Rumble… rumble… CRAAAAAAASSSSH!
Kopaka’s ice blade was up and ready as the rocky bluff exploded. But there was no time to dodge as enormous boulders rained down around him.
“Watch out!” a voice cried from somewhere in the storm of stone.
Kopaka lifted his shield, protecting himself as best he could. When the eruption of stone stopped, he found himself trapped between several huge boulders.
Glancing up, he saw a figure about his own size gazing down at him, resting his weight on one of the large stones. The stranger wore a bronze-colored mask, and the eyes behind it were concerned and a bit sheepish.
“Sorry about that,” the stranger said. “I was practicing. Are you all right?”
“I would be,” Kopaka returned icily. “If you weren’t standing on me.”
The stranger jumped back a few steps, then stretched out his arm. “Let me help you out.”
Kopaka was already pointing his ice blade at the nearest rock. He was annoyed that the stranger’s sudden appearance had taken him by surprise, caught him with his defenses down. He would not make that mistake again.
“Thank you. I don’t need help,” he said.
Focusing his energy, he channeled it through the blade. A thrill ran through him as the rock around him froze solid, becoming brittle and glassy.
The other figure was still watching him anxiously. “Let me do it,” he urged as Kopaka lifted his blade again. “It’ll be faster.”
Kopaka frowned, already tired of the stranger’s pushy chatter. “I said, I can do it myself!” Bringing the blade down, he smashed the icy boulder into smithereens, freeing himself.
The stranger looked impressed for a moment. Then he shrugged. “Yeah, well, you missed one,” he said, kicking at one remaining boulder.
Kopaka blinked as the huge stone went sailing off toward the horizon. Whoever this stranger was, he was strong – incredibly strong. Kopaka supposed that meant he had to be one of the other Toa that Turaga Nuju had mentioned.
But Kopaka had no interest in meeting other Toa.
Turning away from the stranger, he continued on his way. The Matoran had told him there was a mask at the top of this mountain – the Place of Far-seeing, they had called it. He meant to find that mask as soon as possible.
But the stranger didn’t get the message. “Hey,” he called. “Wait! Are you a Toa? I’ve been looking for you – I am Pohatu, Toa of Stone.”
Kopaka considered not answering – maybe if he ignored this annoying Pohatu, he would go away. But it seemed unlikely.
“Kopaka,” he said brusquely. “Ice. And if you don’t mind, I’m in the middle of something. See you later.” He bent and effortlessly rode a slight dip in the ground, his feet sliding smoothly over the ice. He soon left Pohatu behind.
But it turned out that the newcomer was not to be abandoned so easily. “Wait!” He called again, scrabbling up the hill. “Listen, I have a feeling we’re both here for the same reason. Why not team up? It might make things easier.”
“I work alone.”
“By choice?” Pohatu returned quickly. “Or just because no one can stand you?”
Kopaka almost smiled at that. Almost. This other Toa was irritating and far too chatty, but he also seemed to be quick-witted. And he was certainly strong. Perhaps he could come in handy after all. Especially if they came across another of those huge, vicious creatures that the Matoran called Rahi…
“All right,” Kopaka said after a long moment. “Come along. After all, I might need a mountain moved – or the island lifted.”
Pohatu chuckled. “Okay,” he said. “So – where are we going, anyway? Should we start looking for masks, or seek the other Toa first?”
Kopaka pointed toward the peak rising just above them. Then he climbed on, not bothering to check whether Pohatu was following.
A few minutes later the two of them were standing at the peak of the mountain. Kopaka immediately spotted a mask lying in the snow.
Pohatu saw it, too. “Good work, brother,” he said. “Go ahead – claim your prize.”
Kopaka nodded. The new Kanohi looked gray and lifeless lying in the snow. Though it was the same size as his own mask, its shape was different – a helmetlike form with angled eyes and three slashes in each cheek.
The Kanohi Hau, Kopaka thought, remembering what the Turaga had told him. The Great Mask of Shielding.
Kopaka bent to pick up the mask. He stared at it for a moment, then carefully placed it over his own mask. Immediately, a strange feeling overwhelmed him. As if a cushion of strength had settled in around him, protecting him from all harm.
But what of his other powers? Did this new mask affect them? Kopaka called forth the power of his original mask, which gave him the ability to see through stone and snow to what lay beneath. Glancing down at the ground, he saw the icy snow… and then the raw, cold dirt underneath… and below that, a layer of rock crosscut with veins of minerals.
“The powers of the Mask of Vision are still mine to use.” He was pleased.
As he turned his gaze toward the south, his X-ray vision cut straight through the craggy bluffs to several bright spots of color far below in the foothills. Then he sighed. For a moment he was tempted to turn away, to ignore what he’d seen. But he realized he might as well face up to the inevitable.
“We have to go,” he told Pohatu abruptly, hating the thought of what was to come but knowing there was no avoiding it. “Now.”
“No questions,” Kopaka was tired of all the conversation. “Just follow me.”
The two of them headed down the mountain, Pohatu skidding and slipping on the icy slopes. Kopaka forced himself to move slowly so the other Toa could keep up.
They were about halfway down when there was an earth-shattering roar from somewhere just ahead of them.
“Uh-oh,” Pohatu said. “I don’t like the sound of that.”
Before Kopaka could respond, a massive creature burst through a snowbank a short distance below where the Toa were standing, sending a shower of snow and ice shards out on all sides. Kopaka shielded his eyes, squinting at the enormous, snorting, puffing beast as it skidded to a stop just a few lengths away.
“Is this what you were leading us toward?” Pohatu shouted, sounding dismayed.
“No,” Kopaka said grimly.
The creature was like something out of a nightmare. Its red eyes gleamed with hate, and it pawed at the snowy ground with hooflike feet, puffs of steam blowing from its nostrils. Twin horns twisted out of the sides of its enormous head.
“Hmm,” Pohatu said. “Do you think this big fellow is an ally or enemy?”
Kopaka glanced at him, startled, then realized the other Toa was kidding. He rolled his eyes, not amused. “Come on,” he said. “I think we’d better –”
At that moment the hideous creature let out another thunderous bellow – and then charged straight at them.
“- run!” Pohatu finished for him.
The two Toa turned and sprinted back up the slope. At least Kopaka sprinted. Pohatu tried to run, but lost his footing on the ice and went down, struggling to keep himself from sliding right back under the beast’s charging hooves.
Kopaka skidded to a stop, realizing the other Toa was in trouble. Big, charging, snorting trouble. Letting out a sigh, he skied back down the hill.
“No! Kopaka, don’t – it’s too dangerous.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Kopaka waved his arms and shouted, trying to distract the enemy.
The creature slowed, glancing from one Toa to the other, confused. Then it snorted and bellowed and returned its full attention to the fallen Pohatu, who was just now climbing unsteadily to his feet.
Time for Plan B, Kopaka thought, looking around for new ideas. They were standing on an open field that offered little in the way of hiding places. To one side, the ground dropped away sharply into a deep, icy ravine. Kopaka paused, his mind clicking into gear. If only he could get the beast to change directions…
There was just one problem – the creature was almost on top of Pohatu. Two more leaps, and its horns would be buried in the other Toa’s chest. There would be no time to explain.
He’ll just have to go with it, Kopaka told himself grimly, already pushing off smoothly and gathering speed as he skied downhill toward the fallen Toa. If he doesn’t, well…
There was no sense worrying.
“Here goes nothing,” he muttered.
SNORT! The beast made another leap forward. It lowered its head, aiming its horns directly at Pohatu. Pohatu took a step backward, almost falling again as his foot hit an icy patch.
Meanwhile, Kopaka skied toward him, gathering speed. This would be close…
“Heads up!” he shouted. “And arms OUT!”
Pohatu looked startled, but flung his arms out to his sides.
Just as the creature lunged forward, snorting eagerly, Kopaka whizzed past and grabbed Pohatu around the chest.
“OOOOF!” Pohatu grunted as Kopaka yanked him out of the beast’s path just as it lunged forward and buried its horns in the snow.
Kopaka wobbled, nearly losing his balance.
I have to straighten out, he thought. Otherwise we’ll never make it. Behind him, he could already hear the beast roaring with anger and charging after them.
“Where – are – we – going?” Pohatu panted. To Kopaka’s relief, the Stone Toa was hanging loosely in his arms, not struggling against his grip or trying to free himself.
Kopaka couldn’t have replied even if he’d wanted to. He was too busy willing his feet to obey him, in a desperate attempt to control the angle of their speedy downhill slide.
It worked. Just three or four lengths from the ravine now, his feet finally settled smoothly into an upright position on the icy snow. He bent as low as he could without dragging Pohatu’s legs in the snow. Now there was no turning back…
“Hey!” Pohatu cried, suddenly looking forward and seeing the chasm directly in front of them. “What are you – AAAAAAAAAAAAH!”
Kopaka held his breath as he felt his feet leave the cold, solid surface of the ice. He held on tightly to Pohatu as they flew up – up – up and over the canyon.
Pohatu was still screaming, but Kopaka didn’t let out his breath until he felt his feet slam down again on the far side of the gorge. He teetered and threw himself to the side, allowing himself and Pohatu to pitch face-first into the snow.
“What the – why did you do that?” Pohatu cried, spitting out a mouthful of snow. “You could have gotten us killed!”
“That’s why.” Kopaka had already turned to stare back at the ravine. He pointed, and Pohatu turned to look just in time to see the snorting, squealing creature skid down the ice and tumble head over hooves into the depths of the fissure. A furious bellow drifted up toward them.
“Oh.” Pohatu was silent for a moment. Then he grinned weakly. “Er, thanks. Guess I owe you one – brother.”
Kopaka nodded. Then he crawled forward to the edge of the ravine, glancing down. The beast was still bellowing and struggling at the bottom, digging its hooves into the ice as it started to climb.
“It will be able to climb out of there soon enough,” Kopaka observed, watching as the beast leaped up to an icy ledge.
“Not if I have anything to say about it,” Pohatu replied. He climbed to his feet and strode toward the rocky cliff nearby. “You might want to step aside,” he called over his shoulder as he began climbing hand over hand up the sheer rock face.
Kopaka moved a little farther down the slope, keeping an eye on the edge of the gulch. That beast could come charging out of there at any moment…
“YEEEEE-HAW!” Pohatu cried, drawing his foot back and then kicking at a huge chunk of the rock face. The solid stone cracked instantly, and an enormous boulder flew forward, toward the fissure, disappearing over its edge.
Pohatu moved on to another section of the bluff. Once again he aimed a mighty kick, sending a chunk of stone across the snowy ground and straight into the gorge. Kopaka watched with grudging admiration as Pohatu repeated the movement again and again.
“Okay, this is too slow,” Pohatu exclaimed. “Let’s try something else.”
What was he up to now? Kopaka had no idea. A second later Pohatu brought both fists down on the rock – and the cliff exploded into a thousand shards of stone.
Remembering his first meeting with Pohatu, Kopaka covered his head with his shield. A few pebbles bounced off of it, but the bulk of the explosion of stone showered down into the ravine with a deafening roar.
“Whoa!” Pohatu shouted gleefully after the noise had subsided. “That was so cool! I mean, I was pretty sure it would work, but still…”
While he waited for the other Toa to rejoin him, Kopaka stepped forward and peered again over the edge of the chasm. The creature was buried up to its horns in the rocky mess that now filled nearly half of the deep canyon.
Hearing Pohatu hurrying up beside him, Kopaka turned. “Nice work,” he said. “It will be able to escape – but not for a long while.”
Pohatu glanced once more at the huge beast trapped below them. “That was close, though. What is that thing, anyway?”
“Rahi,” Kopaka told him, already turning to lead the way down the snowy slope. “That’s what the Turaga said they’re called. There are many species, all shapes and sizes. They’re not very friendly.”
Both Toa were silent for a few minutes as they climbed and skidded down the mountain, each buried in his own thoughts. Finally, Pohatu spoke again.
“So what did you see up there, anyway?” he asked. “From the peak, I mean.”
This time, Kopaka decided to answer. “Strangers,” he replied. “Beings of great power.”
They came to the top of a steep hill. Standing in an open area below, four bright spots stood out against the drab background of stone and dirt. Four figures – one a bright, burning red, another blue as the sea, a third black as starless midnight, and the final one the same bright green as the leaves on the trees.
Kopaka stared down at them. The other Toa. It had to be them.
“But are they allies,” he murmured, “or enemies?”