As I re-enter the tunnel and observe the workers as they widen the entrance, I think back to Jala, Captain of the Guard at Ta-Koro. What was it that he had said about the North March? Perhaps I can be of some assistance there. I follow the tunnel to Ta-Koro and seek out the Captain.
When I find him, my instincts are confirmed. “Stranger, have you heard?” he asks when I greet him. “We’re falling back. And the Toa have completely disappeared.
“My scouts delivered reports from the other villages today. The news is not good. The Rahi are closing on all sides, and their numbers are too great to count. After the fall of Tren Krom I completely lost contact with the North March.
“But we will not go quietly into the shadow of Makuta, as long as the light and heat of the great Mangai still blazes! I know of one maneuver that none will expect. I only hope Vakama and the others will listen.”
“What news from the other villages?” I ask.
“You, at least, have seen some small victories, but Makuta’s evil infection is still spreading throughout Mata Nui,” Jala says. “The other villages are holding on while they can. Onepu is so hard pressed; he can’t spare me even one Ussalry regiment! Not a single regiment!”
“What maneuver?” I query.
“It is imperative that the villages build fortifications and prepare for a final defense,” Jala confides in me. “I expect many Rahi to threaten the villages very soon.
“Vakama says the Toa are gathering at the Kini-Nui, at the center of the island. We must try to protect them while they fulfill their mission. The Turaga must each send heroes to help the Toa at Kini-Nui. The Makuta will not expect it.
“I must know what happened to North March,” Jala broods. “I have no warriors to spare, and you have proven resourceful and true. So I ask you: will you join the Guard?”
“I will join the Guard,” I reply. “What do you need me to do?”
“It warms me that you have chosen to accept our trust,” begins Jala. “Vakama will be pleased.
“The North March is an icy pass where Ta-Wahi meets Ko-Wahi. The Ko-Koronans have been seen little during the past months, and heard from even less. But it may not be that they are troubled; silence has always been their way.
“The Guard has a small outpost there, only reachable by cablecar. They watch against Rahi from the frozen heights. They also keep watch on Ko-Koronans.
“I fear the servants of Makuta have taken all my scouts. Take this Ensign and show it to the sentry at the cablecar. He will let you through. Then, make contact with our scouts in North March and get a report for me on the Makuta’s efforts in the mountains. Good luck, traveler.”
I bid Jala goodbye and head out for the perimeter of Ta-Koro. I ascend the many steps along the outer wall until I meet the sentry.
“Only guards may pass,” he tells me. I show him my ensign. “You may pass,” he says. Ta-Koro guards are not exactly known for their stimulating conversation.
I climb onto the cablecar and it whisks me up the mountain. It is quite a contrast in temperature as I move from the fiery lava of Ta-Koro to the snowy clime of Ko-Wahi.
At the top of the cablecar run, I discover a small hut. It appears to be an abandoned outpost. Within the hut is a Heatstone. I feel foolish for not having thought to bring one myself. I pick it up and place it in my backpack.
Outside the hut, there are footprints in the snow leading up the mountain. Having no other directions to Ko-Koro, I decide to follow them through the drifts.
I soon come across an astonishing sight. Some poor villager has been encased in ice! Perhaps I am not too late. I take out the Heatstone to see if I can melt the villager out of the ice.
The villager quickly revives. He is startled to see me, and he runs away. I follow him. He appears trapped at the base of a large drift when suddenly a door opens revealing an icy tunnel. He disappears down the tunnel and I follow him once more.
Safely within the confines of the tunnel, the villager sees no need to continue to run away. He is examining himself in the reflection on the ice as I approach him. “Who are you?” I ask.
“Kopeke,” he answers.
Mindful of the task Jala has sent me on, I get straight to the point. “What happened to the Ta-Koronan Guard?”
“The Makuta led them into the ice, and I fear they will not return,” Kopeke answers. “Had you not come and saved me, I would be facing a similar fate.”
“Where am I?” I ask.
“I do not wish to be questioned,” says Kopeke. “If you seek answers, do so in Ko-Koro. There you will find meditation and contemplation. It is Turaga Nuju‘s way to think on all things, and from his Sanctum on Ihu’s peak one can see far ahead and far behind.
“In Ko-Koro, we respect knowledge above all things. You must have great knowledge even to step foot within it. You are the one who seeks to chronicle this era, and so you will doubtless travel the icy drifts in search of answers. But true sight reveals many things, and knowing the future can be dangerous. That is your choice.
“Wisdom is ever the burden of the Turaga. I do not expect it from you.”
Kopeke returns to looking at the icy reflections on the wall. I discover that he is not looking at himself. Rather, from his vantage point he can see both the cablecar and the hut. Perhaps he is a sentry, guarding this tunnel entrance.
I appear free to continue on to Ko-Koro, so I continue to head farther into the tunnel. My progress is soon stopped however when I come to a locked gate.
The lock appears to be controlled by the carved blocks of ice scattered about me on the floor. Each block displays an image of a mask. I recognize a few: Toa Lewa‘s mask, Turaga Matau‘s mask, and Toa Pohatu‘s mask. I also note the symbols at the bottom of each column.
I am clearly supposed to place the icy blocks into the slots of the columns. At first, I am not certain which blocks go where. But very soon I have figured it out and the gate opens up to reveal the steps beyond. I continue on my way to Ko-Koro.
The path is precarious, what with all of the ice and snow and blowing wind. I am not alone out here however. Two guards stand duty outside the main entrance. They shake off their drifts of snow as they greet me.
I enter what appears to be the main building of Ko-Koro. There is a large pot over a fire in the center. A large mask overlooks the well-lit room. There are several villagers here. They appear to be studying the writing on the wall. I interrupt the villager nearest to me.
“Welcome, traveler, to the Sanctum,” he says. “You may join us in our meditation if you wish. Nuju honors all wise Matoran that they may join in the Seeking. If you wish to speak with our Turaga, you must wait for Matoro to return. He is the only one that can translate Nuju’s wisdom. Is there anything you wish to know?”
“What is the Seeking?” I ask.
“Written upon these walls and tablets are the great Prophecies,” he tells me. “To understand even a fraction of what they speak takes years of meditation and patient decryption.”
I don’t have years. I need answers now. I press on. “Who is Nuju?”
“Nuju is the Turaga of Ko-Koro. His mediations reach into the past and into the future, and he has deciphered much of the ancient Prophecies. He has Visions.
“He does very little that is not significant in some way to the future of Mata Nui, and the Kanohi Matatu gives him the power to move objects by sheer force of will.”
Perhaps Nuju can give me the answers I seek. But this fellow says I need Matoro to speak to him. “Where is Matoro?” I ask.
“Matoro is alone, hunting Rahi in the Drifts,” he replies. “You may seek him if you wish, but be warned: Ihu is not merciful, even to the Ko-Koronan.”
Suddenly, part of the wall gives way and another icy tunnel appears.
“Take this passageway to enter into the Drifts. Matoro often leaves behind signal flags so that he does not get lost. If you follow them you may come to him.”
I thank the villager and head once more down an icy tunnel. When I arrive at the other end, I discover one of Matoro’s signal flags and his footprints in the snow. I follow them as the snow begins to fall heavily.
Soon, I am headed up the slippery, snow-covered slopes of Mount Ihu, following Matoro’s trail of red signal flags. Although cold and windy with falling snow, the path is not too difficult to follow at first.
Then suddenly, it strikes. A blinding whiteout of a blizzard! I can hardly see my own hand in front of my face. Everywhere I turn, I can only see the white of the blowing snowstorm. Reluctantly, I press on in the hopes of finding Matoro.
I am so cold, and I am beginning to tire from trudging through the thick drifts of snow. Have I seen that rock before? Am I going in circles? Ah, another signal flag up ahead! If I can just reach it.
I am thrilled to finally reach the bright red signal flag flapping vigorously in the wind. But where is Matoro? Which way do I go? My victory is brief. I must continue to search for Matoro in the blinding snow.
At first my spirits lift, as the signal flags are now easier to find. I move from one to another, each time thinking that this will be the one that brings me to Matoro. But each time I am disappointed.
And then, the signal flags are gone. There is nothing to see but snow, snow, and more snow. I am very tired now. So sleepy. At least I’m not cold anymore. I feel a warm sensation all over. I decide to take a brief rest.
All is dark as I close my eyes. I am grateful to be rid of the omnipresent white. I am dreaming. Words are floating through my head, racing away from me. And then a symbol floats before me. It grows larger as it comes closer to me. Closer, closer, closer.
Before I can figure out what the symbol means, it disappears and I hear someone speaking to me. “Energy…” he offers. I take it. “Rest…” he says. I close my eyes once more.
When I awake, I am in a cave. Matoro is nearby. I recognize him by the signal flag he carries. Before I can speak to him, Matoro is alerted to something outside. Perhaps he has trapped a Rahi. He leaves the cave. I have strength enough only to watch.
A tall stranger is barely visible on the horizon. But he is not responsible for tripping Matoro’s wire. No, certainly the very large and angry Rahi nearby has done that.
Matoro is caught off-guard, but raises his pickaxe to protect himself. It is of no consequence however as the Rahi easily swats him into a snowbank. It appears all is lost for Matoro as the Rahi moves in for the kill.
The Rahi’s attack is stopped though by the sudden appearance of the tall stranger. He is armed with a sword and shield, and he is blocking the Rahi’s path. The Rahi strikes out at the stranger, but too late. The stranger has quickly moved away.
As he turns to face the beast, the stranger’s mask changes shape and, instantly, he is gone. The Rahi looks about for the stranger, confused by his disappearance. Soon, the sound of sword striking Rahi armor echoes around us.
The stranger retreats and circles around invisibly for another attack. His footprints in the snow give him away however, and the Rahi strikes. The stranger is caught within the jaws of the beast, shaken, and thrown into a drift.
The stranger reappears from the drift. His mask changes again. As it does so, two more strangers appear. They all look exactly alike.
Now even more befuddled, the Rahi looks first from one stranger, then to the next, and then to the next as they back him onto an overhang of cliff. The three strangers draw their swords together. Apparently surrounded with no chance of escape, the Rahi chooses his target and strikes.
Unfortunately for the Rahi, he has chosen incorrectly. The stranger he attacks is but a chimera who merely shimmers and disappears after the assault. The remaining two strangers thrust their swords into the ground, breaking off the overhang. The roar of the Rahi echoes mournfully as it plummets downward into the swirling mists of snow.
Matoro, having regained his feet, walks up next to the stranger and gazes over the cliff. No sooner has he done this than he is alone, for the other stranger’s mask has returned to its original form and his doppelganger is gone.
Some time later, we are safely back in the Sanctum. The stranger, whom I now know to be Toa Kopaka, has left us. Matoro is by Turaga Nuju’s side. I approach them both.
“I will translate Nuju’s words for you, traveler,” says Matoro. “He has been watching you for a long time. Your role in Mata Nui’s destiny is more important than you know. Mata Nui sleeps, but you, like the Toa, shall be an agent of his awakening.
“Nuju knows that you wish to ask questions of him and he will answer them. When you are done, he wishes to ask a question of you. What questions do you wish to ask Nuju, traveler?”
“Where are the Toa?” I ask Nuju.
Nuju erupts in a string of beeps, clicks, and whistles. Matoro is listening intently and nods his head.
“The Toa will unite and find more power in the joining,” Matoro translates. “They shall merge their skills, their knowledge, their wills to become Wisdom and Valor, named in prophecy Wairuha and Akamai. In these forms, they are the Toa Kaita. The Toa Kaita will, at last, confront the Makuta.
“During their absence, the people of Mata Nui must work together to protect their homes and all that they know. They will need great courage, for the Toa will not be here to protect them.”
“What will happen to Mata Nui?” I wonder aloud.
There are more clicks and whistles, and then Matoro continues. “Nuju says that you must understand this: that in creation, there is destruction. In destruction, there is rebirth. There is no such thing as void; all things are in flux.
“If the Toa triumph, Mata Nui will know great joy… and great change. The darkness will be dispelled, but we will have to guard our island well to ensure no other evil rises to take its place.”
I contemplate this for a while. When the silence becomes awkward, I reluctantly ask, “What question?”
“You are the one that will guide the Matoran,” Matoro translates after Nuju’s flurry of sounds. “But only if you have learned what was necessary to learn during your travels.
“With the Toa Kaita beneath the earth, the Matoran must fortify their villages and brace for a great battle. There must also be created an alliance, a small group assembled from whomever the Turaga can spare, to help the Toa on their final quest.
“Nuju’s question is this: To what place shall you lead the alliance?”
This is an unanticipated question. I thought perhaps Nuju would ask me to do something. Instead, he is telling what I am to do, testing me to see if I am up to the task.
I consider all of the places I have seen on my journey. I think hard upon where an alliance can do the most good. Then suddenly it comes to me. I know where we must go, and I tell Turaga Nuju. Nuju nods his head in the affirmative. “So be it,” says Matoro. “Nuju believes that you are the one who can accomplish this task. Take this message to all the Turaga of the villages, and they can begin their fateful preparations. Nuju believes in you, adventurer.”