Heroes And Halflings - Prologue

All was still on the island of Rohaya. The Krycai volcano belched out chunks of molten rock, etched against the deep midnight sky. In the distance, the outline of the Toa Stronghold could be dimly seen. All seemed peaceful.

Then the silence was shattered by the nerve-wracking scratch of claws on rock as a dark figure climbed up the cliff to survey the area. She was a toxic blue, with streaks of slimey black interwoven with it. Fins, long and powerful, arched from her shoulders as she checked her weapons. A satisfied smile grew behind her Kanohi Kaukau as she turned to help her comrades to the top.

The first -- an emerald and black male -- paused to get his bearings, using his huge bat wings to help him. Steadied, he helped the female lift the other male-clad in black and silver armor-to the top. Though his powerful, muscled arms showed that he could easily make the climb himself, he seemed to be concentrating on something other than the rock face he was ascending.

The female examined their troops waiting below. There were seven dozen Visorak of every kind, impatiently gnashing their mandibles. 36 Rahkshi also stood, motionless amongst the spider creatures. But nowhere were those she needed to see.

''Where are those Exo-Toa?'' she asked, annoyed. ''They should've been here with the rack by now.''

The green figure glanced over edge, then back the way they had come. Then he pointed. ''There they are - and our reluctant guests are there, too.''

Twelve Exo-Toa lumbered up through the dark evergreen forest, dragging along an energy frame with three motionless figures hanging in the field. Had there been any outside observers, they would have noticed that – aside from the height, color, and Kanohi – the prisoners had a startling resemblance to their captors.

''Good.'' The female, with a few words, sent half of the armored suits to take the prisoners to a cave, with orders to keep quiet, let no one in, and to not leave until she came for them. The other six joined the troops. The soldiers handled, they turned their attention to their companion, who hadn't moved or taken his red-eyed gaze off the stronghold since he'd reached the top. ''All the guards insomnized?''

The black-silver male turned toward them, his irritated look plain even in the darkness. ''You know better than to ask. I've been at this for a week now.''

''Just checking. And everyone not on duty-?''

''Asleep. Pretty deeply, too.'' He smiled evilly. ''No haunting dreams keeping them awake tonight.''

''Your Mask of Nightmares never fails to amaze me,'' sighed the emerald male, as he gestured for the troops to start moving.

Ten minutes later, they stood not far from the main fortress gate. Six Toa stood there, but it was obvious that they hadn't had slept well in a while.

''Even though they're half asleep, they can still talk - and raise the alarm,'' noted the blue female. ''Mute them, will you, brother?''

Grinning cruelly, the green-armored male reached out with his Mask of Silence and ensnared all six guards in its power. ''No more alarms from these ones - they can't even whimper now.''

''Not that a Toa would whimper -- we, of all beings, should know that,'' the silver-black male said, spitting out every word out as if it were poison. ''Toa are the reason we were created -- the force behind our rise.''

''And they're gonna regret hearing about us,'' the female hissed, as she gestured to the troops. 16 Visorak Roporak and eight red-gold Rahkshi stalked forward. ''Use your camouflage abilities. Strike quietly and from the shadows,'' she ordered. Obediently, they moved off.

''Now what?'' asked her companions.

''We wait. And once we claim the front gates, we slay every Toa in there and make this island ours.''

XxX

True to the female's word, the fortress's front gate was taken. Then she, her companions, and their troops surrounded the stronghold and hunted every Toa in their own home. After the stronghold was seized, the six other Exo-Toa and the prisoners they were guarding vanished within its depths. When the sun set the day after the fall of the Toa, a new banner flapped, in a hot breeze that reeked of blood and shadow.

That banner held the symbol of the Brotherhood of Makuta.