Gali was the first to notice the two newcomers. “Brothers,” she said quietly. “Look.”
One of the newcomers wore a bronze mask. He leaped easily down to land among them. “Mind if we join the party?”
Tahu stepped forward. “I am Tahu, Toa of Fire. Who are you?”
The bronze stranger seemed unintimidated by Tahu’s fiery glare. “I’m Pohatu,” he said. “Toa of Stone. My talkative friend there is the Ice Toa, Kopaka.” He gestured to the silver-and-white figure standing silently behind him.
The second newcomer stepped forward. Kopaka. Gali looked him up and down, feeling a chill ripple through the air as he came closer.
This one – this one has many layers, she thought uncertainly. He is cold. But I sense his frosty exterior may hide a blazing fire deep within…
At that moment, Kopaka turned his icy gaze upon her, catching her stare. He said nothing, but Gali quickly turned away.
More introductions were made, and soon they were trading stories of how and where they each had awakened.
As the others chatted, Kopaka said little. He was thinking about the future. What else lay in store for them here? And what of the mysterious Makuta, the evil one his villagers had spoken of?
He glanced at the red one, Tahu, who was blustering on about his journey to find his village, Ta-Koro, at the top of a volcano. This Fire Toa is full of hot air, Kopaka thought. Will he be prepared for the heat of battle, or will he burn out quickly?
Then there was Onua, the Toa of Earth. He spoke less than the others, while listening to all that was said. Did that subdued exterior hide a busy mind, or an empty one?
Just then Lewa, the Toa of Air, punctuated a comment he’d made by backflipping up onto a nearby boulder and doing a handstand. So much energy, Kopaka thought. But it blows out of him uncontrolled, in all directions, like the wind. Not exactly someone I’d want to trust my life to in a tough spot.
Hearing Pohatu’s cheerful laugh, Kopaka turned to gaze at him. The Toa of Stone had surprised him in their battle against the horned Rahi. He had fought bravely. He had also been willing to entrust his life to Kopaka in that wild ski jump over the ravine.
I don’t know if I could have done the same, Kopaka admitted to himself. Then he shook his head. But why should he trust someone he doesn’t know? It turned out well in that case, but he was foolish to be so ready to turn his life over to a stranger. I would not make that same mistake.
Finally Kopaka turned his gaze toward Gali. Now this was one he couldn’t read. The way he had caught her looking at him a few moments ago – it was as if she could see into his mind, his heart, just the way he could see through the earth and stone with his Mask of Vision. But that was impossible. Wasn’t it?
Gali spoke, interrupting Kopaka’s thoughts. “Well, brothers,” she said, turning her gaze to take in all of them. “I suppose that’s enough talk of the past. We should start discussing what comes next, yes? For despite all the interesting elemental powers we may have, I expect that our best weapon is our minds.”
Kopaka almost smiled. At last, someone was talking sense!
“You’re right, Gali,” Tahu said. “We need to find these masks we seek – as quickly as possible. The Turaga of my village told me they will give us great powers. I know my own mask gives me the powers of protection or shielding…”
“That’s right,” Pohatu interrupted. “Brother Kopaka has found a Mask of Shielding, too.”
Tahu frowned. “Yes,” he said shortly, sounding irritated. “Well, there are five more masks out there for each of us.”
Once again, Kopaka held back a smile. Obviously Tahu was annoyed that someone else had beaten him to the first mask.
Onua looked thoughtful. “According to my Turaga, the masks are hidden all over the island and Makuta has set his Rahi creatures to guard them. So our quest won’t be easy.”
“Fine, fine.” Tahu sounded impatient. “Anyway, the important thing is to find them – fast. We’ll split into smaller groups. Gali and Lewa, you can search the jungle and beaches together. Onua and Kopaka can check the caves of Onu-Wahi. And Pohatu, you can come with –”
“Hold on a quicksecond, brother Tahu,” Lewa interrupted. “If speed is what we’re after, why bother with the pairmaking? Why not each of us journeysearch on our own?”
Onua shrugged. “Our fiery brother has a good plan,” he said calmly. “Working in pairs makes sense. It strikes a balance between speed and caution.”
Gali was shaking her head. “Brothers, we have been brought together for a reason. I think we ought to stick together, at least until we know exactly what we’re up against.”
Pohatu nodded. “She’s right,” he said. “Trust me, these Rahi creatures are nothing to face alone. But if we travel together they should give us little trouble. Right, Kopaka?”
Kopaka shrugged, doing his best to chill the impatience he felt in listening to this conversation. Why hadn’t he already departed? “I can’t agree, Toa of Stone,” he said. “We should split up. As I already told you, I prefer to work alone.”
Pohatu looked slightly hurt. “You may prefer it,” he replied. “But would you also prefer being chased by that sharp-horned beast if I hadn’t been there to help you trap it?”
“Enough of this bickering,” Tahu broke in impatiently. “We will accomplish nothing by standing here and having a debate. The decision is made – we split into small groups. It’s the best of both worlds, can’t you see that?”
All I see is one who believes that power belongs to whoever shouts the loudest, Kopaka thought in disgust. Well, I, for one, am not ready to bow to such a ‘leader’. Not as long as I have life in my body.
Tahu noticed Kopaka’s stare. What thoughts lay behind his mask? The Ice Toa’s silence and intense gaze made Tahu uneasy, though he didn’t like to admit it even to himself.
It doesn’t matter, Tahu told himself, pushing such feelings aside. There are more important things to worry about.
The others were already back to arguing, several of them speaking at once.
Suddenly, with no warning, the very earth yawned open in front of them, splitting the clearing in half. All around, the earth shuddered and trembled, smaller cracks opening here and there as the trees shook and birds took off into the air in a panic of cries.
Jagged streaks of white-hot lightning streaked across the sky, striking down only a few lengths from where the Toa stood.
“Get back!” Onua shouted as the air crackled with electricity and several trees and shrubs burst into flame.
Tahu leaped away with the others, though the fire held no terror for him. What was happening? A huge bank of dark clouds rolled in above them, releasing a torrent of rain and hail. A violent gust of wind howled down from farther up the mountain.
“What kind of crazystorm is this?” Lewa yelled over the noise of the pounding rain and shrieking wind. “An earthquake, thunder and lightning, rain and hail and wind all at once?”
Gali shook her head, shielding her face against the driving wind. “This can be no regular storm,” she cried. “It must be the work of Makuta.”
As the word left her mouth, the storm suddenly stopped. The earth lay still. The only hint of the storm was the smoldering remains of the lightning-scorched foliage – and the huge, gaping fissure in the ground.
“Eerie,” Pohatu remarked.
Tahu nodded grimly. “Clearly, Makuta knows we’re here. There is no time to lose. We need to find those masks – now.”