Why the Great Beings decided to place a pool of energized protodermis so far south of most of civilization is a mystery. One not meant for me to solve at the moment. The only mystery I'm interested in solving right now is the one of Will I survive this? So few Makuta have survived the process – but then again, the first halflings were created not long after the fall of Miserix. The technology was worse then. Even scattered, the Makuta are better off creating half-creatures now than we were several thousand years ago.
The leader of our cell – maybe the only cell left in the universe, considering that the Toa population has sprung back up and we are still being actively hunted like exotic game – Tageria, for some unknown reason, thinks a halfling being created will increase our chances of survival. Considering the fact most halflings are infamous amongst the Brotherhood for being extremely overconfident, I don't think this is as great an idea as Hecate and Tageria think it is. However, we have nothing left to lose but our lives now.
Tageria steps out into the moonlight, our native shadow clinging to her dark armor, her Crast flashing ghostly white in the moonlight as she checks our surroundings. If any Xi-Matoran are nearby, out for a midnight fishing trip, we'll have to relocate and try again later.
All clear, she says in my mind.
I step out into the pale illumination of the celestial orbs above, trying my best to not show any fear to Hecate or Tageria – one doubt and they will not allow me to meld myself to the shadow of our target.
Hecate follows me out, the clawed fingers of her armor wrapped around Turaga Nuju. I was initially disappointed that we weren't using a Toa for my progenitor, since they tend to spawn halflings that are much harder to defeat, let alone kill. However, Nuju has a special bond with the Turaga of these islands – having no Toa here at the moment and being unable to kill someone she cares about deeply will impede her from halting what threat I can become to her and her people.
Hecate kidnapped Nuju from his quarters in the Metru Nui Coliseum just two nights before. She's been keeping him asleep for the duration of his time, while Tageria found these dregs of energized protodermis – some of the last in the universe. If Destral still stood, we could've done it there – but the island we used as our base is long gone, leveled down to bare stone, and the protodermis stores are completely drained away.
"Everything ready?" Tageria askes, bringing me back to the present. The small pool of silver liquid churns at our feet, the edges black from Tageria blasting the rock that covered it free from the rest of the island. I'm not surprised that the Xi-Matoran never found this small store – they never paid much mind to Enyo, the southern-most island of the Amaris. It couldn't shelter a village, couldn't provide fruit, and so they passed it over.
Hecate, holding a still-unconscious Nuju, gave the affirmative. "I'm ready to extract his shadow, Tageria," she says, her voice hard and rough, but still recognizably feminine.
"And you?" she asks, her eyes boring into mine. "All of this rides on you."
I hold her gaze a bit longer, than I speak.
"Then, Hecate," Tageria says, turning towards the other female even as she stepped away from the pool, "you may begin."
Hecate's shoulders seem to relax from a tense position; I know she's releasing Nuju from her sleep power. As serious as the atmosphere is, I can't resist but to dip into his thoughts as he revives. Confusion is always a delightful thing to listen to.
What –? Who –? No! No!
That darned Turaga. He ruined it. Always catching on too quickly.
Hecate makes a motion with her hand – holding it over his body and gathering her fingers into a fist – and he shuts up quickly as his shadow essence is torn from his soul and given physical shape. The result is a black-armored copy of Nuju, with black eyes and an expression that even I, as a Makuta, must admire.
Tageria picks up the Shadow and flings it into the energized protodermis, which instantly starts churning like a stormy sea, hissing slightly as it breaches the shallow hollow and burns through the stone. That is the first stage of creating a halfling – a being's shadow must be given physical shape and then added to energized protodermis.
The next step is for me to join the new substance at my feet. I don't need Hecate's urgent reminder to know that.
I shut my eyes and steer my antidermis out of my armored shell, knowing I'm leaving it as a Makuta for the last time, for better or worse.
I flow through the air and into the pool.
It feels like lightning surging through my flesh (metaphorically speaking) as I become submerged in the strange liquid that can transform or destroy. It "tastes" like gunmetal from a Xian weapons foundry with a blend of airship fuel to me as my energy fuses with it. I nearly want to fly out, back into my armor, but I force myself to stick it out.
Then everything seems to freeze.
The sloshing of the pool has stopped abruptly, like an Ice Toa had frozen it solid, but my observation is only secondhand – I feel the fluid changing, becoming less like liquid and more like a much more viscous substance, and I am changing with it. It's a very odd feeling, but at least it isn't painful, like the previous stage was for me.
Suddenly, I realize that the pool is only frozen because I haven't "told" it to reform into something new. If I had had hands, I would've smacked myself in the mask for my stupidity – if I had my mask. Instead, I focus on a shape that I wish to be my base form when I shapeshift. There isn't enough of the stuff to make a perfect match of my old armored body, but I make do with a shape that's nearly the size as the average Toa.
The pool is completely dry; not even a drop of the stuff is left behind once my new body is finished. I only notice this in passing as I step out of the hollow and move to retrieve my weapons and mask.
What power I have! I'm used to the powers all my fellow Makuta have, but now I have Ice under my command, something I only gained when in the shape of a Toa of that tribe. And with that knowledge comes a feeling, like I'm a bottle of that fizzy liquid that Matoran like drinking, and I was shaken up to make it even bubblier.
That's the feeling of near-invincibility, it seems.
Even as I fit my Jutlin back on, pick up my swords, and fit what armor I can back onto my significantly smaller frame, I see Hecate out of the corner of my eye, fitting an unconscious Nuju into the nightmare-inducing frames created especially for halfling progenitors. Under my mask, I crack a grin. Tormenting him will be so much fun, since I know his psychological Achilles' heel.
"What is your name, both now and before?" Tageria asks me, her red eyes looking down at me.
I'm not surprised by the question – there are stories that Makuta have lost their self-identities after becoming a halfling. However, I remember it all well.
"Deimos, both now and then," I reply, a little annoyed I have to look up at her.
"And do you know your mission?"
"Then I expect that when you achieve this, you will contact us." Tageria narrows her eyes, making herself appear more intimidating. I can see why she was the Makuta of Xia. "Our last halflings failed us," she warns me. "Don't make their mistakes."
With that, she and Hecate leave me and Nuju alone on Enyo, Nuju lost in his nightmares and myself in my thoughts about Kiria, Fyre, and Tayra – the Makuta that later became the Halflings of Rohaya, and fell because of their overconfidence in their own cleverness and power. In no way will I try to make their mistakes.
I grab the metal frame that Nuju is strapped into, even as I glance north at the largest Amari Island, where the village of Xi-Koro is. So unsuspecting, I think to myself, and another grin curls my lips as I vanish into the shadows with my prisoner and sole link to life.