“Tahu! Look out!”
The fire Toa turned just in time to raise his sword against the onslaught. The face of his attacker was hidden behind a blackened, pitted mask, and black smoke billowed from its sword.
Tahu held the stranger off as best he could. He channeled the power of his flame through his fire sword, pointing it toward the sandy ground beneath his attacker. It instantly crystallized into glass and broke under the stranger’s weight. The attacker plummeted out of sight.
But Tahu barely had time enough to smile before the stranger leaped out of the pit. “Hate to shatter your illusions,” it said in a sizzling, crackling voice, “but it will take more than that to get rid of me.”
The words only drove Tahu to greater fury. He shot white-hot flames out of the sword, but his movements were too fast, careless, striking the walls and boulders of the cavern until sparks flew in all directions, showering over the other Toa.
“Take care, Tahu,” the attacker spoke again, “lest the fire of your anger blaze out of control.”
Tahu gritted his teeth. “We’ll see how you like my fire now,” he said.
He pointed his sword at the stony cavern floor. Fire poured from the end, melting the rock into steaming, glowing lava.
“Brother Tahu!” Onua’s voice sounded distant, almost lost in the bubbling sound of the boiling lava. “Watch what you’re doing – you’ll endanger us all!”
Tahu’s mysterious opponent leaped off its rock and surfed across the bubbling lava. Its smile broadened. “Come, give in to the flame,” it whispered. “Let it consume you and all you hold dear – I know you can feel it burning deep inside.”
Tahu gasped, startled out of his own anger. What sort of enemy was this? He looked around for help and saw that five more attackers had suddenly appeared, as if out of the shadows themselves, each moving in on a different Toa…
“What… are you?” Tahu whispered. Just the sight of these dark imposters filled him with disgust and dread.
“Don’t you know, Toa of fire?” hissed the shadow Tahu. “I am you… the part of you that you try to hide. I am your power, your ambition, and my flames are not held in check by conscience. I will rule, or Mata Nui will burn.”
“We are what you wish you could be,” shadow Gali said, in a voice like the slithering of water snakes. “Victory is the only thing that matters. Who cares if the oceans are thrown into turmoil, or the rivers are bent and twisted to serve my ends? What possible difference could that make to me?”
“No!” Gali shouted. “To use my power without regard to what it could do to the world around me… No, spirit, I reject you!”
“We know all about rejection, don’t we, brother,” shadow Kopaka said softly. “We drive others away… freeze them out… so the opportunity will never arise to fail them. And we would fail them, wouldn’t we? Then they would abandon us and we would be all alone, brother…”
Kopaka raised his sword of ice. “I… am… not… your… BROTHER!” he said, sending a blast of pure cold at his counterpart. But the ice passed through the shadow Kopaka’s form as if the dark one was not there…
“Toa, these things are not real,” Onua said. “They are just illusions. Ignore them!”
“Always so wise are we,” shadow Onua responded. “Always so strong are we. Strong enough, perhaps, to reach up and pull down the sun? Then we could walk on the surface like all the others do, see like they do, and not be blinded by infernal light. How sweet that would be…”
In the far corner, Lewa did a flip over his double. But the shadow Lewa merely dissolved and reformed in front of the Toa once again.
“Why do you run, brother?” shadow Lewa said. “We don’t need them… any of them. The important thing is to have fun. Let the other Toa worry about their petty responsibilities. There is a whole world to explore!”
Faced with these dark reflections of themselves, even the Toa began to know doubt. Little by little, they backed away, as their shadow selves grew stronger and more insistent. Only Pohatu stood his ground, looking at his duplicate as if it were something he had stepped in.
“So what’s your story?” Pohatu grumbled.
“I don’t have one,” shadow Pohatu answered. “I am invisible… unwanted… Onua is wiser, Tahu more powerful, Gali more in harmony with her world. What am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose?”
Pohatu chuckled. “Am I supposed to be scared by all that? Everybody has doubts and fears… everybody worries sometimes that maybe they’ll lose their friends, or screw something up… but you get up and you keep going and you take the chance.”
The Toa of stone took a step forward… and amazingly, the shadow Pohatu retreated. “That’s called being alive, spirit,” Pohatu continued, as relentlessly as a hammer against a stubborn rock. “Something you wouldn’t understand. I don’t run from my fears – I use them to keep me going, keep me striving to achieve something more.”
Pohatu reached out and plunged his hand into the midst of the shadow. “You can’t scare me, spirit – you are me.”
With a cry, the shadow disappeared inside Pohatu. The other Toa stopped, stared, and halted their retreat.
“We cannot reject these things,” Gali whispered. “We must accept that they are part of ourselves.”
“Parts we wish did not exist,” Kopaka agreed. “But we are strong enough to master them.”
“And master them we shall,” Tahu said.
With that, the shadow Toa gave a mournful wail and began to break apart. In seconds, their substance had turned to mist, and the mist had vanished inside the bodies of the Toa.
Gali was the first to notice that the atmosphere in the chamber had changed. “It’s gone,” she said softly. “The evil in this place… is gone.”
“You mean we’ve won?” Tahu asked.
“Makuta chose to fight us with our own fears,” Kopaka said. “A calculated gamble that might well have worked… if not for Pohatu.”
“Unfriendly types don’t bother me, Kopaka,” Pohatu replied, gentle laughter in his tone. “After all, I hang around with you, don’t I?
The Toa stood there for a long moment staring at one another. Then, as a group, they collapsed wearily to the ground.
After catching his breath, Tahu sat up and glanced at Onua, who was watching the others thoughtfully. “What do you think, brother?” he asked the Earth Toa.
Onua smiled, though there was a hint of weariness in his eyes. “I think,” he said, “that we have won an important battle, and of that we can be proud. But there is more to come.”
Tahu nodded, his grin fading as he gripped his fire sword more tightly. Yes, Onua was right. He could feel it, burning in his mind like a half-remembered dream.
There was much more to come.
* * *
When I push the button, the pedestal disappears into the floor. Suddenly, the walls retract far away from me. Now the floor itself is descending swiftly, down, down into the darkness below. It stops when I reach the floor of a large, dark chamber.
I work my way forward, through the room where the Manas had been, toward the large, open doorway.
From the unseen depths of the chamber, a small Matoran steps forward.
“What?!” exclaims Tahu in disbelief.
“I have been waiting for you,” says the Matoran as he steps into the light. He is covered from head to toe in pockmarks, corrosion, and ooze.
“But you – you are –” objects Tahu.
“I am that which you are sworn to protect,” says the Matoran.
“Tahu, it’s a trick!” interjects Kopaka. “We must destroy him!”
“Destroy me?” says the Matoran defiantly. “You cannot destroy me. No more than you can destroy the sea, or the wind. Or… the void.”
“You are like the sea?” objects Gali. “The sea bears life! The sea bore us!”
“I bore you,” says the Matoran. “For I am Nothing. And out of Nothing, you came. And it is into Nothing that you will go.
“I stand with Mata Nui,” he continues, “side by side. I am his brother.
“The people of the world are builders. But look into their hearts… and you will find that they also have the power to destroy. I am that power. I am destruction. And I WILL destroy you.”
“But…” says Tahu, still not believing, “you are but a Matoran!”
“You expected something else?” asks Makuta. “Something like THIS?!”
And as he says this, Makuta transforms himself, joining with the swirling debris. He reaches out with long twisting arms to swat away the Toa, one by one. Even the protective forces of the Hau mask cannot protect Onua as Makuta’s arms approach him from behind and take him unaware.
“Our only hope is to work together!” shouts Tahu over the now-roaring sound of the vortex.
Tahu brings the full force of fire upon Makuta in a swirling inferno of flame. Kopaka likewise lets loose a stream of swirling ice. Gali directs a twisting torrent of water at Makuta. Lewa unleashes a vortex of his own in a strong gust of air. Onua summons forth a blast of earth that reaches the Makuta at the same time as a mighty shockwave issued forth from Pohatu’s stomping foot. The converging forces of all six Toa are too much for Makuta to bear.
“You cannot destroy me,” says Makuta defiantly. “For I am Nothing.”
And with that, the vortex collapses and Makuta is gone. It appears that the Toa have completed their task, for they are now being transported, one by one, out of the chamber.
“But – what has happened to the Chronicler?” asks Gali. And then she too is transported away.
I peek out from behind the now-lifeless pile of debris. There is a door at the other side of this chamber. I step through it and discover a room that stretches endlessly in each direction. The wall is not solid, but is instead a collection of stacked pods. I move closer to get a look into one of the pods.
As I gaze into the pod to see what is inside, I notice something moving as if awakening from a very long sleep. Suddenly, it looks right at me and I get a funny feeling that perhaps I should not be here. The creature comes bursting out of its pod and faces me. As I turn and run, I hear another. And another. And another…
I am running as fast as I can away from the creatures, desperately trying to find a way out of these chambers and back to the surface. Then I see it: a golden device with a missing piece. I know that piece! I have it in my backpack.
I am searching desperately in my backpack for it. No, not the flute. Not the Heat Stone or the letter or the ensign. Ah, here it is! The golden chisel!
I place the chisel into the device. I am instantly surrounded by a bubble of energy and lifted from the floor just as the creatures converge upon me. I am floating up, upward out of the chamber. Then I am whisked swiftly along a dark tunnel. A door opens up ahead, and I am spit out upon a beach.
I am back where I started this adventure. Vakama is here, watching the water and waiting for me. I go to him.
“So. You have surprised us again, Chronicler,” says Vakama. “We feared your courage led you to a final adventure. But it seems you may have many more in the future.
“You seem afraid,” Vakama continues. “I know what you saw in that cave. Our Prophesies said the Makuta’s defeat would end our troubles. But the Prophesies have changed.
“Something yet darker looms ahead of us. But for now, put these thoughts from your mind. There are many reasons for the people of Mata Nui to rejoice!
“When we first met, and you found my mask – and my Firestaff – and indeed fulfilled requests for all the Turaga – you were thought to be an outcast.
“No Matoran travels from village to village, having adventures. The people of Ta-Koro did not trust you and feared your adventurous ways. They were certain it would bring us ill luck.
“But you have proven us all wrong, Takua. You stand like the Toa among Mata Nui’s greatest heroes. Come! Let us leave this windy beach and return to the light and heat of Ta-Koro.
“Many friends await you there.”
I look up into the night sky. The red star has moved into its final position from the telescope panels. And then the sky erupts with many beautiful colors as fireworks go off in celebration. After my long adventure, it is good to be going home.