Even as Lucarian’s eyes began to open, his mind felt fuzzy and his vision wavering. Every part of his body was aching from the blast, and his wounds from the battle prior didn’t help him either. As he rose up to sit, he gritted his teeth as his joints and muscles screamed in pain. Once he got his upper body off the ground, he took a breather and tried to regain his bearings on his surroundings. And what he saw wasn’t a pretty sight.
The Dark Hunters’ fortress was reduced to ruin: the sturdy walls were nothing but dusty bricks, pieces of cloth, and metal strewn across the landscape, and there were barely any signs of life to be found. No Rahi, no Dark Hunters, no Makuta, no Toa, and no Agoran.
Lucarian’s eyes then widened, and he looked around frantically for his companions. “Tamina? Poldren? Livef?” No response. Lucarian’s heart sank. This was what he was afraid of, losing even more lives. And with Kratos, Vancus, Teluca, Shina, and Dongru disappearing into the vortex, he was afraid they were dead as well. He slowly got onto his feet, cursing as he fought against the pain. “Hello?” he called out. “Anyone there?”
The Toa of Shadow turned his head towards the sound. “Poldren?”
“Lucarian! We’re over here!” Lucarian could tell now that it was Poldren’s voice. He slowly walked over, fighting back the pain with every step. It didn’t take long to find Poldren, who was kneeling above Tamina. The Toa of Water’s head was in his hands as she rubbed her skull, dazed and trying to regain her senses. Livef stood nearby, looking on with a nervous expression on his face.
“A-Are you all alright?” Lucarian gasped, finally reaching the group.
“No better than you, I see,” Poldren replied. Everyone present had scratches and dents marring their armor, showcasing the damage the battle and the explosion gave them.
Tamina winced as she turned towards Lucarian. “Thank goodness you’re alright.”
“I...I am grateful as well…” Lucarian nodded giving a small smile in relief.
“But…” Livef nervously stammered, “But what about the others? They...didn’t make it, did they?”
“I…,” Lucarian sighed, “I really can’t say. I don’t know where anyone else is. Not even the Makuta or the Dark Hunters.”
“So you didn’t see them either,” Poldren noted. “As far as we know, they either escape or died from the explosion.”
“Makuta can certainly take a beating,” Lucarian growled. “If we survived, it is very likely they did as well.”
“Guess the same can be said about the Hunters,” Tamina sighed, trying to get back on her feet. She wobbled uneasily as Poldren held onto her, trying to keep her steady.
“I suppose that depends on how sturdy they are,” Poldren answered, with a pointed glance at his shaky companion.
Lucarian held out his right hand and concentrated, as black and purple energy slowly formed around his hands, the wisps flowing like smoke. “I can sense several Makuta,” Lucarian frowned. “Some of them definitely survived.”
“Wait,” Livef wondered aloud. “Some of the Makuta went into that vortex. Could you detect them?”
“Are you saying they teleported elsewhere?” Poldren asked, raising his brow.
“I mean...Vancus did say those weapons could create portals. Maybe the vortex...acted as such?”
Tamina turned towards Lucarian. “You were able to track the antidermis trail when Dongru was captured. Could you do the same for those specific Makuta?”
“I...I guess I could try…” Lucarian answered. By the tone of his voice, it was clear that he wasn’t sure it would work. He had tracked Makuta before, but not specific ones. Regardless, the last thing he wanted was to crush one of the few rays of hope his companions had. He concentrated once more, trying to picture Morath in his head. He certainly had a distinctive enough look for a disturbing mental image. Since he was unsure about this practice, Lucarian figured focusing on just one rather than both Morath and Warlox would yield the best results. He concentrated as hard as he could, pushing as he searched mentally for the Makuta. And then his concentration turned to confusion. “I-I don’t understand.”
“What?” Tamina asked. Her voice was filled with worry and the hope that she was trying not to make obvious. Worry of what Lucarian meant and hopeful that it had some good to come from it.
“They’re still here on Spherus Magna...but not here at the same time.”
“What are you talking about?” Poldren frowned, trying to wrap his head around Lucarian’s statement.
“I-I’m not sure,” Lucarian responded. “They’re on Zakaz. But just...not there.”
“Lucarian, what’s going on?” Tamina questioned, getting annoyed at his responses.
“Does it look like I know?!” Lucarian roared, his eyes flaring up in anger. The others backed up, looking at the Toa of Shadow in fear. Realizing what he did, Lucarian turned away, trying to calm himself down. “S-Sorry, I...just don’t know.” Then it dawned on him. “Wait. That head Dark Hunter…‘Emperor’ I think his name was. He mentioned the Great Discs.”
“The same ones used to forge the Mask of Time years ago?” Livef asked.
“What are you saying?” Poldren replied, still confused.
“What if…” Lucarian answered, slowly pacing around in a circle as he tried formulating the pieces of the puzzle in his mind, “and this is somewhat hypothetical, what if the Great Discs had an effect on the vortex? What if,” he paused, “the others weren’t just sent elsewhere on Spherus Magna, but elsewhere in time?”
No one responded. It sounded ridiculous. It had to be. But on the other hand, there were no sign of them elsewhere. Lucarian was their only source, and he didn’t have a clear answer as well. If their friends had really be sent to another time...they didn’t know how to save them.
“Uuugh…” Kratos groaned. As he opened up his eyes, he saw a dark orange sky, signaling a sunset. The Toa of Fire shook his head as he rose back onto his feet, trying to regain his senses. Once his mind had cleared, he looked at his surroundings. The place was nearly barren, save for a few trees, but even then, many of them seemed dead, as if they all caught fire and nearly burned to ashes. “Where are we?” As Kratos continued to look around, he spotted two Agoran in the corner of his eyes. “Teluca! Dongru!” He rushed over to them, just as they started coming to. “You alright?”
“I think so,” Teluca moaned. “Back pains notwithstanding.” He winced as he tried standing up, holding his back to sooth some of the pain. “What happened?” he asked, looking around the scene. “Come to think of it, where are we? Looks different from the island where we teleported to earlier. And I don’t see a bunch of rubble from the fortress here. You’d think there would be.”
“I’m not sure,” Dongru responded. “I think it might have to do with the blasters you shattered.”
“That one creepy guy did say the…‘Xalium’ he said?” Kratos asked. “Anyway, he did say it was unstable…” His confusion soon turned to rage as he turned towards Teluca. “Teluca, what did you do?!”
“How was I supposed to know this was going to happen?!” Teluca shouted back. He was both scared at the Toa’s wrath and angry that he was getting blamed again.
“It’s as I said before,” Kratos huffed, pointing towards the Ta-Agoran, “Nothing but trouble.”
“You wanna run that by me again, hot shot?!” Teluca lashed back, jabbing pointing back at the Toa.
“Stop it!” Both adversaries turned towards Dongru, who was much angrier than usual, clearly frustrated from the situations he found himself in. “We can’t be blaming each other at a time like this! We have to get back home to our own time!”
“Wait, time?” Teluca asked, his anger fading into confusion.
“But those weapons can only create portals,” Kratos replied. “And only to other places. Not other times!”
“Well, I think it did,” Dongru answered, pulling out the Great Disk from his knapsack, “with this.”
“I...don’t get it,” Teluca asked, confused at this response.
“This is the fusion of the six Great Discs,” Dongru explained. “Emperor...that large white creature, wanted me to make the Mask of Time out of them. And I recognize this place from the history books,” Dongru noted, looking around him. “Zakaz. The homeland of the Skakdi. Nowadays, there’s nothing left. Even the Skakdi themselves don’t live here anymor-” Before he finished speaking, he heard a stick crack. He looked around, desperately looking for the source of the sound.
“D-Don’t tell me…” Teluca stammered, “that’s one of them…”
Without hesitation, Kratos readied his blade. “Get behind me, you two.”
“But we can fight!” Teluca answered, raising up his twin blades. “I have weapons now!”
“Oh yes,” Kratos replied sarcastically. “And look where that got us.” After pausing for a moment, he turned towards me. “And please tell me Dongru’s not correct.”
“He is,” I answered.
“Curses,” Kratos muttered under his breath. Before he could grumble some more, he heard another stick crack. He looked around him, searching every angle. And then he noticed a bush shake. A second later, a red Skakdi wielding two axes, leaped from the bush.
“RRRAAAAUGH!!!” the Skakdi yelled, swinging both his weapons at Kratos. The Toa of Fire thankfully blocked them in time. Now that his reptilian opponent wasn’t flying towards him, Kratos could get a good look at him. He was covered in red and black armor, with only his scaly red head and clawed, three-toed feet exposed. Said head had a row of red spines coming down his scalp, similar to a mohawk, and connected to the spines on his back and arms, poking out of his armor like rows of forked knives. A savage and cruel grin was pasted across his face, as if he was hoping to rip out the Toa’s spinal cord. But today would not be that day. Kratos raised his left fist and punched the Skakdi in the gut, forcing him backwards. While his adversary was distracted, Kratos roundhouse-kicked him, knocking him to the floor.
“YEEEEEEAAAAAUGH!!!!” Kratos turned around to see another Skakdi charge right for him. Kratos hopped to the right just before this enemy’s blades could piece his armor. This Skakdi had yellow and black armor, but wasn’t quite as muscular as his red and black compatriot. He had two white spikes on the top of his head, similar to the red Skadki’s spines, and two on each corner of his mouth. While spines were not visible on his back and arms, curved black protrusions could be seen on his shoulders and back. His feet had two toes instead of three, and he held a curved blade in each hand. His red eyes appeared to be filled with insane rage, as if wishing to tear Kratos’s arms from his shoulders.
The yellow Skakdi swung his blades once more, but Kratos blocked them. The Skakdi then swung one sword towards Kratos’s chest, and another towards his legs. Kratos blocked the first blade, but didn’t see the second in time before it sliced into his legs and knocked him on his back. With a cruel grin on his face, the Skakdi raised both weapons above his head, ready to stab the Toa of Fire, but Kratos shot a stream of flames from his left hand, knocking his foe away.
“Any reason why you decided to try and kill us?” Kratos grunted, turning to face the two Skakdi. “What did we do to you?”
“You showed up uninvited.” Kratos and the Agoran turned around to see a third Skakdi approach them, with a sly smirk spread across his scaly face. This one had white and yellow armor, and had a certain aura of radiance around him, at least for a Skakdi, but the same toothy grin and fierce red eyes were a constant reminder of this being’s race. His spines were similar to the red Skakdi’s, only they were white, and the claws on his feet were much smaller and less noticeable. He held a white, almost blade-like bow in his right hand, and had a quiver on his back, full of glowing arrows, all radiating like miniature stars. “I’d say that’s a good enough excuse. To be honest, we never expected Toa or Matoran to show up on our island. But I suppose it’s a blessing in disguise. We don’t have to make a trip.”
“What trip?” Teluca asked. He tried to look brave, but he was clearly scared. Three Skakdi were bad enough, but he noticed that the Skakdi had called them “Matoran”; not “Agoran”. He knew now that they weren’t in their original time anymore…
“Well, since you asked-”
“Get to the point, Flaygenn!” the red Skakdi roared, getting impatient with his companion.
“I was getting to that, Tekron!” Flaygenn snapped. He coughed as he tried regaining his composure. “We need slaves to sell. You seem like prime candidates.”
“Oh really?” Kratos mockingly asked. “And if we don’t want to?”
“Well, if you beat us, you won’t have to,” Flaygenn answered, slowly drawing an arrow from his quiver and placing it on the bowstring. “If you lose...well then you’re not worthy of freedom.” He turned to the other two Skakdi. “Tekron! Rekorh! Get them!”
Teluca looked towards Kratos as the three Skakdi readied themselves for combat. “Still want us to get behind you?”
“You’re the one who got us into this mess, remember?” Kratos hissed. He turned back towards Flaygenn, who was aiming an arrow towards the Toa’s heart. The Skakdi released the bow string, as Kratos barely rolled away in time. He shot a fireball at Flaygenn, who simply jumped to the side. He reached for another arrow, but saw Kratos charging towards him and knew he was running out of time, so he blocked the Toa’s sword with his bow. For a weapon not meant for blocking, it was surprisingly sturdy.
“I’m actually surprised you’re the only Toa,” Flaygenn noted, swinging his bow around as if it were a bludgeoning weapon.
Kratos swung his body towards the side, dodging the swipe. “We...got lost. Separated from our group.” Before he could swing his weapon again, he felt a sharp blade cut across his back as he fell to the ground.
“Good,” Tekron cruelty grinned. “A perfect target.”
“Don’t kill him, remember?” Flaygenn frowned. “We need him alive if we want someone to buy him.”
“You think I don’t kno-OOUCH!!” Before Tekron could finish, he felt a sharp cut across his left cheek. He looked up with a snarl and saw Teluca flying above him.
Seeing his chance, Kratos swiped his legs, knocking both Skakdi onto the ground. “Teluca, I swear,” Kratos growled, looking up at the Ta-Agoran, “if you get us into trouble again…”
Teluca didn’t answer. He was getting annoyed at Kratos’s animosity towards him. Frankly, with no other Toa available to help him, he should have been grateful for the assistance. Shaking off the annoyance, he turned to see a light arrow being aimed at him. He zigzagged across the sky, making sure Flaygenn didn’t have an easy shot.
Elsewhere, Dongru kept backing up as Rekorh, the yellow Skakdi, slowly approached him. He turned around and saw that he was running out of room as he edged closer and closer towards the wall. “The weakest link I see,” Rekorh smirked, clearly enjoying the fear he was inducing. Dongru didn’t respond. He couldn’t deal with a Skakdi. Maybe another Agoran like Dharen, but not a scaly warrior of murder. Rekorh swung his blades towards Dongru, who tried blocking it with his drills, but the Skakdi’s blades were stronger, and pushed them out of the way. Rekorh swung again, but Dongru jumped out of the way. He knew by now he couldn’t effectively defend himself, so he just had to survive long enough for Kratos and Teluca to deal with him. But Rekorh was quicker, and it wasn’t long before he ran in front of the Onu-Agoran. As he was running, he took note of the wrist-band around Dongru’s right hand. “Certainly looks nice. Where’d you get that little one?”
“A-A former friend of mine,” Dongru answered, still nervous, but had a hint of sadness in his voice, reminded of Dharen’s transformation.
“Aaaw…” Rekorh mockingly replied, putting on fake sympathy while still keeping his sly grin. “Let me guess. Death or betrayal?”
This certainly struck a chord with Dongru, who started fuming. The way this beast was making fun of his tragedy...he wouldn’t stand for it. With a loud cry, he charged towards the Skakdi and swung his drills, striking the surprised Rekorh, who didn’t expect such rage. As Dongru’s weapons clashed against Rekorh’s armor, Dongru felt a shock as he was knocked onto his back.
“One thing you gotta learn about me, punk,” Rekorh grunted, holding his gut where he was struck, “is that you can’t strike me up close and personal without getting hurt yourself.” As he started approaching the fallen Agoran, he felt flames rage against his back, pushing him onto the ground.
“Then long-ranged attacks it is,” Kratos grinned. He turned to the side to see Tekron swing his axes towards him, but the Toa of Fire blocked them. The two continued to engage in hand-to-hand combat, neither one hitting the other directly, but Kratos did find himself being backed against the wall. As Tekron readied himself to swing again, Kratos raised his left hand and shot a fireball, hitting the Skakdi straight into his chest, forcing him backwards. With Tekron staggered, Kratos rushed forwards and slashed him across the chest. Tekron roared in pain as he swung his axes uncontrollably, desperately trying to cut the Toa down, who kept dodging each blow.
Elsewhere, Flaygenn kept shooting at Teluca, barely missing him every time. Flaygenn had to admit that his opponent was doing well, but he was getting tired of this. He turned Tekron, who was still dealing with Kratos. “Tekron!” he called. “Hot flash!” The red Skakdi nodded, and the two raised their arms, while Rekorh shut his eyes as tight as he could.
Before Kratos could react, the surrounding area was surrounded in a burning flash of light, blinding him and the Agoran. “AAAAUGH!!!” Kratos screamed, trying to cover his burning pupils.
“I-I can’t see!” Teluca shouted, trying to figure out where he was in terms of his surroundings. Caught off guard, he careened into a wall and fell to the ground. Dongru, blinded as well, did not notice the Ta-Agoran plummeting towards him, and was crushed by the fall.
As the flash slowly faded away, Kratos strained to regain his eyesight. He could faintly see all three Skakdi surround him, with Tekron coming up to his face.
“Nice knowing you,” Tekron smirked.
The last thing Kratos saw before losing consciousness was being hit in the head by the Skakdi’s axe.
The only thing Shina could feel was excruciating pain in her body and sand in her mouth. She coughed as she tried getting the sand out of her mouth and got up on her knees. Once she thought her mouth was relatively clean, she looked around. This definitely wasn’t where they were prior. All she saw were dunes of sand and rock, with barely any life to be seen.
“G-Guys?” she asked. She turned in every direction, searching for any sign of her companions. Finally, as she looked directly behind her, she saw a fallen green figure. “Toa Vancus!” she called out, rushing towards him. As she came up to Vancus, she noticed he wasn’t moving. Shina quickly got back on her knees, and put her head to his heart. It was still beating. She sighed in relief, but also annoyance as she sat back down. She was happy that he was a alive...but an unconscious Toa wouldn’t be much help to her, especially since she had no idea where she was. Shina knew she had to wake him up somehow, and the last thing she wanted was to carry him. She wasn’t strong enough for that.
Before she could consider her options, she heard a low growl. Shina jumped up, quick as a flash, and looked around for any weaponry. She saw Vancus’s blaster a few bio away, partially poking out of the sand, and tried picking it up. Unfortunately, it was too heavy and cumbersome for her smaller Agoran frame.
Then the sound came again. Shina slowly turned around to see a tan and black beast slowly approaching her. Well, it seemed like a beast, with large mandibles, a hunched frame, and a long, bladed tail pointing above its head, but it held a blade in one hand and a projectile launcher in another, not unlike some Toa. As the creature walked closer and closer, Shina’s heart sank as she saw what it was. A Vorox. The bipedal, scorpion-like creature snarled at the Ga-Agoran, and raised its Thornaxx launcher, with a Thornaxx fruit inside, and fired. Shina tried running out the way, but was caught in the blast, sending her and Vancus flying backwards.
As Shina got back up, trying to ignore the pain, she frantically searched for her daggers. If Vancus’s launcher came with him, her weapons likely came as well. She couldn’t look for long as the Vorox ran towards her, ready to stab her with its tail. Defenseless, all Shina could do was run from the beast. She knew she couldn’t abandon Vancus, knowing well what a Vorox could do to him, but instead, ran around the surrounding area, hoping to find a weapon of sorts to use against the beast before it caught up with her.
As she ran, she did notice a small gleam coming from the sands. She dove towards it, just before the Vorox could reach her. It pounced towards her as she pulled the dagger from the sands and slashed the Vorox across the chest. The creature roared in agony as Shina scurried away before it could get to her.
She looked around for another knife, knowing she had two on her before getting sucked into the vortex, and saw one near a large rock. She turned around as the Vorox slashed its blade, cutting her across the chest and knocking her backwards. Clutching her chest in pain, she threw the knife at the Vorox, which it knocked away with its stinger-like tail. She turned to the right and saw the blade was not that far from her. With the little amount of energy she had, she lurched towards the knife as the Vorox shot towards her. Just as she grasped the weapon’s handle, she swung it upward, stabbing the Vorox’s chest.
“SCREEEEEEE!!!!!!!”the Vorox screeched, staggering backwards as it fumbled with the knife logged in its chest. It pulled it out, dripping with the creature’s blood, and then threw the knife to the side as it stumbled backwards. Clutching its chest, it ran off towards the sunset.
Shina looked on as she rose back to her feet. She was exhausted and hurt, but at the same time...she was thrilled. She had taken on the creature all by herself. Not with another Toa; on her own. “Heh. Well, won’t that be a story to tel-AAAUGH!!!” A Thornaxx flew past her and hit the ground a few bis away from her.
“That a was a warning shot, love,” a raspy voice called out. Shina whirled around to see several Agoran-sized characters approach her, weapons in hand. They held Thornaxx launchers similar to the Vorox, along with black and silver blades. They had grey armor on their chests, hands and feet, and orange amor on their arms and legs, along with an orange helmet covering their orangish-red heads; not masks. Their armor was scratched and dented, as if they had lived in this desert land for many, many years.
Shina looked towards the knife the Vorox threw away and grabbed it, ready to take on these newcomers.
“Put it down,” a low voice called to her. She turned around to see a much larger figure, about the size of a Toa, approach her. He wore black and orangish-yellow armor, covering him as if he was a gladiator of sorts, with massive black shoulder-pads, a black chestplate, and an insect-like helmet covering his head. He held a large silver axe in his right hand and a Thornaxx launcher in his left, with the latter aimed at her head. “Put it down and we’ll make sure you get through transport...relatively unscathed.” There was a certain bite to his voice, as if he wouldn’t promise that this claim was completely true.
Shina glared at the armored being, ready to throw her knife at him, but she then paused. She turned her head around to see Vancus. Still unconscious and very vulnerable. She sighed, knowing she couldn’t take on this group by herself. A single Vorox wouldn’t be the same as these folks. And if she let Vancus get killed by them…
Shina lowered her head and dropped the knife in a sign of defeat.
“Much better,” the being smiled, as his companions walked towards Shina and Vancus, ready to claim their prize.
The twin moons were near the top of the sky as Lucarian and his allies sat around a roaring fire of black flames. They knew they didn’t have the strength to travel long distances after surviving an explosion, so they figured a night of rest would do them good. Lucarian himself was wrapping a bandage around his waist, trying to repair the deep cuts Zelcron had made into his back. Even as he pulled on the bandage to tighten it, he could still feel the pain from those cuts.
“I suppose living on your own for so long would force you to gain some medical knowledge,” Tamina noted, applying water she created over her own wounds.
“Just enough,” Lucarian winced, tying the bandage together in a knot. No one spoke for a few moments, with only the ambiance of the night filling the near-silent void.
“So...what now?” Livef asked. He looked at all three Toa around him. His eyes were tired from the action, but also scared at their circumstances.
Tamina sighed to herself. “For the first time in my life as a Toa, I honestly don’t know what to do. I’m...I’m at a loss…”
Poldren shook his head. “I’m just imagining what Twilis would do. He would have some sort of idea for dealing with these situations.”
“To be frank with you,” Lucarian frowned, “I wouldn’t consider him your best role model.”
Tamina glared at the Toa of Shadows. “How dare you say that! He’s led us for years! He’s strong, smart, brave-”
“Oh really?” Lucarian interrupted, his brow furrowing more, his dark red eyes starting to glow in anger. “What I see him as is untrustworthy, proud, demeaning, shall I continue?”
“Alright, enough you two!” Poldren barked. “Do we want to save our friends or not?!”
Both Lucarian and Tamina fell quiet. Lucarian was the first to break the silence after several seconds. “I’m...I’m sorry…” he sighed, the harsh glow in his eyes fading away.
Tamina sighed as well. “To tell you the truth, I am starting to lose faith in him as well. I still believe he is a good Toa. I really do. He’s harsh, but I know he just wants to keep us safe. But…his attitude recently has been making me question him as our leader. And I’m starting to wonder if it’s more than just Kratos and yourself.”
“Ahem…” Livef nervously coughed, not wishing to come across as too intrusive. “I...don’t want to sound rude, but shouldn’t we focus more on finding the others? I mean...where do we even start?”
“I think I know,” Lucarian answered. “Apparently the power of those weapons, the antidermis, was found in Capora. So that is where we shall go. Right to the source.”
“Are you sure that will help?” Poldren asked.
“That’s the only lead I can think of,” Lucarian replied. “Unless any of you have any other ideas.” The three others glanced at once another. No one answered. “Then it’s settled. We set off in the morning.”