“Look out below!”
Pohatu Nuva glanced up as he stepped out into the sandy main street of the desert village of Po-Koro. A hail of stone rained down from the wall that surrounded the village.
“Good job,” he called to the workers atop the wall. “At this rate, you’ll have this section of the wall repaired before sunset.”
“Thank you for the kind words, Toa!” one of the workers called back.
Pohatu glanced at Turaga Onewa, the leader of the village, who had followed him outside. “They’d better be careful about calling me ‘Toa’ like that,” he joked. “Especially when Toa Tahu is listening. It’s supposed to be ‘Toa Nuva’ now.”
Onewa chuckled. “Indeed,” he agreed. “There have been a lot of changes on Mata Nui since you and the other Toa arrived.”
“Yes.” Pohatu looked down at himself, still a little amazed at the changes in his own body. It was stronger and sleeker than ever, with gleaming silver armor highlighting his bronze-and-gold limbs and torso. His mask had changed, too – instead of its old, smooth bulletlike shape, it was ridged and spiky and provided him with even stronger powers of speed.
There was another shout from the direction of the village wall. Pohatu and Onewa watched as several large, beetlelike creatures hauled a large chunk of stone toward the broken section. A villager pointed and called out, and the creatures obediently turned slightly to the left.
“Who would have thought it?” Pohatu said. “Not long ago we were fighting the Bohrok swarms. Now they’re helping us repair the damage they caused.”
“It is amazing indeed, Toa of Stone,” Onewa agreed. “I must admit, I was not certain it was the right decision, letting the Bohrok swarms into the villages so soon after you and the other Toa defeated their queens.”
“How could it be the wrong decision?” Pohatu said. “After all, it’s one of the few things we six Toa have agreed upon since we arrived here.”
It hadn’t been long ago that he and the other Toa had first awakened on this island of Mata Nui. Even though the Toa were six heroes with one destiny, they didn’t always find it easy to work together. But they had come together when it counted, most recently to defeat the Bohrok swarms sent by Makuta. In the end, the Toa had trapped the twin queens of the swarm, Cahdok and Gahdok – first with the help of the powerful Exo-Toa armor they had discovered in the queens’ underground lair and then by releasing the mysterious substance known as protodermis. At the same time, the Toa were exposed to the protodermis themselves and emerged from it changed – into the Toa Nuva.
“Besides,” Pohatu went on as he watched the Bohrok maneuver a square chunk of rock toward the wall, “we know now that it was the krana – the mysterious beings they carried within them – that controlled them. Now that the krana have been removed, there is no reason to fear the swarms anymore.”
“Turaga! Turaga!” a shout interrupted their conversation. They turned to see a villager racing toward them.
“What is it, Huki?” Onewa asked as the Matoran skidded to a stop before them.
Huki gave a slight bow. “Forgive the interruption, Pohatu Nuva,” he said. “But something extraordinary has just happened.”
Pohatu and Onewa followed as Huki hurried back toward the center of the village. He led them to the village shrine known as the Po-Suva. A crowd of Po-Matoran had gathered there, clustered near the suva’s entrance.
“Move aside!” Huki shouted. “Let the Toa Nuva and the Turaga see.”
The villagers moved aside, murmuring with wonder. Pohatu saw a bronze-colored object hovering just above the ground.
“What is it?” he wondered aloud, taking a step forward. It was about the size of his mask, with carved lines forming an angular pattern in its smooth surface.
Turaga Onewa took in a sharp breath.
“What?” Pohatu glanced at him. “Do you know what that thing is?”
The Turaga frowned and began to tremble. “It is as it was foreseen…”
Tahu Nuva, the Toa of Fire, watched as Turaga Vakama set the strange object into a niche in the wall of the Ta-Suva, the village’s sacred shrine.
“I still don’t understand what it is,” he said. “You say it’s an icon – a symbol of my power. But what is its purpose? Where did it come from?”
“That cannot be said, Tahu Nuva,” Vakama replied, bowing before the icon. “It is a mystery shrouded in the mists of the past.”
“Yes,” Tahu murmured with a twinge of annoyance. “There seems to be a lot of those.”
Tahu stepped outside the suva, but Vakama followed. “Tahu Nuva,” he said. “Please come back inside for a moment. I have something of importance to discuss with you.” Vakama drew the Toa back into the dark quiet of the suva. “I have been consulting with the Turaga of the other villages. We wanted to make sure you and the other Toa Nuva know that there is still work to be done – that becoming Toa Nuva does not end with your new looks and strength. There is a new set of Kanohi masks you must find to truly make use of all your new powers.”
“New masks?” Tahu grimaced slightly. Soon after the Toa’s arrival on Mata Nui, they had set out to find the sets of Kanohi masks that would give them great powers. They had been hidden all over the island, and Makuta had set his vicious minions, the Rahi, to guard them.
“It should not be such a difficult task this time,” the Turaga said. “As you know, the Rahi no longer answer to Makuta. And with the Bohrok no longer a threat…”
“…finding the masks should be as easy as a nice game of Koli,” Tahu finished. “All right. I suppose it’s better to get this out of the way. Can you manage here without me for a while?”
“Of course,” Vakama replied. “But…” His voice trailed off.
“Yes? What is it?” Tahu did his best to keep impatience out of his voice. “Is there something else?”
“There is.” Vakama shifted his firestaff to the opposite hand. “I – I don’t know if the time is right. I don’t know if any time would be right for this. And the wrong decision…”
“Yes, what are you saying?” Tahu demanded. It wasn’t like Vakama to sound so hesitant. The Turaga was usually much more like Tahu himself – quick-thinking and decisive. “What’s the big secret?”
Taking a deep breath, Vakama reached into an opening in the wall and pulled something out.
Tahu stared at the item curiously. “What is that?” he asked, reaching toward it. “It looks sort of like a mask – but not any mask I’ve ever seen.”
Vakama held up the object. Its surface gleamed a deep flame orange.
“It is a mask,” Vakama said, his voice low and reverent. “The Kanohi Vahi – the Great Mask of Time. It is the most powerful mask of them all.”
“Really?” Tahu reached out eagerly.
But Vakama pulled it out of reach. “Wait,” he said, his voice so serious and commanding that Tahu lowered his hand in surprise. “You must understand what this power means.”
Tahu frowned, irritated. “I am a Toa Nuva,” he reminded Vakama haughtily. “I know all about the use of power.”
Still, Vakama held the Vahi mask away. He shook his head. “This is not the kind of power you have known,” he said. “Your other powers are great indeed. But the power of the Vahi exists on a higher level. Do you understand what it would mean to control time itself?”
Tahu paused, turning over the question in his head. “I – I suppose it would be useful in battle,” he said. “I could slow down time for my opponent, giving me the chance to defeat him before he could even complete a strike. Or I could use it instead of the mask of speed, quickening time to get me somewhere faster. Or…”
“No!” Vakama sighed. “This is what I feared. You must think of the greater reality, Toa Tahu. For he who controls time controls reality – controls everything. Do you see?”
“I see that time connects all other powers,” Tahu said slowly. “Nothing else can exist without it.”
“Yes!” Vakama sounded pleased and relieved, though his voice still held an undercurrent of worry. “Now you begin to understand. It’s one thing to control time and with it all of reality – and another to lose control of it all. The Kanohi Vahi can only be used in the direst emergency – when there is nothing to lose.”
Tahu paused. “But, I might never reach such a state of desperation at all,” he said. “I might never find a chance to call upon the Vahi.”
“That is my hope,” Vakama said. “In fact, I think it would be better if the other Toa never know you hold it unless you need to use it. Can you accept that, Tahu Nuva?”
Tahu thought for a moment, struggling with the idea. To have the most powerful mask of all and never to use it… never to let on that it existed… Could he really maintain such a secret?
“Why me?” he blurted. “Why should I be the one to be given this responsibility?”
“Why does anything on Mata Nui happen as it does?” Vakama responded. “We cannot know. We can only accept our destiny.”
Tahu sighed. Unity, duty, destiny – such were the ideas the Matoran lived by. He glanced at Vakama, who was watching him carefully. How much did Vakama and the other Turaga really know about the Toa’s destiny? He wondered. Did they see more of the future and the past than they told?
“All right,” he said at last. “I will do my best to protect this mask – and its secrets.”
He reached again for the Kanohi Vahi. And this time Vakama allowed him to take it.