I follow the tunnel along the path of the three wavy lines. I discover that it is not yet complete. There are miners here hard at work. I speak to the one I believe to be Taipu, of whom Whenua spoke earlier.
“Onepu told me you found a way to the lightstones,” Taipu says. “Thank you, adventurer. We can dig much more quickly now. I am sure the highway will reach Le-Koro soon!” Then he adds, “If the Rahi attack the site, traveler, stay near me. I will protect you.”
“Why are you digging?” I ask.
“We are building a highway to the village of Le-Koro. Whenua says I am the strongest of the Onu-Koronan Matoran, so I am leading the way.”
“What is Le-Koro?” I wonder aloud.
“It is a village in the south, where the Le-Koronan Matoran live in trees. I have never been there. Onepu says there are tall, pretty forests, and huts built in the sky! Onepu says the Le-Koronans are great musicians, too, and play music all day long from the treetops.”
I have met Onepu already, but I wonder what Taipu thinks of him, so I ask, “Who is Onepu?”
“Onepu is my best friend in all of Onu-Koro. He is very smart and knows a lot about Ussal Crab racing and fighting Rahi. He is supposed to be digging, too, but he showed me how I can do both of our digging at the same time. THAT’S how smart he is!”
“We did it! We’ve made it through!” exclaims Taipu. “Onepu was right. It is so beautiful here. Whenua said I should make camp when we break through, but I want to go to see Le-Koro and the tree-Matoran…
“Le-Koro is right through those trees, I bet. Won’t you take me with you to see it?”
I see no reason not to do so. After all, Taipu was willing to protect me in the tunnel. The others can make camp. “Yes, I will take you, Taipu,” I reply.
“Thank you! I bet it is more beautiful even than the Great Mine! Let’s go!”
Taipu is so excited; he is practically dancing as he runs ahead of me into the trees. He occasionally stops and looks around as he waits for me to catch up. “I wonder where the people of Le-Koro are?” he asks during one such stop.
And then, during another stop, he motions excitedly from atop a rock. “It’s here! Le-Koro! I’ve found it! It’s beautiful!” he shouts. No sooner have the words escaped his mouth than a large creature swoops down from the treetops, picks up Taipu, and flies away with him! Oh no! What have I done!?
I rush ahead. Perhaps the inhabitants of Le-Koro can help me save Taipu. But where is Le-Koro? All I see is a large tree in a swamp.
But a closer look at the base of the tree reveals what appears to be some sort of elevator, carved out of large pods and attached to long vines. I climb in the nearest pod. The controls resemble the three wavy lines I saw on the map back in Onu-Koro. A few presses of the buttons, and I am soon ascending up into the high branches of the tree.
As I step out of the elevator, I am amazed to discover an entire village in the treetops. But all of the huts appear to have been closed up and abandoned. Where are the inhabitants? Who will help me save Taipu? I decide to search the village to see if there is anyone, or anything, here to help me.
I don’t go far before I discover an abandoned flute outside one of the huts. I pick it up. At first, I place it into my backpack and continue my search. But later, I decide to take it out again and examine it more closely.
I press a large, blue key. As I do so, the other keys of the flute light up in sequence. I decide to try my hand at playing the flute using the same sequence of keys. When I do, a short, hauntingly beautiful melody issues forth.
Before the last note has died away, the village suddenly springs to life. Windows pop open and inhabitants peek out. Other villagers appear from higher up in the trees. They eagerly jump down to greet me, some more skillfully than others. One begins to speak to me.
“Forgive but village attacked by Makuta‘s evil beasts! Feared you were Rahi but no Rama plays Flute like that, so downtree we come and greet!”
“What attack?” I ask.
“In last rainfall Kongu on patrol saw Rama-hive growing topleaf-high, far in dark forest. Lateknowing Matoran, Rama infected by Makuta! One drift ago, cloudsneaking Nui-Rama fly on Le-Koro to destroy all. Quicksoaring Kahu-riders treelaunch, and great battles fought! Village still stands, but many lost!”
“What is a Rama?” I wonder aloud.
“Nui-Rama, buzzflying Rahi!” he answers. “Hundred-eye, allseeing, fright and fury! Makuta-Madness makes even worse! Wings mash, pincers grab! No chance for Matoran alone, only Toa bold enough to stand against it, yet cunning Rama sneak-swoop-smash and fly out of reach!”
“Who are you?” I inquire.
“Tamaru of Le-Koro!” he replies. “Highfly Vinesman, deepwood Wayfinder! Chief Kahu-tamer! Matau‘s best! You are the brave wanderer that some speak of! Braver still, for coming to Le-Koro!”
I am a little embarrassed that my reputation precedes me, especially since it is fear of the Nui-Rama and what has happened to Taipu that has brought me here, not bravery.
“Traveler beware – dark-time come,” interrupts the villager next to Tamaru. “Matau stolen, Lewa gone! Le-Koronans prepare for battleflight!”
“Who are you?” I ask.
“Kongu, fastest Leaf-Runner!” he replies. “Everquick pilot! Weaver, mapmaker! Le-Koro Matoran!”
“And who is Matau?” I continue.
“Matau the Singer!” replies Kongu. “Down talk, up singing! Friend and laughter! In lifedawn years past, was known Matau Kewa Champion! Matau, great Turaga of Le-Koro and soul of the forest people! Gone! Gone! Taken by Makuta’s Rahi!”
The villagers here speak in an odd manner, but I think that I understand what they mean. “Who is Lewa?” I press on.
“Lewa, great Toa of Air!” says Kongu. “Hero of Le-Koro! Gone away in quest for the Great Kanohi. If he were here, he would save us, for he has faced greater dangers than this, and survived!
“Are you here to help in the defense, traveler? Le-Koro needs brave windriders to face the Rama!” Kongu asks me.
I am not certain. Kongu senses my hesitation.
“Uptree battle, downtree peace! You choose, but if Rama come, try to stay under cover!” says Kongu.
“The forest can protect you, traveler, if you heed it!” adds Tamaru.
I know I can’t save Taipu by heading back down. Perhaps if I help the villagers, then they can help me retrieve Taipu. I have no other options. I head “uptree.” As I do so, I notice a dark cloud growing in the distance.
Large birds appear, the villagers mount them, and then they fly off into the sky toward the dark cloud of Rama. Kongu mounts a bird close by and motions for me to come over.
“Traveler, will you be my second?” Kongu asks me when I arrive. “My Kahu stays treebound without a Disc-thrower!”
I immediately agree and mount the Kahu bird.
“I hope your Disc-arm is as great as your nerve!” says Kongu. “Lewa protect us! Let’s go!” And with that, we are off into the skies to face the Rama swarm.
There is chatter among the pilots as we race toward our foe. “Stay with your wingman!” one shouts. “May the wind be ever underneath your wings!” shouts another. And then we are there. Rama after Rama comes at us, eager to swat us out of the sky. I launch my discs as fast and as hard as I can, aiming carefully to knock the Rama down. I get many. Others retreat.
Kongu flies like a determined madman. First we are up in the clouds. Then we dive down into the trees. Yet the Rama still come.
Emboldened by our successes, Kongu pushes on to take the fight to the Rama. What at first appears to be a small mountain in the distance soon becomes clearer. It is the Rama hive. Incredibly, Kongu takes us into its very mouth!
We fight valiantly, and as best we can, but there are too many of them. Soon, our Kahu is injured. How Kongu guides the bird to a landing, I will never know. But we arrive safely. At least, as safely as one can arrive in the hive of a swarm of Nui-Rama!
There are other villagers here. And I think I see Taipu hard at work nearby! All are watched closely by small electric blue bugs. Kongu speaks with the tallest of the prisoners. I move closer, and the tall prisoner speaks to me.
“It is an honor that you sought to save me, traveler, but I am sorry that you made the attempt. But with song we will know hope, and hope brings freedom! Keep your voice down, traveler, and sing as you work. And hope Lewa comes to save us.”
“Who are you?” I ask.
“I am Matau, called the Singer by the people of Le-Koro,” he replies. “I am their Turaga. I have been imprisoned here since leafdawn.”
“Will Lewa come to save us?” I inquire.
“You are not of this tribe, so I will tell you of Lewa, but you must swear not to reveal what I am about to say to anyone. Lewa is here. But he will not save us.
“The great Toa is the same in body, in strength, and in speed. But his mind is gone. He has been attacked by the Makuta and enslaved by evil. His Great Mask of Power has been replaced with an infected mask, and the only way to bring him back is to take it off. And I know of nothing with the strength to overcome him.
“He has become more fearsome and horrible than any Rahi. We shall never escape this place. All that is left to us is song, and what small comfort it brings.
“Take care, and do your work without resistance. Nui-Rama are not clever, but they see much. They know when we are plotting.”
I am about to begin my work when I see him. He is just a point, high up the walls of the hive. But then he comes closer, accompanied by his Nui-Rama handler. I know instantly from his infected mask that this must be the once-great Toa Lewa.
Everything about him seems dark. I can see within the claws of the Nui-Rama beside him what must have been Lewa’s original mask. The shock among the prisoners at this sight is palpable. Suddenly, another tall stranger springs from the very ground beneath our feet. It is instantly clear that Lewa and the stranger are set upon destroying each other. Lewa raises his battle axe and charges at the stranger.
The mask of the stranger changes shape and appears to power up. Lewa’s attack is thwarted by some sort of shield emanating from the mask. Lewa is thrown backwards into the wall of the hive. The jolt appears to have changed him.
“What… what’s happening to me?” he asks himself. “My body… not my own…” he mumbles. “My mind… get out of MY MIND!” he screams. And then the darkness returns to him.
Lewa and the stranger begin to battle again. The fight moves quickly all over the hive. Lewa scores a frightening blow, and the stranger is knocked partially into the wall of the hive. As one of the electric blue bugs crawls out to survey the damage, the stranger’s mask changes once again.
Small bits and pieces of debris suddenly float up into the air around the stranger. And then, the electric blue bug joins the floating cloud of debris. Before Lewa realizes what is happening, the cloud is hurtling toward him, bug and all. Lewa tries to react, but the bug strikes him a blow to the head, knocking the infected mask off of his face and onto the floor.
“His mask! Get his mask!” exclaims Matau.
The stranger looks to the Nui-Rama that is hovering nearby. The beast can no longer hold onto Lewa’s uninfected mask. Instead, the mask floats down to the seemingly confused Lewa, who puts it on.
Instantly, a change comes over the Toa. He leaps high into the air and onto the back of the Nui-Rama. It is Lewa’s mask that changes now. As it does, the Nui-Rama ceases its struggling. The beast appears to be fully under Lewa’s control.
Victorious, Lewa and the tall stranger, who must be Toa Onua of Onu-Koro, collect the prisoners and we all escape the hive aboard the Nui-Rama and our faithful Kahu bird, now nursed back to health. There is to be much rejoicing back at Le-Koro with the return of the prisoners and, especially, Matau.
“Traveler, it is good to see you again after all our adventures!” Matau says to me. “Return to treebright Le-Koro was so long hoped for in the darkwet Rama Hive! Take this Flutesong; it fits in the Flute you found. Whenever you need help from sunsoaring Le-Koro, playsong and you will have it!”
As much as I enjoy a good party, I feel that perhaps I need to keep moving on. I tell Matau goodbye.
“Many thanks to you, adventurer, for helping us to highbranch home!” he says as I leave. “Goodbye, traveler, and fare well!”