENTLY IN ATTACK POSITION. FIRING 0.74-INTENSITY PLASMA CHARGES. BEGINNING DIVE. DEFENSE TOWERS AWAITING INSTRUCTIONS. REPEAT, KIGLO-11 SERIES...
"What the Karzahni is going on?" said the Noctxia Guardians' leader, springing up from his chair and beginning to pace. "Kiglo-11 craft are ninety years out of date. And .74-intensity plasma charges aren't even close to enough to breach the nanomolecular shield. Why don't we just let it keep firing? It won't do even any minor harm for about ninety thousand years.
"Computer, relay previous statement to guard tower."
A few seconds later, a hologram of a Toa of Aura appeared in midair. "Sorry, sir—"
"Don't call me 'sir,'" said the Krahka.
"Well, sir, the problem is that the Kiglo-11 spacecraft has just been joined by a whole fleet of other spaceships, and we had to sound our automated alarm. The problem is that the fleet is equipped with an electronic cloaking signature, so the little ship was the only one the computer detected when it sounded the alarm."
"What kind of ships are they?"
"Sir, the smaller one has no distinct recognizable features — we're trying to identify it at this very moment, sir. And, sir?"
"The whole fleet bears Brotherhood of Fear insignia, sir."
The leader swore. "How many ships?"
"Two extremely large ones, sir."
"Don't call me 'sir.' End transmission."
The hologram flickered off. Without a word, he made a motion and the walls opened in a passageway to allow him through. The Shadowed One and Ancient followed. Helryx began to depart as well, but Leviathos stopped her.
"You knew about the prophecy already, didn't you?"
Helryx looked at him with a frown. "How do you know?"
"Chameleo told me."
"Chameleo's here?" Helryx frowned again. "How could he have found out about it?"
"He says you told him. Apparently, he has top-level access to Order information — and I don't. You don't trust me, do you? I'm willing to bet you know even more about me than I know about myself. There's holes, missing gaps in my life, and you know what happened during them. What is there about myself that's so secret I'm not allowed to know?"
"Chameleo has top-level access to Order information?" said Helryx, clearly worried. "Since when?"
"You should know."
"I don't. I'm not lying."
"Then remove your mental block."
Helryx hesitated. Leviathos pried into her mind to see if she would comply, when suddenly, the barrier vanished. Leviathos saw a ages-old knowledge which no being save her would likely ever see, but he knew Helryx was watching his every mental move. He searched her mind for information on Chameleo, but never once had there been any revealing of information.
"Believe me now?" said Helryx, who reactivated her mental block, stunning Leviathos. She took no notice as he crumpled to the ground moaning, and exited the room.
The Noctian stood up again, shaken by the experience he had just had. If Chameleo had never known about the prophecy, then how—?
"I need to show you something."
Leviathos whirled around to see Chameleo himself looking over his shoulder. "What is it? And can it possibly be more important than a Brotherhood of Fear invasion?"
"Believe me, it is. Come on."
And Chameleo vanished. Leviathos joined him in the purple void between dimensions once again, as he vaguely wondered when Chameleo had learned to teleport.
Shayla's predicament had gone from bad to worse to the point where she was certain she was going to die. The plasma charges flying around in all visible directions were not causing significant damage to the fortress below, but they certainly were causing significant damage to her. The ship's shielding was completely down, and she was struggling desperately to evade cannon fire. A number of emergency lights were flashing in all sorts of different colors, and the sight of her transparent viewscreen was rather unpleasant. All she could see was an exceptionally large rocky outcropping, and that was even more unsettling with the realization that she was at a perfect ninety-degree angle to the ground and heading straight for it. Her power was gone, the auxilary power was not responding, her sensors were malfunctioning, and the emergency eject controls were on fire. A small burst of water resolved that problem, but still there was no response.
Then, suddenly, her fall came to a jarring halt. For a moment she thought she was dead, but that conclusion was uickly discounted by the fact that the plasma charges were still flying in all directions. However, she was no longer falling. Shayla thought that very strange, and then she decided to look up.
One of the massive ships had begun pulling her in.
"Prepare to be boarded," the radio static crckled.
Shayla thought herself lucky to be alive. She would be less so in a few moments.
The air crackled in the quiet chamber as two beings emerged from the dimensional void. The taller, more muscular one of the two looked around and saw nothing but the cold, silver, reflective metal of a prison cell belonging to the Guardians. The leaner, shorter one came a fraction of a second later and saw Leviathos look around.
"What is this place?" said Leviathos, even more confused than he had been before.
"Prison cell F-124," replied Chameleo. "Though I supposed you already guessed what this was."
"Why did you bring me here, I mean?"
"To make the completion of my plan more enjoyable."
Two beings suddenly appeared on the cell floor, causing Leviathos to briefly forget the strangeness of Chameleo's statement. Both were unconscious, apparently incapacitated by heavy blows to the head. One was Shadrus, and from what Leviathos could tell, he would not awaken for quite some time. The other was a being that looked exactly like Chameleo.
Probably a relative, Leviathos decided.
And yet he had to take a closer look. Leviathos kneeled down to look closer. The Reptisapean looked a bit too similar. The eyes were the same color, the scratches in the armor were the same, and he had the exact same look, same general feeling of power hidden under a scrawny visage, though it just might be typical of all members of his species. Leviathos turned to speak to Chameleo—
But the being he saw standing behind him was not Chameleo.
"Surprised?" said Nightwatcher. "I'm not as dead as you surely think I am. You killed a mere illusion, Leviathos. As always, I thought ahead of my predictable foes. Those two beings on the floor there are a few examples of that kind — your Toa of Shadow was hunting me down. I spared him the trouble of looking and allowed him to find me myself. The other one got in my way when I was trying to kill Necuas, and he made too good a use to pass up.
"You must be wondering what I want from you. I can tell that easily enough. Let's just say that I require some information from you that your sophisticated mental blocks don't allow me to reach from long range."
"You won't get it," said Leviathos.
"I already know some of what I am looking for. Krakanus divulged the information easily enough — and you are the last piece of the puzzle, the final part I require to make my search worthwhile."
Leviathos prepared for battle, but handcuffs of energy bound his hands to the wall.
"I want your mind," said Nightwatcher, closing his eyes and touching his hands to Leviathos' body. "I will see it eventually, no matter how hard you resist. Giving up now would be considerably less painful for you."
"Never," growled the Noctian. "My secrets will remain mine." Yet he knew that he could not prevent Nightwatcher's entry into his thoughts. The Toa of Shadow was too powerful — but he could at least put up a fight, and with any luck inflict some injury on his attacker.
"So be it," said Nightwatcher.
A spasm of electrical energy emanated from Nightwatcher's outstretched claws, extending into Leviathos' body. The pain was incredible — every inch of him was aflame with an intense energy. He was shaking with the energy coursing through him, while at the same time, Leviathos sensed cold tendrils creeping into his mind.
"I WILL NEVER GIVE UP!" he cried, making futile attempts to wrench free from his chains while at the same time concentrating all his mental willpower on the task of keeping the Toa away from his mind.
"Your resolve is... surprising... for a weakling," said Nightwatcher, his eyes still closed. "But all weaklings must fall in the face of greater power."
Leviathos used one final burst of mental power against Nightwatcher, knowing that he could never succeed — and then he failed. In microseconds, Nightwatcher had combed every area of his brain, analyzed each and every single one, stored them in his own mind for future reference, and abruptly stopped the mental attack.
"Most... interesting," said Nightwatcher, his green eyes gleaming unnaturally. "I would kill you now, Noctian, but you will be useful to me for at least a short time. I know what your plans are, and they are just as I predicted. But you cannot live, Leviathos, do you realize this? Even if your plans succeed — which I suspect they will — you will be no match for the Gigas Magna Empire. They will come, and they will annihilate every single remnant of your little order. And when that time comes, you will be mine. Do you understand that, Leviathos? Only mine."
Leviathos lashed out with a sudden wave of energy, but Nightwatcher easily deflected it.
"So the Vandrox still struggles, even when in the Muaka's jaws. This is quite enjoyable. Sadly, I cannot stay much longer. Be aware that as soon as I have found what I am looking for, you shall be disposed of. Good-bye."
What knowledge did he want from me? Leviathos wondered. And what is he going to do with it now?
Stepping in the center of the small chamber, the bounty hunter spread his arms. Leviathos was briefly curious about what he was going to do — when he unleashed a colossal shockwave in all directions.
Traveling at supersonic speeds, Leviathos never saw it coming and would had been blown against the wall — had there been any wall left to be blown against. He flew farther and farther, when he finally landed on what had once been the floor of the building. Luckily, he had enough sense to erect a shield as he fell, so that he landed unharmed. That was when he took in his surroundings.
He was in the middle of a large island in the center of what had once been the Noctxia Guardians’ fortress. The shockwave had been strong enough to destroy the entire building — and, judging from what was currently happening to the palms on the shores of the island, it was still spreading. But that was not quite as worrying as the fact that two rather large spaceships, apparently undamaged by the blast, were floating overhead, clearly possessing Necuas' emblem. Leviathos prepared to teleport away, but all his attempts turned out to be futile. Apparently, Nightwatcher had erected a teleportation block.
His attention was suddenly distracted by the fact that a small spaceship had landed a few bios nearby. He only stood and watched as Pridak and Skratil, accompanied by a number of Gligg and Pit War Tortoises, emerged from the ship and grabbed him by the arms.
"Come with us," Pridak said, apparently not recognizing the Noctian that had once been one of his best warriors. "You are our prisoner now."
Not quite the way I planned my attack, thought Leviathos, but it will do all the same. Once again, as it did millennia ago, the universe will learn to fear the name of Leviathos.
The hallway reminded Leviathos of one of the Noctxia Guardians': smooth, silver; obviously polished regularly. It reminded him even more of that that two Maxilos robots were holding him by the arms and dragging him along the floor of one of these hallways for the second time in two days.
Only this time he was not alone. Now, Chameleo, Helryx, Ancient, the Shadowed One, the Recorder, the Krahka, Jetrak, and a strange Toa of Water were behind him, dragged by other robots. Behind him, Leviathos could hear the sounds of the robots walking, the beings dragging, the Recorder whining, and every so often his own groans as a Maxilos hit him for trying to look back.
At least they haven't killed us already, thought Leviathos, and decided that that was a good sign.
The robots made another turn, carelessly — or, more likely than not, intentionally — smashing Leviathos into a wall. Leviathos was privileged to be in the first row of prisoners, as he had an uninterrupted view of Necuas and Skratil leaning down in front of him.
"Hello, Leviathos," said the Makuta. "We meet once more."
"I am going to kill both of you, you first, Necuas," said Leviathos, struggling against the Maxilos' grip for just one chance to smash Necuas' scull open.
"Trust us, we would like to return the favor," said Necuas.
The robots followed Necuas towards what Leviathos would once have considered a large pair of doors — after seeing the Noctxia Guardians' gates, nothing appeared "large" to him anymore, least of all doors. Muffled shouting could be heard behind it, and out of curiosity, Leviathos decided to tune in with his Makuta powers.
"Ha!" yelled a voice, clearly recognizable as Krakanus, followed by maniacal laughter.
"But, Krakanus..." the voice belonging to Shadrus whined.
Krakanus laughed uncontrollably. "So, Velnax, you're bowing before me now? Ha! I can remember when you tried to kill me. I should try to kill you, but no, I won't, because you're fun to have around. Fun! Ha!"
"What should I do?" said Shadrus' voice again in a whisper.
"He's gotten worse," whispered Skraaki. "Do nothing that'll aggravate him. He obviously thinks you're someone else."
"Whispering behind my back, are we, are we, now?" said Krakanus, so loud that Leviathos no longer needed to use his powers to hear him behind the closed doors. "Velnax, be good and take that message for me. It's from Spinorak; he wants to come for a visit. Yes, Spinorak? That would be wonderful! Surely you could arrange a..."
Krakanus was babbling to himself now. Leviathos wondered what had happened to him to drive him so terribly mad.
The doors opened, and Skraaki stepped out, whispering to Necuas, "He's gotten worse."
"I heard," said Necuas. "Should I bring them in?"
"Just Leviathos," whispered Skraaki in return.
Necuas whipped his head around to the Noctian. "You're coming with me."
A flash of light illuminated the face of the being named Void. Moments later, it was followed by a clap of thunder, which echoed off the turrets of the Brotherhood of Fear's base. The rain made his cold, black armor shine in the moonlight, but they could not compare to the terrible light emanating from his eyes as they stared down at Necuas' limp form.
Nightwatcher believes himself to be so powerful, so cunning, Void thought. And he is right. But he, like all mortals, is bound to make mistakes. Leaving Necuas' body here was one of them.
He knelt down and touched his hand to Necuas' chest, twisted and broken from the great fall that he had sustained. A small pulse of energy, barely measurable on even the highest-powered Noctxia Guardians equipment. He removed his hand, and suddenly a small light began to flash in Necuas' chest. Void stood back and watched as the mangled remains began to reform themselves.
The shattered mask moved through the air, put itself together, and placed itself on Necuas' face. As Void watched, Necuas' eyes opened, and the Makuta awoke from his sleep.
"No questions," said Void.
"No questions," said the immortal, "unless you want me to bring you back to your sleep. You should be... grateful... that I took the trouble of bringing you to life again."
"What do you want with me?" said Necuas, rising slowly to his unsteady feet.
"Me? I want nothing. There is nothing you can give me. I know all there is to know about your little society, every last bit of secret information, some of which I am sure even you do not know. You are as much use to me as a rotten fish is to the right wing, third division of the Po-Matoran Industrial Guild."
"There are... others... who do not think all mortals are completely useless. My organization keeps tabs on everything that takes place in this universe, as well as in a number of others. My job is to watch this universe; interfere every once in a while to keep things running the way we want them to; and then stand back and watch your affairs play out."
"No more questions!" hissed Void. "I am quite serious now. One more word emanating from your mouth, and it — not to mention the rest of your head — will vanish into oblivion. I am doing the talking here."
Necuas glared at him challengingly, but his mouth remained shut.
"I suppose you are wondering why Nightwatcher saved your life. He did not. I am Void, and my duty is to kill him.
"But that is a mediocre goal, and I shall be successful very soon. I have arranged things so that he will be the engineer of his own destruction — satisfying, is it not? — and besides, I have more pressing things to attend to.
"One of those, as I have told you, is information-gathering. I already know nearly all that there is to know about this universe, but suppose I were to leave for my... homeland, or whatever the apporpriate term may be. We would require more information during my absence. Therefore, one of my duties is to... recruit... sleeper agents all over the universe."
"I see where this is going," spat Necuas. "You want me to betray the Brotherhood for your group, which I know nothing about, have no loyalty towards, and honestly don't care for. You'll have to kill me first."
"Kill you?" Void laughed. "I have no intention of killing you. Death is too simple a punishment. I should know. I have died before."
"You can't persuade me!" yelled Necuas over the booming thunder.
Lightning flashed in the air as Void looked around, apparently just noticing the wet, swampy surroundings. "I'm sure I can't, unless, of course, I use mind control or decide to become unusually persuasive. However, there is something that can."
"Impossible! The Brotherhood—"
"Forget your silly brotherhood. Let me show you something that will change your mind."
"Nothing can change my mind," said Necuas, sounding much bolder than he looked as small pellets of water rained down upon him.
"I take that as a yes," said Void, and the two beings vanished, headed towards a world no Makuta had ever seen...
Krakanus suddenly seemed to regain his sanity as Leviathos entered his throne room. His red, swollen eyes seemed to shrink measurably, he stopped looking around the room, and turned to face the Noctian from his enormous chair. From the corner of his eye, Leviathos saw Necuas whispering to the other Makuta that the only time Krakanus was sane was when Leviathos was mentioned, but he paid little attention. Krakanus was still their leader, however insane he may have become.
"Leviathos, I have a deal for you," said the Makuta in the enormous chair.
"Well, what's in it for me?" asked the Noctian, glancing about. The two robots holding him had not made the slightest move so far, apparently waiting for commands. He wondered whether that was a good sign.
"You don't die," said Krakanus, as if it were obvious.
"I could..." said Leviathos, deciding that he would play along.
"Let me tell you a story," said Krakanus, descending from his throne, appearing more sane than ever. "Once upon a time, there was a treacherous, cunning, cruel, manipulative slimebag named—"
Krakanus? thought the Noctian.
"Tetrack. Now, this Tetrack was very intelligent, and he used his ability to lie, cheat, and decieve. In the end, he won a fabulous new prize for himself: the entire solar system, governed by his ruling council, the Brotherhood of Gigas Magna. He conquered countless civilizations, and he kept wishing for more. Then, of course, he went mad, but that's another story.
"You see, Noctxia Magna is invisibe to the outside world, thanks to the Great Being that created it; there is no sight, no scent, not even an energy or gravity signature, that goes from this world to the rest of the universe. It is completely hidden from prying eyes, and that is why we chose to make our base here, along with many other organizatons: it's safe. The Empire can never find us here."
"Get to the point," Leviathos snarled.
"Nightwatcher works for them. I hired him under the condition that he would reveal no information about this planet to the Empire (and he is surprisingly true to his word), but—"
"You didn't pay him, didn't you?" said Leviathos. "I see now. Once you broke your promise to him, he broke your promise to you, and now he's on our way to the Empire."
"Not yet," said Kaluu. "He destroyed your fortress. He's still here somewhere, and I assume he wants something from us."
"I know Nightwatcher better than most beings," said Krakanus, having walked around the entire room now giving his speech, "and he has a tendency for creating elaborate plots involving the destruction of one or more large factions when sent to capture a single being. I think he's not going to report to the Empire until we and the Guardians are scattered; he probably thinks he'll get a higher bonus for making the conquest of this planet easier."
"So you want me to kill him."
"You are the most powerful of us all," replied Krakanus. "Nightwatcher can defeat entire armies of Makuta; three are no trouble for him."
"Well, I could use some things..."
"Like what?" said Krakanus.
"Done," said Krakanus.
"A space to create Rahi."
"No, you idiot! I am not going to give up my fortress!" said Krakanus.
"Fine," said Leviathos.
"Now, what do you want me to do?"
Krakanus smiled, hovering between sanity and madness. "You'll see."
All of the imprisoned beings received Leviathos' telepathic signal at the same time. As one they rose, lashing out at the Maxilos guards with their elemental powers, stabbing them with razor-sharp claws, taking their own swords and slicing off their heads. The chaos could be heard easily from Krakanus' throne room.
Leviathos rose, blowing his own guards aside with powerful bursts of shadow, smashing them against the walls, then blasting them with lightning that fried their processors and left them crumpled on the floor in heaps of metal.
"You're more stupid than I thought, every last one of you. You willingly allowed hundreds of very powerful members of three very powerful organizations into your building with only Maxilos guards to keep them from overrunning it? I'd have thought you'd know better."
Krakanus made no sound and sat perfectly still. Skratil looked terrified, and had he been able to, Skraaki probably would as well. Shadrus and Kaluu were trying to edge past them to the gates. Only Necuas remained calm, tapping one finger against his arm repeatedly as if he were waiting for something. Shouts and the clashing of swords against Maxilos armor grew louder as the mob of Order of Mata Nui members, Dark Hunters, and Noctxia Guardians advanced toward them.
"No..." whispered Krakanus.
"You will be taken into custody now," said Leviathos, "if nobody decides to kill you first."
"The Brotherhood of Gigas Magna will kill us. You need help..."
"We can deal with them," Leviathos said simply. "Now, hand over your arms, or—"
He was thrown off his feet by the explosions that arose. Just as expected, a large throng of beings blasted down the door — but what Leviathos was not prepared for was the other explosion. Simultaneously, the glass of the window was melted in a tremendous fireball, and as it billowed away, Necuas stepped out of it.
"He's an impostor!" he yelled, pointing at the stunned and confused Necuas, who had been standing beside the wall. "Grab him!"
Apparently, the mob was just as confused as Leviathos was, and began firing weapons in all directions. Krakanus came out of his trance and ducked down behind his chair as laser beams flew through the air toward him. Skratil and Necuas had fled; Skraaki made a futile attempt to charge the attackers and was left a pile of ash after a powerful blast from Ancient. The two Necuases stood stock-still, staring at one another, apparently protected by an invisible energy field, which caused further confusion as energy bolts bounced off of it and flew across the room. One hit Krakanus' arm, and his ensuing cry of pain was drowned out by the noise of the flying laser bursts.
"STOP!" Helryx yelled, but no one heard her.
This way's better, Leviathos communicated to her. STOP!
The telepathic yell was heard by all of the beings present there, and, save the Recorder, who stopped shooting a few seconds later and squeaked in embarrassment, they lowered their weapons and stared at Leviathos.
The Noctian turned around to face the whimpering Krakanus. The energy bolt had hit his arm, which was now a twisted, mangled mess. Leviathos felt a vague sense of pity for him, but shook it off as he addressed him.
"Your Rahkshi and Maxilos are destroyed," Leviathos began. "The Shadowed One has the Barraki tied up on a pole in the basement, and they have ordered their own armies to stand down. You are defeated. Accept that and come with us."
"NO!" Krakanus yelled. "NO!" The crazed look returned to his eyes, and, grabbing a weapon hidden in the armrests of his chair, he lunged toward Helryx. The beings raised their weapons once more, but one Skakdi's eyebeam was all it took. Krakanus' burning arm, a ruined, smoking husk, fell to the floor. Krakanus openly wept as two Dark Hunters grabbed him by his remaining arm and pulled him away.
Suddenly, a large shadow came over Leviathos. The Recorder squealed and ran away in terror. Leviathos slowly turned around to look at Necuas.
But it was not Necuas. For the second time in a day, he had been fooled by Nightwatcher.
Pushing the real Necuas out the window with a blast of fire, Nightwatcher paced slowly towards Leviathos.
"I applaud you for your efforts, Noctian. You exceeded my expectations, or at the very least, achieved them."
He turned to face the throng. A number of laser bolts arced through the air in his direction, but they did no damage whatsoever to his impenetrable outer shell. He walked slowly toward them, his heavy footsteps echoing throughout the room.
"Your little 'victory' was part of an elaborate plot to end your lives. I am working with the Brotherhood of Gigas Magna. I will inform them soon of my discovery of the planet known as Noctxia Magna. As you may or may not know, they have a rather nice reputation for crushing all those who oppose them, especially when it involves ripe new fields of conquest.
"Of course, if you and the Brotherhood of Fear united, it might actually hold back the invasion for a few minutes or so. So, to spare the Brotherhood of Gigas Magna the trouble, I manipulated you into defeating them. Now, your heavily-built fortress is gone, and now all you have left is this crummy, dirty hovel that some would actually dare to call a building. I could kill you all right now, but I think I'll leave you all worrying about when the Brotherhood will come. It could be in minutes, it could be in days; but they will come. And those unlucky enough to survive will be subjected to the most intense torture this side of the solar system."
"We could pay you," Helryx offered. "Whatever the Brotherhood offered you, we'll double it."
Nightwatcher laughed. "The Brotherhood has vast resources; it's not limited to one planet like the Order of Mata Nui is. It has infinitely more wealth. I doubt your vaults even have half of what they're paying me. I bid you farewell."
Suddenly, a Toa of Water jumped out from among the crowd. She held her weapon high and lashed out at him. With an almost bored flick of the wrist, Nightwatcher deflected it and then looked with mild interest at his attacker, now sprawled on the ground.
"Nightwatcher," she growled.
"I thought you were dead. You're not. How quaint," he said, and vanished just as Shayla made another lunge at him. She lost her balance and toppled onto the ground.
Leviathos ran out to her to help her back up. She grabbed his arm and slowly rose to her feet. He let go, only for her to lose her balance and fall down again.
"Are you okay?" he said, letting her lean onto him as he walked away. The crowd began to disperse, and Helryx gathered them together again and led them away, presumably to meet the Shadowed One in the dungeons to discuss their options. Leviathos watched them go, laying her form on Krakanus' chair.
He finally got a look at her armor. She had certainly once been beautiful, but her armor was cracked and worn. Patches of dirt adorned her back that not even the rain had managed to wipe off, and there were some rugged areas that Leviathos could tell had felt the weight of swords on them more than once and somehow remained. Her armor was strange, of a kind he had never seen before, but he certainly recognized that it was old, perhaps even older than he. She had fought many battles in her time, even more so than the famed Noctian Makuta hunter. She even reminded him of Helryx with her tarnished armor.
She groaned and tried to sit up. Leviathos steadied her.
"You've broken a few things. Try to stay still."
Of course, she ignored him and sat up anyway. He sighed and sat on the ground. They remained there for a long time.
After a few minutes, she stood up again and walked towards a pile of rubble. Leviathos, puzzled, stood up, only to watch her produce a charred piece of metal almost indistinguishable from the rest of the remains. She pressed what had apparently once been a button and what had once been a screen lit up dimly. A few unintelligible diagrams arose, and Shayla, somehow making sense of it, nodded and returned it to the ground. She turned to face Leviathos.
"I know where Nightwatcher is."
"He hasn't gone to Gigas Magna. He's not warning the Brotherhood. He's at Destral, of all places."
Leviathos' heartlight began flashing rapidly. Nightwatcher knew now, he knew the secret he had been keeping for millennia, knew about the prophecy...
Why? part of him wondered. But he did not know, could not obtain the slightest idea of what Nightwatcher wanted with it. It made no sense whatsoever. And yet the Toa of Shadow had gone to Destral.
Chameleo and a nervous Jetrak entered the room at that moment, towing the handcuffed Shadrus behind him like a Po-Matoran leading a Mahi. "Where has Helryx gone?"
"Somewhere," said Leviathos.
Then, for the third time that day, Necuas flew through the pulverized window. He had managed to avoid falling to the ground, and looked like someone who had been sitting just outside the window eavesdropping on a conversation, which by a curious coincidence happened to be exactly what he had been doing.
"Did I hear you right," said the eavesdropper, "or do you know where Nightwatcher is?"
"Then what are we waiting for?" said Chameleo. "Why don't we gather up the entire Order of Mata Nui and smash him to bits?"
Shadrus coughed heavily, apparently having inhaled a large amount of smoke, and interrupted Chameleo's outcry. "You can't. He's destroyed armies of Makuta, and not just in the figurative sense. He's killed Great Beings, destroyed entire universes, even, if the rumors about him are true. A few hundred heavily armed, highly trained, extremely powerful beings should be just a walk around the Kolhii field for him."
"Then we go out fighting," said Chameleo, clasping his sword tightly to his chest.
"He's a half-Makuta," said Necuas, and Leviathos suddenly understood why Nightwatcher was doing it. "So is Leviathos."
"I just learned about these powers!" Leviathos protested. "Nightwatcher has been using his for a thousand years. I can't stand up to him."
"You have the potential to destroy him," Shayla answered, walking toward him. "Once you've begun to develop your powers in full and he knows for sure that you've become a threat to him, he'll come for you and destroy you."
"How do you know?"
Shayla shrugged her slim shoulders. "It's what I would do."
"I could help," said Shadrus, wheezing. "Krakanus sent me to kill him once, and he just waved a finger and I was knocked cold. I don't want much now but to get revenge. All I ask for is amnesty."
"Same here," said Chameleo. "Anyone that calls themselves Chameleo and isn't deserves a serious beating."
"Aye," said Jetrak.
"I have some scores to settle," whispered Shayla. "I want my memory back. And my honor."
"I have my own reasons," said Necuas mysteriously. Leviathos detected that he had somehow changed from the arrogant, strutting Makuta who had tried to kill him on various occasions, but how he could not tell.
"Should we talk to Helryx?" said Leviathos.
"Forget Helryx," answered Necuas, lunging at the Noctian and bowling him over, and without any warning whatsoever the small group found themselves on the brink of an Energized Protodermis pool, five hundred thousand mio away.
Leviathos knocked Necuas off of him with one hand and stood up. He immediately recognized the place; this was where he had been created, thirty-five thousand years before. Here was where he and Krakanus had battled for their lives against one another.
Here was where the prophecy had been written.
It was a large underground chamber with great walls of stone up to ten bio high. On the walls, worn stone carvings in a language so old that the Kanohi Rau could not possibly be able to translate them were illuminated by flickering lightstones. It was said that these were written by a mad Great Being with the gift of foresight.
In the center of the chamber lay a pool — no, a lake — of pure energized protodermis. The little light there was reflected off of the liquid, creating an eerie shine on its silver waters that illuminated the room even more than the lightstones themselves.
Leviathos, however, was interested in none of those things. He was interested in the large, muscular Toa of Shadow standing by the lake and looking at the walls. He was pretending not to have noticed the group; most likely he had already analyzed their defenses, decided upon the easiest way to destroy them, rejected that idea because it was too "boring," considered a dozen other possibilities, and finally decided upon one that he liked, which probably involved him engaging in a lengthy monologue about his superiority and their foolishness while he picked them off one by one.
The rest of Leviathos' group stood up. Leviathos walked calmly towards the Toa. The others followed him.
Nightwatcher allowed them to approach, and it was not until they were half a bio away that he reacted.
"These prophecies are... very interesting," he murmured, turning around. His sword glinted, not from the light of the pool, but that of his own eyes in which Leviathos' team of five were currently bathed in.
"Some of the Makuta of this island have detected your presence. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of sealing the exits to this place to ensure that none of them interrupt us. I suppose that is perfectly fine with you all."
Go to Karzahni, Leviathos thought. He communicated telepathic messages to the others: Chameleo, take his left. Necuas, get behind him. Shadrus and Jetrak, right. Shayla, stay with me. All of you, look for a weak spot in his armor.
"Weak spots?" Nightwatcher laughed. "In my job, you can't last as long as I do if you have weak spots in your armor. I applaud you for your total failure to prove your competence."
"We're not here to chat," said Leviathos. "We're here to prevent you from ever coming to Gigas Magna."
"For all you know, I've already been to Gigas Magna and back."
"No, you haven't," said Shayla. "We've been tracking you."
Nightwatcher looked at them with a strange expression. Perhaps he thought they were lying, but someone of his intelligence had likely deduced that she had not been lying. Most likely, he was now wondering how he could have possibly been tracked.
In the end, Nightwatcher's face was completely blank as he unsheathed his sword.
"Well," he said, "a tracking device is useless if the ones tracking you are in the underworld. Good-bye now."
At the same second that Shayla advanced on him, Nightwatcher did a reverse backflip, at the same time using his shadow powers to blow Necuas away. Chameleo, Jetrak, and Shadrus lunged with their weapons, but Nightwatcher's blade, spinning as fast as anything Leviathos had ever seen, knocked them out of their hands. Shayla attempted to throw one of the knives in her bag, but even her knife-throwing skill was no match for Nightwatcher, who grabbed the flying weapon by the hilt and threw it back at her.
Leviathos came now, twirling his sword, and attempted a jump accompanied by a downward slash, but all that happened was that Nightwatcher neatly avoided him and reached out with a powerful kick, slamming him into the ceiling with a cracking noise. Small pieces of rubble came crashing down, and for a brief moment, Leviathos could see nothing.
Then the battle ensued again. All of them were fighting at the same time now, trying to force their weapons into Nightwatcher's body from all directions, but none of them ever reached their mark. He was toying with them, Leviathos knew, and there was hardly anything in the universe than he hated more than being toyed with.
Then Nightwatcher unleashed a blast of fire. Blowing back his foes, he grabbed Shayla by the throat and looked into her eyes.
"Here we are again," he snarled, and threw her into the energized protodermis.
Leviathos' cry of horror was knocked out of him by a knock from the Toa's staff. Before he could jump up, Chameleo made an attempt to stab at Nightwatcher's heel. However, Nightwatcher jumped up into the air and landed on top of Chameleo. The enormous weight was too much for him, and there was a sharp cracking sound. Ignoring Nightwatcher, Leviathos ran over to him, braced for the worst.
Chameleo's spinal cord had broken, which should have killed him instantly. However, even now, his powers of regeneration were undoing the damage. It was clear, though, that Chameleo was not in anything close to prime fighting condition.
For some reason, Nightwatcher ignored Leviathos while he trapped Necuas and Jetrak in a force field and knocked Shadrus unconscious with a sonics blast, which gave him the time he needed to drag the groaning Reptisapean away from him. Then, very, very slowly, Nightwatcher turned around, and Leviathos turned to face him.
"You didn't kill them," said Leviathos. "You could have, but you didn't. Why not?"
"They will serve a purpose in the future," replied his foe, narrowing his eyes and preparing for a battle stance. "You, however, do not."
"You don't want to kill me."
"You are a threat to me. Why should I ever leave you alive."
"You envy me."
Nightwatcher appeared genuinely surprised.
"You could have killed me along with the rest of them, but I think there's something you wanted to talk to me about alone," said Leviathos. "You envy me. I am the person you always wanted to be. You wanted to be a Toa, didn't you? A true Toa, a savior of lives. But for some reason or another, you ended up a bounty hunter, and now, here you are, looking at me. You envy me because I am the Toa you never were.
"I remind you of yourself too much. You don't want to kill me; you want to help me. You're not as emotionless as you would seem, Nightwatcher. You could choose to hide those emotions — surprise, shock, anger — but you don't. No matter what you say, you are not a heartless murderer."
"Yes, I am," he said, and released an immensely powerful blast of gravity.
Not good, thought Leviathos as a miniature black hole erupted in the center of the room. Cracks began to form in the immensely strong ceiling, and a number of lightstones that were too close were sucked in by the pull of gravity and blown to oblivion. All his power was now focused on keeping Chameeo from being pulled into the vortex.
Then he remembered what he had decided in the Noctxia Guardians' fortress when he had been captured by the false Chameleo. It's time to start thinking like a Makuta. But thinking like a Makuta was not going to be enough here.
It was time to start thinking like Nightwatcher.
With all the energy he could muster, he activated his Kanohi and tried to absorb it. The task was monumental, but somehow, the black hole began to inch toward him. The struggle was incredible; there was no pain, but it did not matter, for pain could not have possibly made the struggle any more difficult than it was now. All his concentration, all his mind, was put into the task, save the small bit of him that was trying to keep him from being sucked in. At last, the miniature black hole, the cold dark void, was mere inches away from him.
Then, as Nightwatcher observed, it entered his body, and its energy was released as a shockwave of mind-boggling intensity, which would have destroyed all of Destral had Nightwatcher not reacted and erected an energy barrier. However, the barrier did not protect him, and the Toa of Shadow was thrown back to the wall, a satisfying sight if Leviathos had ever seen one.
The Toa stood up, breathing heavily, clearly shocked by the strength of the blast. "Clearly, with our powers we are evenly matched," said he. "Why don't we decide our fates with our skill with the sword?"
Leviathos considered. Nightwatcher had probably not suffered any kind of defeat in his bounty hunting career, however small, and now that he had been thrown back against the wall, he would likely be very, very angry. He seen the Toa's legendary fighting skills, but he would rather face him in a duel of swords rather than attack him with powers he didn't fully control yet.
"Deal," he heard himself say. "If I win, you let me go, and you promise not to go to the Brotherhood of Gigas Magna. If you win..."
"You take a swim in the little pool," said Nightwatcher, gesturing to the protodermis lake, "if you're not dead already, of course, and if you happen to survive it, then you have to keep me from hurting your friends."
"Come on, then," snarled the Noctian.
"Perhaps I shall," said Nightwatcher, and lunged at him.
The first strike was a stab to the chest that would certainly have speared him had Nighwatcher not slightly underestimated his armor strength. The second was aimed at the head, and Leviathos turned to block it, only for it to turn out to be a feint. The weapon grazed his leg, making a large cut in his armor. The third came less that a second later with the intent of chopping him neatly in half. Leviathos jumped over it, and it took all his strength to deflect the fourth and fifth, which came one after the other and came close to severing all of his limbs.
He was absolutely sure now that Nightwatcher was trying not to kill him. The grace and ease with which Nightwatcher hacked away at him were unparalleled; he could have finished him off at any time.
Leviathos was a user of the combat forms known as Lihtne and Napad, the combination of which was a show of ferocity, which still seemed smooth and graceful. But Nightwatcher was using Vauhti, Kracht, Lihtne, and Ruch simultaneously; his brute strength easily overwhelmed Leviathos, and combined with the speed of Vauhti, it became all but impossible to penetrate his defenses. The Noctian would not have been surprised if he had known each and every single one of the seven combat forms.
And yet, for some reason or another, he was still alive. Why?
Then he chanced to look behind him.
Nightwatcher was leading him to the pool of energized protodermis.
"What are you doing?" he gasped, narrowly deflecting the 128th strike.
"I'm told being immersed in energized protodermis is a very painful way to die," said the Toa, smiling coldly, his blades spinning.
"You don't want me dead," Leviathos said. "You haven't killed me already."
Nightwatcher snorted. "I'm not throwing you in there because there's a chance you will survive. I'm doing it because I want you to die slowly. Do you really think that I'll let you live if you do survive the energized protodermis?"
Leviathos did not respond. He was trying to decide if there was a way, supposing he was killed, to take Nightwatcher with him.
He had stopped counting how many strikes he had deflected now. They were coming in small waves like quanta, more commonly known as light waves. He still thought Nightwatcher wanted to keep him alive, but he was less certain of that than before.
They were on the brink of the protodermis pool now. With all his strength, he deflected the blows which were coming at him faster and faster. He didn't care if he died in the process; he was not going to bend to Nightwatcher's will and jump in the silver lake. He didn't care about his friends' lives (or even his own), he didn't care about the prophecy. All he cared about was ridding the universe of Nightwatcher.
"Ah, Leviathos," Nightwatcher sighed. "Stubborn to the last."
With a sudden burst of speed, he jumped forward at Leviathos, his massive body acting as a ram. Leviathos saw it coming, but had no time to react.
Then, all of a sudden, he got the time he needed.
A strange force erupted in him, and Nightwatcher stopped in midair. The Toa did not appear surprised whatsoever, partly because, Leviathos saw, his life processes were not working. Whatever had happened, Leviathos decided to worry about it later and get out of Nightwatcher's way in case he started moving again.
He looked slowly around the cave. The dripping of the stalactites had ceased, and he decided to examine it. A drop of water hung in midair halfway between the floor and the ceiling. Impossible, he thought. Since when have I been able to control time?
The answer came to him: since now.
"Then let's try this again," he murmured, and time started again.
From behind him, he heard a wonderful splash as Nightwatcher fell into the pool, and turned around. Not even a ripple showed on the calm surface. Nightwatcher was gone, or at least for now. He did not intend to go into the pool to look for him, and watched the surface for a time before deciding that he was gone.
He then attended to the matters of his fallen companions. Most of Chameleo's spine had regenerated by now, and he felt good enough to stand up, or at least to try to. Shadrus was already awake, having hidden in a corner for the duration of the battle. With Nightwatcher's death, the energy cages around Jetrak and Necuas had gone, leaving only one matter to attend to.
He and Shadrus, who had known Shayla in the past, made a small mound of stones by the edge of the lake, as close as possible to where Shayla had fallen in. Using his heat vision, he carved the word "Shayla" in Matoran lettering.
"It won't last," said Shadrus. "The Makuta will come back here, and they'll find out what happened here. They'll get rid of the burial mound."
"It's here now," Leviathos answered, "and that's all that matters. Come now; it's time to go."
Chameleo lay in an infirmary bed in the fortress of what had once been the Brotherhood of Fear, which now belonged to the Brotherhood of Unity. His wounds, which were many, were bound in white pieces of cloth, making him look like something from a tale a Matoran would tell around a campfire. Beside him, sitting in a chair, was Helryx.
"The Brotherhood of Unity will benefit both our societies," she was telling him. "We have much to learn from one another. We gain access to their technology, and they gain access to all our resources."
"What about the Dark Hunters?" asked Chameleo.
"They want no part in it," Helryx replied, "so we took the liberty of... borrowing... their memories. They don't remember anything of what happened here, or of us."
"Good," said the Reptisapean, relaxing. "What happened to the Brotherhood of Fear?"
"Krakanus is better now," she answered. "We think that when Nightwatcher died, his spell over him was released. Krakanus has agreed, somewhat unwillingly, to help us in our efforts in exchange for amnesty for himself and his servants."
"I don't trust them," said Chameleo.
"None of us do," said Helryx. "Now, if you excuse me, I have to return to my duties." She began to walk away.
"Wait! What about the prophecy?"
Her face visibly darkened as she turned around to face him. "What?"
"There was a prophecy written on that wall. What was it?"
Helryx hesitated. "I don't know the exact wording."
"What does it say?" demanded Chameleo.
She hesitated again.
"The Prophecies of the Elders are written in riddles, Chameleo. No one fully understands—"
"WHAT DOES IT SAY?" Chameleo bellowed.
"It says," said Helryx softly, "that one day, a half-Makuta, born in darkness, faced with great trial, will acquire power great enough to destroy the Makuta."
"That's Leviathos!" cried Chameleo.
"It could be," said Helryx.
"Who else?" said Chameleo.
Helryx's lips were tight as she pronounced that last word:
"Why would Nightwatcher want to destroy the Brotherhood?" said Chameleo, confused.
"Mata Nui knows," said Helryx, stepping out of the infirmary.
She didn't know how long she had been there. She didn't know what had happened to her. All she did know is that her memory had returned to her.
Shayla gulped in the first breath of fetid air in the cave as she arose from the liquid, feeling like all the universe like a gift from Mata Nui. It was only then that she chanced to look down at herself.
A hundred years before, she had been transformed into a Toa of Shadow and back. She was like that once again: a large, bulky body instead of her sleek, slim one; two extra arms with lasers fitted to them; a twisted version of her old mask of jumping fitted to her face.
Beside her, a strange Skrall-like creature with hideous green eyes glared at her and climbed out of the pool. It beckoned to her, saying, "Come to me and you may live."
Unsure of what to do, Shayla climbed out of the pool and followed it. With surprising strength, it grabbed her arms, retrieved a pair of handcuffs, and bound her wrists together. "What are you—?"
"The Enforcers of Gigas Magna will pay very highly for your return," snarled the Skrall, and Shayla remembered who those green eyes belonged to.
Unseen even by the piercing eyes of the being who had once been Toa Charon, Void watched the two Toa leave. Nightwatcher had been too merciful; an unexpected complication, but it did not matter. Shayla would die soon, a victim of the war taking place on Gigas Magna, and that was the important thing. It was quite ironic; Nightwatcher would indirectly be the engineer of her death, which would be the end of him as well. He prided himself for creating that part of the plan.
There was, however, the matter of Necuas. His masters had told him not to interfere directly, and he had disobeyed them; no doubt, he would recieve a harsh lecture upon returning. However, it was necessary. Necuas would be very useful indeed, and after what Void had showed him, there was no doubt that he would remain loyal to the end.
For a brief moment, Void wondered what would become of Leviathos. But that was none of his concern. His masters awaited him now.
He made the smallest of sighs, and disappeared into oblivion.
Leviathos felt a blast of heat vision as he walked through the corridor, and instinctively dodged. It was followed by another beam, but he was ready this time and deflected it off of his tentacle. A hollow laugh echoed from the place where the beams had originated.
"Is this a training session or a bad practical joke?" said the Noctian.
"Neither," said the being. "I am from Gigas Magna, representing Shayla's organization."
"What do you want from me?"
"We have been watching you," the being said. "Shayla is gone, and we require new members for our cause. You are strong. We could make great use of you."
"What is your name?"
"Call me Zirahk."
He stepped out of the shadows, and the light shone upon his face. He was a yellow-orange Rahkshi, but somehow he differed from those that Leviathos had previously seen. He looked with his X-ray vision and saw that the kraata normally present in Rahkshi shells was gone.
A Mechanical Rahkshi, Leviathos realized.
"Do you accept?" asked Zirahk, raising his weapon menacingly.
Leviathos hesitated. "I'm not sure..."
"I shall take that as a yes," said Zirahk. "Welcome, Leviathos, to the Gigas Magna Resistance."
- To be continued in The Darkness Returns...