1

Gali was very glad that Onua’s meeting had gone more smoothly than the last. It had ended in one unanimous decision: The Toa would work as a team.

Each of the Toa had encountered at least one Rahi during their travels, and Gali was no exception. After encountering another of the monstrous swimming Rahi she’d seen just after her awakening, she respected the creatures’ power more than ever. She now knew that such beasts were known as Tarakava. The Turaga had told them that all the Rahi were native beasts of the island – controlled by Makuta to do his dark bidding.

Perhaps when weve found all the masks, we’ll also find a way to set the Rahi free, Gali thought.

She only wished that the mission were going more smoothly. They had wasted too much time on petty disagreements. Lewa kept getting distracted and wandering away from the group. Tahu seemed determined to completely disable every Rahi they encountered. Kopaka periodically got fed up with the bickering and threatened to go off again on his own.

Through it all, Gali did her best to maintain the peace. She could tell that Onua was working toward the same goal in a quieter way and found her respect for the strong, reserved Toa of Earth growing more and more. Now, as they approached the shoreline just south of Po-Koro, she glanced toward him.

“Onua,” she said. “If what the Ta-Matoran told us is accurate, we will need to go beneath the waters to retrieve Tahu’s levitation mask.”

Lewa overheard her and groaned. “Not again!” he cried. “I already took one wetdive to get my Mask of Speed. I still haven’t got all the wateryuck out of my ears!”

“Don’t be foolish,” Kopaka spoke up. “Obviously, only those among us who already hold the Kanohi Kaukau should go on from here. Pohatu, Lewa, Tahu – you can wait on the beach.”

Tahu glared at him. “Thanks for pointing out the obvious,” he retorted. “But it’s my mask we’re after here – my villager was the one who revealed its location. I think I should be the one to decide whether or not I go.”

Gali rolled her eyes. “It would be helpful to have several of us standing guard on the beach, brother Tahu,” she pointed out.

“That’s true,” Tahu admitted, though he still shot Kopaka an irritated glance. “Go with good fortune, Gali. We’ll keep a careful watch for danger while we wait for your return.”

Onua was already leading the way into the surf, with Kopaka a step behind. Gali followed, feeling some of her anxiety wash away at the touch of the warm, familiar water. She dove into the waves, swimming quickly out into deeper water.

Soon the three of them reached the broad, open sweep of the sea valley.

Kopaka pointed to a large, shadowy shape visible in the water. Gali shuddered as she recognized the Tarakava.

“I escaped from one Tarakava by blinding it with waving seaweed, and from another by luring it into a cave where it got stuck,” Gali told the others. “These Rahi are strong, but not very clever, I think. All we need is a plan…”

Soon the three of them were swimming slowly toward the Tarakava. A moment later the creature spotted them and let out a roar.

“Okay, it knows we’re here,” Gali whispered, floating in place. “Kopaka, get ready.”

The Ice Toa nodded. The Tarakava barreled toward them. Soon it was only a short distance away, then closer… Still Kopaka didn’t move.

Gali held her breath. The beast would be upon them within seconds.

As she was about to cry out, the Ice Toa finally made his move. With a twitch of his ice blade, he sent a blast of intense cold out ahead of him, instantly freezing the water – and the Tarakava – into a solid block of ice.

“Nice work!” Onua cried, his deep voice rumbling through the water like an earthquake. “Now it’s my turn…”

With that, he struck the sandy ocean floor with his fists. The ground swelled up, arcing over the giant Tarakava ice cube until it completely surrounded the frozen area.

“That should hold it for a while,” Gali said, relieved. “Now all we have to do is –”

“Wait,” Onua interrupted, staring at the Tarakava, whose head protruded out of the dirt-and-ice mound that trapped it. “I just want to see something…”

He swam toward the creature, carefully staying out of its jaws. Patting the dirt mound before him, he caused it to burst upward in a small explosion, knocking the Tarakava’s mask from its face.

The creature’s violent spasms stopped immediately. After a moment it let out a wail of dismay and started to wriggle again, but this time it completely ignored Onua.

“I thought that might happen,” Onua said. “When Pohatu and I encountered a pair of Nui-Rama, he knocked off the masks of one of them. The creature suddenly changed – flew away instead of continuing the fight.”

Kopaka nodded thoughtfully. “Something similar happened when I met a Kuma-Nui on my way to Po-Wahi.”

“I wish I’d mentioned it earlier,” Onua said. “I didn’t realize it might be important – until just now.”

Gali noticed that Kopaka didn’t make the same apology. “We have learned something important here, I think,” she said. “It is through these masks that Makuta controls the Rahi.” Noticing the gray shape of a mask against the white sand nearby, she darted forward to scoop it up.

“Mission accomplished,” Onua said. “Come on, let’s get back.”

“Then it is settled,” said Tahu. “We will enter the cavern at dawn and defeat any Nui-Jaga we may find. Onua, Pohatu, it will be your job to seal up the nest when we are done. Lewa, you remain outside in the treetops to hinder any of the Rahi who may escape. Gali will…”

“Gali will protest,” said the Toa of Water. “This matter is not settled. This plan is foolish and dangerous. The Nui-Jaga dislike smoke… they dislike water… using our powers, Tahu, we could force them from their nest and deal with them here in the open. Instead, you want to plunge in like a starving taku bird after a fish.”

“That is enough!” Tahu snapped.

“Perhaps wise Gali has a point, brother,” Onua said quietly. “We do not know how far the cavern extends, or even if Nui-Jaga are all that we shall find in there.”

“You worry too much, Onua,” Pohatu interjected. “We can handle Makuta’s beasts in any numbers, can’t we?”

Lewa turned to Kopaka, who stood apart from the group. “You’re very quiet… what do you think?”

Kopaka turned and walked away from the assembled group. “I think… that ‘Charge!’ is not a plan.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Kopaka snapped. “You’ll only end up killing yourself – and making a mess for the rest of us to clean up.”

Pohatu sighed, wondering if it had been a mistake to split into two groups. If Onua or Gali were here, maybe one of them could settle this argument between Kopaka and Lewa. But they, along with Tahu, had gone to Le-Wahi in search of Pohatu’s second-to-last mask.

Now Pohatu stood atop the highest bluff in his own home region, staring at the mask that hung tantalizingly halfway down the sheer rock face. At the bottom of the cliff was an enormous Nui-Jaga. The Rahi knew the Toa were there – every few seconds, it turned its masked face toward them and rattled its tail stinger.

“Perhaps our icy brother is right, Lewa,” Pohatu suggested. “If you miss your mark and fall – well, anyway, I’m sure we can find another way if we put our minds together.”

Lewa shrugged, his smile never faltering. “Why worrybother?” he said. “After all, this way is so much more funnnnnnnnnn…”

The last word was lost in a rush of movement as Lewa launched himself off of the cliff with both arms outstretched.

“That fool!” Kopaka muttered savagely.

Pohatu couldn’t speak. He could only hold his breath, hardly daring to watch. It was his own Kanohi Kaukau that Lewa was trying to grab as he swept past – how could Pohatu live with himself if Lewa’s bold attempt ended in catastrophe?

“Wheeeeeee!” Lewa cried, snatching the mask in one hand as he swooped past, then sweeping one arm through the air to call the wind to his aid. The sudden gust that resulted gave him a quick lift. But he soon left the wind behind, floating upward on his own power.

“He uses the Mask of Levitation well,” Kopaka admitted grudgingly as he watched the grinning Lewa ascend toward them.

Pohatu shot a glance at the Ice Toa. Beneath all his coldness, Kopaka had an honest heart.

A second later Lewa landed beside them. “One Kanohi Kaukau, as ordered,” he said breathlessly, tossing the mask to Pohatu. “Hope it fits, because I’d sorryhate to have to return it.”

Onua squinted uncertainly toward the treetops. The sun was bright here in the rain forest of Le-Wahi, and his eyes ached with the effort of trying to see through its brightness.

“Is that it?” he asked Gali and Tahu, who stood beside him.

Gali nodded. “It is a Kanohi Kakama,” she confirmed. “It seems to be stuck in the knot of this tree, up near the top. Too bad brother Lewa isn’t here to play monkey for us.”

“Indeed. Sister, you hold the Mask of Levitation – do you think you can get it?”

“I can try.” Gali stared upward. “I haven’t yet had much time to practice. But if I move slowly…”

Tahu let out a noisy, impatient sigh. “Look, we don’t have all day for this,” he said abruptly. “Why not try an easier way?”

With that, he pointed his sword at the tree.

“Tahu, no!” Gali cried.

But even as the words left her mouth, flames shot out of Tahu’s sword and enveloped the tree’s trunk. Within seconds the fire had consumed the entire tree, burning it into a black skeleton sprouting from a pile of cinders. Only the mask remained untouched by the flame, falling intact to the ground with a puff of embers.

Onua frowned as he picked up the mask. He’ll set the whole forest ablaze! he thought, as runaway flames licked at several neighboring trees.

Beside him, he saw Gali gesturing with her arms. A moment later, a drenching rain shower poured down over them, dousing all the fires.

“Thanks,” Tahu said, wiping rainwater from his mask. “I didn’t think the fire would spread.”

“Right.” Gali’s voice sounded almost cold enough to have come from Kopaka. “I suppose you also didn’t think about the birds who called that tree home, or the plants and animals that relied on it for shade. In other words, you didn’t think.”

With that, she turned and stalked off into the jungle.

Lewa stared into the eyes of the great Muaka. The huge beast had cornered the Toa of Air deep in the jungle, and now they both studied each other, looking for signs of weakness.

“Very large, aren’t you?” Lewa said lightly. “What do they feed you? Not Toa, I hope.”

The Muaka’s answer was a growl. A second later, he lunged at Lewa. But the Toa had already backflipped out of the way, leaving the Rahi’s claws slashing at empty air.

“Not nice. Not nice at all,” Lewa said, from his refuge on a low branch. “Ordinarily, I am a very peaceful sort… but you see, there is a Mask of Power in the cave behind you and I mean to have it.”

Raising his axe, Lewa summoned a hurricane-force gust of wind. The Muaka, growling, dug his claws into the earth, but even he could not resist the power of the Toa of Air. With a howl, the Rahi was torn loose and sent flying into the trees.

So satisfied was Lewa with this outcome that he did not hear the buzzing sound behind him until it was too late. He turned just in time to see a bolt of ice strike a Nui-Rama, instantly freezing the giant insect in mid-air.

For a moment, there was no sound but the crackling of the ice. Then a voice like a winter breeze broke the stillness. “The first rule of Mata Nui… always know what’s behind you.”

Kopaka stepped into the light, his sword still radiating icy cold. “Your recklessness will be the end of you one day, Lewa.”

Lewa laughed and climbed higher into the tree. “Not as long as I have friends like you, Kopaka.”

“There!” Tahu crowed triumphantly as the de-masked Rahi scurried away down the drifts of lower Mount Ihu. “The Great Mask of Water Breathing is mine. And that means –”

“– all the masks have been found,” Kopaka finished for him.

“Good,” Gali said shortly, hardly smiling at Tahu’s obvious glee as he placed the Kanohi Kaukau over his face and the dull gray surface of the mask suddenly gleamed bright red.

Kopaka was strangely pleased to notice that Gali and Tahu didn’t seem to be getting along. He wondered what had happened between them, though he wasn’t about to ask.

“Now we come to the next question,” Onua said. “What are we supposed to do now?”

Tahu shrugged. “We have all our powers now,” he pointed out. “So let’s go and take out the rest of the Rahi. Now that we know how to disable them –”

“Seems like timefoolery to me,” Lewa interrupted. “The Matoran know the secret now, too. With that knowledge, they should be able to safekeep themselves against the Rahi for the nowtime. And I have a hunchthought that other tasks lay in store for us.”

Kopaka winced at the Air Toa’s comment. Didn’t anyone else recognize how absurd it was to rely on hunches and premonitions? At the same time, though, he couldn’t help flashing back to the vision he’d had on the Lava Lagoon.

Did it have some kind of meaning, or was he turning into a foolish dream-follower like Lewa himself?

“Perhaps our next duty has to do with the golden-colored Kanohi my Turaga mentioned,” Gali said. “Does anyone know anything more about them?”

“Not I,” Onua said as the others shook their heads. “What exactly were you told?”

“Not much.” Gali frowned, looking puzzled and frustrated. “I – I suppose we will have to go back and ask. All I really know is that somehow, we are supposed to find such a golden mask.”

Finally Kopaka spoke up. “I think I know where we might find it,” he said quietly.

The others glanced at him in surprise. “Huh?” Tahu said. “What are you talking about?”

“I had a vision,” Kopaka said. “Right before you found me on the Lava Lagoon, brother Lewa.” He glanced at the Air Toa, who had stopped leaping around for once. “In it, I saw a temple – a huge temple at the center of the island. I think we’re meant to go there.”

Tahu snorted. “And when exactly were you going to let us in on this secret?”

“He just did, Tahu,” Gali pointed out quietly. “And that’s fine. There was no need to knowing it until now.”

Kopaka gazed at her, touched that she’d come to his defense. It’s just because she’s annoyed with Tahu over something or other, he told himself.

Still, he couldn’t help giving her a brief, grateful smile.

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