* * *
“Easy, easy,” Lewa Nuva murmured under his breath. “Don’t look uptree, my metallic friend. Nothing to see up here…”
He carefully swung across a clearing on a vine, his gaze trained on the Kohrak-Kal, which was marching along the ground below. The creature seemed unaware of the Toa Nuva’s presence.
He hadn’t kept track of how much time had passed since that first meeting with the Bohrok-Kal, but it seemed like forever. The Toa had split up, trying to get the krana-kal. But every encounter had ended the same way – with the Toa Nuva groaning on the ground while the Bohrok-Kal continued their quest without so much as a pause.
At least we found a fewnumber of Kanohi masks along the way, Lewa thought, trying to look on the bright side. So we each have some of our maskpowers back now.
Below, the Kohrak-Kal moved on. Just a few farthersteps, Lewa thought, willing himself to be patient. It’s almost time.
He grasped a strong vine hanging nearby, glancing up to make sure that it was firmly entwined around a higher branch.
When the creature was near the middle of the clearing, Lewa nodded. It was time.
He bent his knees and pushed off, springing gracefully off the tree branch. Holding the vine tightly with one hand, he held the other outstretched at the ready. The vine swung him down, down, down – as the vine’s arc reached the clearing, he was skimming just above the swampy ground.
Perfect! he thought eagerly, aiming straight toward the Kohrak-Kal. The creature’s broad back was to him, and Lewa could clearly see the softly glowing white krana-kal set into the center of it. He was almost close enough to grab it…
A burst of noise exploded out of the Kohrak-Kal just as Lewa reached it, knocking him to the ground as solidly as any physical strike might do. Lewa was momentarily stunned by the blow, but quickly leaped to his feet. The Kohrak-Kal hardly spared him a glance as it continued easily on its way, but it did gesture briefly in his direction with its shield. A split second later, a high wall of solid sound sprang up between it and the Toa Nuva – vibrating and whining, sending leaves scattering away and causing tree trunks at the edge of the clearing to bend and crack.
“You won’t awayblock the Toa of Air so easily,” Lewa muttered, though his words were lost in the cacophony. Taking a deep breath, he called upon the power of the Mask of Levitation. He floated upward, easily reaching the top of the wall.
As soon as he did, the sonic waves shifted slightly, moving out and around him and blocking his rise. The wall of sound surrounded him, pummelling him with its intensity, so loud that it seemed it would crack the earth and sky themselves.
Lewa dropped back to the ground, hardly noticing the force of the fall. Much worse was the force of the sound assaulting his ears – staggering, inconceivable sound. How could any creature hold such terrible power?
Lewa couldn’t think, couldn’t move – could do nothing but try to survive the assault.
It was unbearable – like nothing he had ever experienced, like nothing he could ever have imagined. It bent his mind until it could think no more, his body until it could stand against it no more.
“Kopaka!” Gali’s voice was urgent. “Come here – quick!”
Kopaka abandoned the Bohrok-Kal footprint he was examining and hurried forward to join Gali, who had moved several lengths ahead through the jungle.
“The soundshape… the soundshape…” Lewa was muttering, his gaze blank and his limbs curled into a fetal position.
“Lewa!” Kopaka said sharply. “Brother Lewa, do you hear me?”
“He’s in shock,” Gali said, kneeling beside the Toa of Air. “Give him a moment.”
Kopaka nodded, watching as Lewa writhed on the ground. Mud and swampy water covered him, making it clear that he’d been there quite a while. What could have happened to him?
The Bohrok-Kal, of course, Kopaka told himself grimly. Our foolish airheaded brother must have decided to try to take one on by himself. Hasn’t he learned his lesson by now?
Kopaka noticed that the Toa of Air was pressing his hands to his ears. “Look at that,” he told Gali. “He must have tangled with the sonic shield of the Kohrak-Kal.”
“Yes,” Gali agreed with a shudder. “That one is worse than all the others combined, if you ask me.”
She reached down and gently tried to pry one of Lewa’s hands loose. He struggled briefly against her, then finally relaxed. Slowly, his sightless eyes began to focus.
Finally he groaned and sat up. “Ice brother, water sister,” he croaked weakly. “The sound – it’s really gone?”
“Whatever happened, it’s over,” Gali assured him. “You’re safe now.”
Kopaka stretched out a hand to help Lewa to his feet. “What happened, brother?” he asked.
Lewa winced. “Please, Kopaka,” he said. “Keep your voice quietlow. My ears are still ringing from the boxing the Kohrak-Kal gave them.”
“So it was the Kohrak-Kal,” Kopaka said, carefully keeping his voice to little more than a whisper. “Why did it come after you?”
“It didn’t, exactly,” Lewa admitted, his own voice gaining strength with each passing moment. “It was defending its krana-kal – I had hoped to vineswing down and grab it from above. I thought I was trackfollowing undetected, but I guess it knew I was there after all.”
“That was a risky plan, brother,” Gali chided him gently.
Kopaka grimaced, his own opinion of Lewa’s plan formed of harsher words. But he shrugged them off. Lewa had learned his lesson the hard way.
“What do we do now?” he asked instead. “The more we see of this enemy, the stronger it seems.”
“Evertrue, brother,” Lewa agreed. “If those swarmqueens are still down there in the dark-tunnels somewhere, it’s only a matter of time until the Bohrok-Kal trackfind them.”
Kopaka glanced at him, surprised at the normally cheerful Toa Nuva’s pessimistic words. “We can’t give up,” he reminded him. “No matter what, we have to do all we can to protect Mata Nui. It is our destiny.”
“I know that everwell, coldbrother,” Lewa retorted. “But how does it helpsave Mata Nui to let ourselves be crushed by the Bohrok-Kal? We have tried manyplans, yet nothing can stop them.”
Gali cleared her throat. “Wait, brothers,” she said quietly. “There is one thing we haven’t tried yet…”