Down on the beach once more, I decide again to follow the footsteps in the sand that lead away from the cylindrical vessel. Perhaps the lava has cooled down enough for me to pass.
As I arrive at the edge of the beach, I notice that the stranger I saw before is indeed gone. But, as I had hoped, the lava has cooled enough for me to continue to follow his path.
I see in the distance a fortified city at the base of the volcano. I decide to investigate. Outside the gate to the city, I encounter two guards. One cautions: “Jala says we’ve got to keep a sharp lookout for Rahi.” The other allows that I may pass, and then he adds helpfully that I am to use the winch room if the bridge is down.
The bridge is down, so I head for what I think is the winch room, only to discover someone looking over a three-dimensional map.
He speaks to me: “We have lost communications with Ga-Koro, but I have no Matoran to spare for a reconnaissance unit. There are never enough good warriors to send against the Rahi. You look stout, traveler… you should consider a career in the Guard.”
I ask, “Who are you?”
“I am Jala, Captain of the Guard,” he replies. “It’s my job to protect the city against the Rahi. I knew they were getting stronger, but no one in the city believed me… until the beasts overran the Tren Krom break.
“I lost a lot of good warriors that day. Then Tahu arrived, and now we know why the Rahi are on the move. Vakama says he’ll save us, but I don’t see the point in putting ALL our hope in him. You can never have too much security.”
“What is a Rahi?” I wonder aloud.
“The Rahi serve the Makuta,” says Jala. “They are horrible beasts, ruthless and fierce. Some can fly, others walk along the ground, some, I have heard, even tunnel beneath it. We have battled many of them.
“In recent times they have become bolder, and have forced us back to here. Ta-Koro used to reach all the way to the coast; the Charred Jungle used to be a green, peaceful place, but in the fury of our battles it was burnt.
“But we are Ta-Koro Matoran, and we will not surrender. And now Tahu, the great fire-spirit, has come to lead us against them. They can attack at any time, although always when it is least expected.
“That is why we must always be on guard. I have studied them extensively… it is possible that they once were normal creatures, like the others that inhabit Mata Nui, until the Makuta turned them… although I am not certain of this.
“If it is true, there may be another way to fight them. Until then we must patrol our stockades and our trenches day and night, and keep the guard-fires burning.”
I ask, “What is Ta-Koro?”
Jala replies, “Ta-Koro is the city in the great Lake of Fire, in the shadow of the Mangai, the great volcano. This fortress guards the bridge to it. Many Matoran live there – surely you’ve heard of it?
“Most of the people in Ta-Koro farm the lava fields to the north, beneath the Mangai. Many are surfers, riding the lava rapids for sport. Our people are the most courageous warriors in all of Mata Nui, and we are not afraid to challenge the Makuta’s beasts if we must…
“But we cannot confront the enemy alone, and I do not have faith in the other cities of Mata Nui. If they do not join with us in the defense, we will all perish, Toa or not!”
I can think of nothing else to ask him, so I bid Jala goodbye. “May Tahu protect you, traveler,” he replies, and then he goes back to his map.
Suddenly I remember why I am here. I am just about to ask Jala where the winch room is when I see it off to the right.
I pull on the lever and the bridge stones start rising up out of the lava.
As the gate rises, I pass into Ta-Koro. There are many Matoran here. I stop one as he is passing through. He is carrying something.
“Hey, here is the lava surfboard you asked me to hang on to,” he says. I don’t recall asking anyone to hold onto a lava surfboard, but I accept it anyway. “Lava surfing is dangerous, but fun!” he tells me as he departs.
In front of me, two Matoran are talking. “The Rahi have taken the Tren Krom break. No more farming up there!” says one. The other notices me.
“Want to give us a hand? A farmer’s work is never done. It’s up to us to farm all the heat in Ta-Koro.”
Something in the back of my mind tells me that I’m not much of a farmer, so I move on. To the right, another Matoran is busy cleaning. He speaks to me: “Now that Tahu’s here, I’ve got to keep the Shrine spotless. With all the ash and smoke around here, it’s hard to keep that Shrine clean! The Shrine is where Tahu will bring the Kanohi.”
I move forward to the entrance of a tunnel, but the tunnel is closed. As I turn around to leave, I discover a room off to one side from which the light of a fire is flickering. I enter the room and discover someone standing before the fire. He is taller than the other Matoran here in Ta-Koro, and he carries a Firestaff. He turns to face me, bows slightly, and then speaks.
“So. You have found your way back, after all. You are brave. I do not know what brought you to this city, but you should take care… there are some who remember you. The temper of the Ta-Koro Matoran boils as swiftly as the great Mangai in whose shadow we live.
“But in this, our first hour of hope, you may find the villagers’ patience to be greater than usual. Yes, there is hope in Ta-Koro. Tahu is here. It was Jala who found him. He caught him in a trap intended for a Rahi. It was almost the end of my brave Captain, and of his famous Guard!” His tale of how Jala trapped Tahu is so eloquent and vivid that I feel as if I am there. First, the trap is set. Then, out of the darkness comes a tall stranger. I know at once from his description that it is the same stranger I saw leaving the beach earlier.
Suddenly, the trap is sprung and tall spikes of wood surround the stranger. He is not trapped for long though. He raises a sword and it ignites in flame. In no time at all, he has cut down the spikes of his trap with a single fiery sweep of his arm.
Resigned to a fight, Jala and his Guard descend upon the stranger. But just before the battle begins, the stranger is recognized as Tahu and the Matoran bow before him. “The people are elated, but I know that their courage will be tested now more than ever,” my host continues after the tale is complete. “Tahu’s arrival marks the first step in a great struggle. And I have much to do. I am sorry for having so little time for you. As you know, there is a lot to do. Is there anything more you would ask of me?”
“How do you know me?” I ask.
“This is hardly the time for jokes,” he replies. “Have you forgotten all of your great deeds, and also the thing that drove you away from us?”
Embarrassed to admit that I have, I press on. “Who are you?”
“I am Vakama,” he says. “I am the Turaga of this village. I am the Legend-Keeper, the Takara-Leader, He of the Great Firestaff who farms the Mangai’s burning core. Have your aimless wanderings caused you to forget everything? Surely you still have the Board that I gave you, for that was a special gift. Lava Surfing is a difficult skill, and no Matoran other than those that dwell in Ta-Koro have knowledge of it. It would be a pity if you have forgotten it entirely.”
Inwardly pleased that I do indeed now have the lava surfing board, I ask about the stranger. “Who is Tahu?”
Vakama replies: “He will save us. He is come from the heavens, as foretold in the ancient Legends of our city, to battle the Makuta with his Sword of Fire and release us from tyranny. He is a great hero, and will struggle against the Rahi of the Makuta, and will face great dangers.
“The Legends prophecy that six heroes descend from the heavens to Mata Nui, and of them Tahu is the fiercest. But his passage to Mata Nui has left him… uncertain. He has needed help to understand his long-awaited quest.
“I have told Tahu all I know of the Legends of Mata Nui, and of the Masks of Power. I have done all I can. Now it is up to him to adventure into the wilderness, and find a way to defeat the Makuta.”
Then Vakama’s mood changes. He clearly has no more time for me.
“Forgive me, I have much work to do,” he says as he turns back to his fire. “I am preparing for the arrival of another… I am not certain, but the stars have revealed a new prophecy, which I do not yet fully understand…”
I leave Vakama and head out over the bridge. On my way back to the beach, I notice a much smaller bridge off to the right. It leads into the charred forest. I decide to follow it. I quickly become disoriented in the forest. All of the charred trees look the same! I don’t know where I have been and where I am going. I feel as though I have been walking in circles. Then I see them. Someone has marked some of the trees along the path with an ‘X’. I notice that I can scratch the mark again, making it more visible and allowing me to keep track of where I have been.
I also happen across a sign marking the way to the beach. I step out of the forest, turn around, and head back in. I am confident that I will not get lost this time.
As I walk along the path, I come across a stranger who is pacing back and forth very slowly. “I am Kapura,” he says. “Are you the Makuta?”
I remember Nokama speaking of the Makuta infecting the Rahi’s masks. I ask, “What is the Makuta?”
“If you do not know what is the Makuta, then I guess you are not it,” he replies. “That is good. Jala says I have to be careful of the Makuta when I am in the forest. He says the Makuta is everywhere. He means Rahi. Monsters. Things you can see. But I know the Makuta is here now, in these burnt trees, and in the dead soil. All of these things were destroyed by the Makuta, but the Makuta never left them. That is how he becomes strong. That is what the Makuta does. He destroys things.
“I think the forest looks very beautiful this way too. And when it burned, you could see all the fires perform their Great Takara all the way to the sea, and it was very beautiful.”
I long to learn more about the Makuta, but my curiosity about this slow pacing gets the best of me and I ask him, “What are you doing?”
“I am practicing,” he replies. “Vakama says that even though I am slow, I may be faster than all the others, and travel very far. He says I must practice. Jala says I am being silly. I practice often.”
Kapura’s pacing has me disoriented again. I ask him, “Where am I?”
“You are where you are,” Kapura says. “If I practice, I can be where I am not. I think I can feel it. It is hot here where I am, but where I am not is cold, and I think I can feel it. I must practice more.
“The island has many places to visit. I want to see all of them. But the others do not like to travel. Mata Nui is very big.
“Vakama says that in the beginning of time, Mata Nui fell from the sky, and landed here. The Makuta came after him and made him fall asleep, and sent his monsters out across the world to control it, and destroy its beautiful things, and to make the Matoran his slaves.
“Vakama has told us to wait for more creatures to fall from the sky, who will save us. I think one of them landed on the beach. I saw it fall, when I was practicing before.
“Vakama knows more. You should ask him. He lives in Ta-Koro.”
Kapura’s pacing has worn me down. I decide it is best not to mention that I have just spoken with Vakama. Instead, I bid him goodbye. I have decided to head back to the boat and try to find a way to Po-Koro to tell Huki that Maku is safe. I need to head to Ga-Koro first, for I remember that the worker at the dock can tell me the way to sail to Po-Wahi, where I am certain to find Po-Koro.