Kopaka saw Tahu fly by and crash into the wall. As the Fire Toa slid to the floor, stunned, Kopaka aimed his ice blade in front of the Manas that was moving in on the fallen Toa. The floor in front of the creature instantly froze once again, slowing it down long enough for Lewa to somersault in and drag Tahu out of range.
“This is ridiculous,” Gali cried as she defended herself against the second Manas. “They’re just too strong! We’d better retreat.”
“Never!” Tahu croaked, his voice hoarse but determined. “We must stay united. We must defeat them!”
Kopaka blinked, wondering why Tahu’s words had struck such a chord in his mind. Where have I heard something like that before?
He glanced toward Gali and found her watching him. “What is it, brother?” she asked. “Do you know something? I – I think I do. I had a vision. It told me that something would happen after we found all the Masks of Power. That we would need to – unite.”
Kopaka hesitated. Could it be?
The words from his vision returned: …behold the future… you and the others shall… all the Great Masks of Power… together and defeat… three shall become… path of wisdom… myself, Akamai… of the warrior… only by uniting…
“I think I had the same vision,” he admitted at last. “I didn’t understand it at the time. I – I still don’t understand it.”
“Don’t you see?” Gali stared into his eyes, almost seeming to forget about the Manas, who were attacking the other Toa nearby. “I was told that three shall become Wairuha and walk the path of wisdom. Three shall become Akamai and walk the path of the warrior. Only by uniting will the Toa find the strength to triumph.”
Kopaka shook his head. “No,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense. How could such a thing happen?”
“I sense that it will happen if we want it to,” Gali replied quietly. She glanced briefly toward the battle behind them. “I’m thinking that I want whatever will help us all. Do you?”
Kopaka stared at her for a moment. How could he want such a thing? Three become one – it would mean giving up his own individuality. No! It was impossible…
Or was it? Haven’t I found that sometimes my own powers fell short? he thought reluctantly. Haven’t I found myself wishing at times that the others were with me?
Gali was still watching him. “Unity, duty, destiny,” she said urgently. “Think about those words, brother. Do you believe in them?”
“Yes,” Kopaka said at last. “Yes. I don’t like them much right now, but I believe in them.” He took a deep breath. “Let’s do it.”
“Brothers!” Gali shouted. “We need to retreat – just for a moment.”
Pohatu and Onua glanced at each other. Then they used their powers simultaneously to tumble down part of the ceiling and create a wall of rubble right in front of the advancing Manas.
“That won’t hold them for long,” Pohatu said breathlessly. “Now, what is it?”
Gali quickly described the vision she’d had. “We need to unite,” she finished. “Combine our powers. Otherwise, there is no hope of victory.”
The others nodded. “At this point,” Tahu said, “I’ll try anything.”
As if part of one of his own dreams, Kopaka moved toward Gali and Lewa. Nearby, Tahu turned to face Pohatu and Onua. In each group, three Toa locked eyes… and became one.
* * *
As we wait, I take stock of our Company’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Fire-Matoran always fare well against Muaka and Ice Rahi,” says Kapura. “It is Water-Rahi, Tarakava and Nui-Rama, that we fear.”
“Onu-Koro always fares well against Water Rahi such as Nui-Rama and Water Tarakava,” says Taipu. “But we fear the swift Nui-Kopen of Air!”
“The Nui-Kopen are beasts of Air and cannot resist my mighty strength!” brags Hafu. “Muaka and other Ice Rahi are sometimes a challenge.”
“All Jagas feared by Le-Koro!” says Tamaru. “Send me instead against Earth-beast Kuma-Nui, and victory will I bring!”
“Like Le-Koronans, we of Ice fear the fiery Kofo-Jaga,” says Kopeke. “But we easily crack the hard Nui-Jaga and Sand Tarakava, beasts of Stone!”
“My people have always fought best against Fire Rahi, such as the Kofo-Jaga,” says Maku. “But the Earth-Rahi Kuma-Nui is hard for us to battle.”
We have no time to consider the fate of the Toa, for there is a cry of “Here come the Rahi!” and we are ambushed by a Nui-Rama. All of our brave little Company assembles to protect the Temple. Each Matoran lets fly disc after disc until the Rahi is defeated.
Then all goes dark. Perhaps the Rahi has struck a blow against me. But no, this is a vision of what is transpiring below. I see the Toa, only I don’t see them whole. Instead, it is as though they have been taken apart. Their parts are mixing and combining together…
“It is here that we join. Spirit of Valor, hear me!” Tahu, Pohatu, and Onua had joined to become one. “I – am – Akamai!” he said.
Gali, Lewa, and Kopaka had also joined together. “Spirit of Wisdom, hear me!” he said. “I – am – Wairuha!”
The two Toa Kaita were a worthy match for the powerful Manas, and this time, the battle raged more furiously than ever.
Akamai fended off one with a series of powerful blows. “What, you scurry away like a tiny Hoto bug?” he cried with a roar of laughter.
“Do not taunt them, Akamai,” Wairuha said. “Remember that they are unwilling servants of Makuta. Let us finish this quickly.
The words hardly left his mouth when one of the Manas leaped at him. Despite his immense strength, the strike sent Wairuha staggering backward a few steps as the enemy clamped its pincers onto him. Using all of his strength, Wairuha managed to rip the Manas free and fling it against the wall.
The Manas hit the stone with a solid crunch. But it recovered quickly and skittered back toward the battle.
Another fierce battle with the Rahi ensues. There are more of them this time, but we fight hard and hold our ground.
“Stay here!” Kapura counsels. “We can fall back, but not far. If they push us back over the Kini-Nui, all will be lost. We must win against the Rahi!”
“Stop them here,” Kopeke agrees. “It is here the Toa will return to, though it may be days. We must not fall back from here, whatever the cost.”
The battle begins anew. Discs are flying furiously. The Rahi battle long and hard, but ultimately we are victorious.
Then, I am hit with another vision…
Turning toward the Manas that was scurrying toward him, Wairuha sucked in a deep breath, feeling his powers – of ice, water, and wind – expand and merge within him. A moment later, a raging blizzard erupted in the cavern.
Akamai, too, was using his combined powers. A giant crater exploded in the cavern floor, spraying stone, earth and lava in every direction. Another crater appeared, and another, until the Manas were trapped on an island of solid floor surrounded by a moat of boiling lava.
Wairuha focused his energy through the blizzard, controlling it. He concentrated with everything he had – logic, instinct, and impulse guiding him all at once. Soon he had compressed the might of the storm into a single, focused beam of pure cold energy.
He turned it toward the trapped Manas. As the beam passed over them, the creatures froze solid.
Another cry rings out. Even more Rahi descend upon us. I don’t know how much longer we can hold out. The Company chatters among themselves, trying to keep their spirits up.
“Stonecraft requires great dexterity!” says Hafu, more to the Rahi than to us. “When I take aim, I hit my mark! And my strength, too, is to be reckoned with!”
“Whenua says I am the strongest in all of Onu-Koro,” adds Taipu. “I just wish the Rahi would stand still!”
“In battle I am quick, Chronicler, and can often strike quickdodge Rahi,” says Tamaru. “Highjump and lowduck I do too! Strike lightly but often!”
“In Ga-Koro we train in acrobatics,” says Maku. “I am quick enough to send against the fastest Rahi! In battle it is skill I rely on, rather than strength.”
“Slow I am, and quick,” says Kapura. “Engaged, it is hard to avoid the blows of Rahi, or strike at the masks of the quick ones. But I travel instantly. I can go far without tiring, if it is your will, Chronicler.”
“We of Ko-Koro are balanced in strength and agility,” says Kopeke. “Only hardy Matoran can withstand the wind and ice of Ko-Koro. These Rahi will find me tough to overcome.”
“Some of these Rahi are very big!” notes Maku. “If they manage to strike me I may not withstand it. But they will find that hard to do!”
“Rahi are strong, hardluck have I lest quickdodge save me,” says Tamaru.
“Like the great statues of Po-Koro I stand!” brags Hafu. “I am not as stout as Taipu, perhaps, but far more clever!”
“A long time ago many rocks fell on my head,” says Taipu. “That did not hurt much. Neither do these Rahi.”
Greatly battered and nearing exhaustion, our Company repels this latest assault by the Rahi. I have no time to rest before I am overcome by darkness once more.
“Nice work, brother,” Akamai said. “But I fear it will take more than that to kill them.”
Wairuha was already moving toward the lava moat. “There is no need to kill them, brother,” he said. With one acrobatic leap, he crossed the moat and stood beside the frozen Manas. “I’ll need your assistance to remove these masks.”
Akamai nodded and leaped over as well. Touching one finger to the mask of one of the Manas, he soon melted the ice surrounding it. Wairuha reached out and pulled it free, dropping it into the lava, where it sank out of sight.
The Toa Kaita turned to the other Manas repeating the process. Soon both Manas were free of their controlling masks.
Once more the Rahi come. We have no more energy for talking. Discs are flying once more. We fight hard, but it is not going well. Several of our company have lost their masks and had to retreat. Finally, the Rahi have had enough, and they also retreat.
Then out of the forests they come. From all around they come. The Rahi surround us.
“It’s horrible,” says Maku.
“There must be hundreds of Rahi out there,” notes Hafu.
“We’re doomed, doomed!” adds Taipu.
“I will stand with you Chronicler, no matter what,” says Kapura.
“I shall never see sing-song Le-Koro ever again. Oh, woe!” mourns Tamaru. And then he points to the sky and shouts. “Here they come!”
Suddenly, the Nui-Rama that is about to swoop down upon us is struck. Its mask falls to the ground at our feet.
“Look to the sky!” cries Tamaru. “Kongu! It’s Kongu!”
The Kahu riders of Le-Koro have come to our rescue! And they are not alone. From the depths of the ground spring forth Onepu and his regiments of Ussalry. And then Jala appears along with his Guard from behind a ridge. They let fly with a barrage of discs. Perhaps we stand a chance after all. But then the darkness overtakes me again…
“There,” Wairuha said, leaping back across the moat. “That takes care of that.”
“Not quite.” Akamai bent and touched the ground at the edge of the lava moat. There was a rumble, as the edges moved toward each other, closing off the moat as if it had never existed.
Wairuha looked around. Except for the frozen forms of the Manas, the cave looked as empty and peaceful as when the Toa had arrived.
“Our work is done,” he said. “And now…”
He felt his mind slipping away, as if in the moment just before sleep. He closed his eyes…
Tahu opened his eyes. Is it really me? he wondered.
Yes. He was himself again. Becoming part of Toa Kaita Akamai had been electrifying, but it was nice to have his own mind and will to himself again.
Glancing around, he saw the other Toa standing nearby, all of them looking as dazed as he himself felt.
“The energy… to remain in that form… too great,” Tahu said. “We must go on from here as individuals…”
“No, not as individuals,” Onua said quietly. “As a team.”
“Quicklook!” Toa Lewa cried, pointing across the huge underground cavern. “The Manas are thawing. Once Makuta sees his hardluck creatures running for their lives, he’ll be out of our way everquick.”
Pohatu glanced where the Air Toa was pointing. He and the other five Toa watched as the mask-free Manas thawed from the deep freeze that Toa Kaita Wairuha’s icy power had put them in and scuttled away, disappearing into the darkness of a nearby tunnel.
It had been a hard-fought victory celebration. Somehow though, Pohatu found it impossible to relax and enjoy it. There was something – a shudder of stone against stone, the faintest tremor in the rocky ground – that told him there might be more to come.
The Toa of Earth was thinking along much the same lines. “Don’t be so certain that we have truly defeated the Great Evil One,” Onua warned Lewa solemnly. “While these Manas were powerful, they were but guardians.”
“The Manas nearly destroyed the Toa Kaita,” fretted Pohatu. “And the Makuta is ten times greater than they. What hope do we have?”
“The Toa Kaita merely gave physical form to the force of our unity,” Gali said. “We still possess it, in our hearts.”
“But the Toa Kaita’s wisdom and valor were unmatched,” Lewa interjected.
“Where wisdom and valor fail,” replied Tahu, “all that remains is faith. And it can overcome all.
“Gali is right,” Tahu continued. “We must go on.”
All of the Toa nodded in agreement.
“Heed us, Chronicler!” Gali is addressing me directly now. “We step, now, through the gates of doom! Our link is broken. If you wish to fulfill your destiny, and record the last moments of this time… you must find us.”
And then her eyes narrow and she stares hard at me. “FIND US!” she implores.
“Chronicler, wake up!” I struggle to open my eyes. Is that Maku talking to me? “Please wake up!” she says.
The battle for Kini-Nui is over. The Rahi are gone and the Matoran are victorious. My Company surround me, congratulating each other on our good fortune.
“Rahi disappear, and Matau confused,” says Kongu, explaining their arrival at Kini-Nui. “Thought: Rahi fallback here, to destroy Kini-Nui. So fastfly we come, to aid!”
“The Kini-Nui is safe now,” says Jala. “I think, though, that this day’s trials are far from over. The Toa are still underground.”
“Something strange has happened in Onu-Koro,” says Onepu as I turn around. “Whenua says you should come there, and quickly. But not on foot.
“Take Puku! She followed us all the way here. I think she has been looking for you.”
Puku does look eager to greet me. “OK, girl,” I say to myself. “Let’s go!”
* * *
“What’s that?” Gali interrupted. The Water Toa was staring intently toward the back of the cavern. “Something moved back there. Onua, can you see anything?”
Kopaka peered into the darkness along with the others, gripping his ice blade uneasily.
Water trickled onto stone somewhere far off – or was it nearby? Down here it was hard to tell.
“Does anyone see anything?” Lewa’s whisper broke the near silence.
“Shh!” Gali chided him. “Did you hear –”
The sudden sound exploded through the cave.
Pohatu spun around. Had he really just heard that whisper?
“Who is it?” Tahu called boldly. “Who’s there? Step forward and reveal yourself at once, or suffer the wrath of Toa Tahu!”
Mocking laughter echoed through the underground chamber. “But of course,” a low, reverberating voice hissed with delight. It seemed to be coming from nowhere and everywhere at once. “Toa Tahu, with a heart of fire and a temper to match. Just how hot can you burn?”
Makuta. Without knowing how he knew, Tahu’s mind formed the name.
This, then, was the Dark One they had sought for so long.
There was a glimmer of movement in one of the tunnels leading off from the larger central chamber. Tahu leaped toward it instantly and struck with all his strength. But his fire sword sliced through empty air.
“Wait!” Pohatu cried, even though it was too late. “Tahu, wait a moment. We don’t even know what it is we face yet.”
Once again, laughter filled the chamber. “Ah, and this must be the famous Toa Pohatu, with a mind like a stone,” the mysterious voice cooed. “Always ready to wait and watch and ponder – even as Mata Nui crumbles around him.”
“It is easy enough to mock us from the shadows,” Onua said evenly, stepping into the center of the chamber. “But your words will never defeat us.”
“No doubt,” the voice responded silkily. “But it matters not, as I have only to sit back and watch as you defeat yourselves.”
Confused, Gali waited to hear more. But the voice had faded away, as if it had never been.
“What was that supposed to mean?” Lewa asked, breaking the silence.
Before Gali could answer, she caught a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye. Spinning to face it, she saw a dark figure racing toward Tahu, wielding a deadly-looking sword.
* * *
We quickly arrive in Onu-Koro. It is good that Puku knows the way, for the tunnels have been barricaded. I seek out Whenua.
“You are safe, Chronicler,” Whenua greets me. “That is good. The Prophecies, then, are still truthful.
“They say Gali has called on you. There has been a disturbance in the Great Mine. The Golden Mask you discovered has disappeared, and a passage has opened there. My workers are too afraid to go near it. We believe it is another entrance to the Makuta’s lair. It is your destiny to find the Toa, Chronicler, no matter what the outcome. I hope you have the courage to face it.”
There does not seem to be anything else to say. I bid Whenua goodbye, and then I head for the Great Mine. I, too, hope I have the courage to face my destiny. When I reach the bottom of the Great Mine, the Golden Mask is indeed gone. I can now approach the pedestal.