“Ta-Koro welcomes three teams!”
Takua shivered with anticipation as the kolhii announcer’s voice rolled over the stadium.
A section of the arena wall spun around to reveal a kolhii goal – a large stone carving of the face of the Great Spirit, Mata Nui. Two brown-masked players strode out.
“From the desert village of Po-Koro,” the announcer said, “Copper Mask winners and undisputed kolhii champions… Hewkii and Hafu!”
The players raised their sticks in salute, and the crowd cheered wildly.
Another section of the wall spun and revealed another goal. This time a pair of blue-masked players stepped out onto the field.
“From Ga-Koro, the challengers – Hahli and Macku!” the announcer cried.
As the crowd cheered, Takua gripped his kolhii stick tighter. They were next.
The third and final goal spun into view, and Takua bounded onto the field with his friend and teammate beside him.
“And from Ta-Koro, the Captain of the Guard and the Chronicler, Jaller and Takua!”
Takua waved his kolhii stick at the crowd, enjoying their applause.
“Try your new move,” Jaller whispered to him. “The crowd’ll go crazy.”
Takua shrugged. “Nah,” he replied. “It only works in practice.”
He raised his stick toward Jaller. Jaller clunked it with his own. Then they parted and took their positions – Jaller in front of the goal, and Takua in the center of the field facing the other offense players.
“Play well,” Hewkii said. Hahli and Takua repeated the words.
Then the three of them huddled around the circle in the center of the field. They didn’t have long to wait before the circle spun open and a pair of kolhii balls shot out and into the air.
Takua moved instantly, lunging at one of the balls. But Hahli was faster – she scooped up the ball and jumped away. Takua spun toward the second ball. Hewkii was leaping toward it, too – both of them swatted at the ball with their sticks, trying to knock each other aside.
Finally Takua saw the net on the end of his stick swoop the ball out of midair. Yes! He had it!
He spun around… a little too fast. His foot hit his own kolhii stick, and he tripped and fell. The ball rolled out and Hewkii jumped forward, kicking it away.
Disgusted with himself, Takua raced after Hewkii. The two of them dodged and weaved, their feet flying as they battled for control of the ball.
Jaller saw Hahli sprinting toward him, pushing the second ball with the hammer end of her stick. She flipped the ball into the air, using the stick to smash it toward the Ta-Koro goal.
Jaller swung his stick – interception!
Hahli smiled and raised her stick to salute Jaller’s defense. “Not bad,” she said breathlessly.
Jaller crossed his arms and tilted his head. “Nothing gets by the Captain of the Guard,” he bragged playfully. He smiled. “Unless he wishes it.”
Hahli returned his smile. Then she turned and walked away.
Hewkii had gained control of the other ball. He raced across the field toward the Ga-Koro goal with Takua in hot pursuit.
With a burst of speed, Takua darted past and flung himself on the ground directly in Hewkii’s path. Without missing a step, Hewkii vaulted over him. Takua looked sideways just in time to see Hewkii flip the ball into the air and kick it toward the goal. The Ga-Matoran defensive player, Macku, dove for the flying ball, but it sailed past her.
“And Hewkii scores!” the announcer shouted.
It’s just one goal, Takua told himself. There’s still plenty of time for us to catch up.
Some time later, Takua was feeling less optimistic. There were two lightstones on the scoreboard for Po-Koro now, along with two for Ga-Koro. The Ta-Matoran team had yet to score a goal.
Kolhii was played to a winning score of three goals. To catch up, the Ta-Matoran had to sink three goals in a row. Such a thing was almost unheard of in the sport.
Takua clutched his kolhii stick, preparing himself as he waited for the balls to emerge.
When they popped out of the circle, he dove toward them. But Hahli was ready. Ducking low, she quickly swiped her stick back and forth, sending both balls skittering out in different directions.
When the balls hit the ground, Takua leaped toward one. So did Hewkii. The two of them smashed into each other in midair, each falling back with a grunt as the ball went flying upward again.
Both players leaped to their feet and again dove for the ball. Takua managed to scoop it up just before Hewkii reached it.
Yes! Takua thought, using the stick to vault into the air and over Hewkii’s head. As Takua somersaulted in midair, he flung the scoop end of the stick forward, shooting the kolhii ball out of it in a blur.
But the shot was wide – so wide that it sailed right over the top of the Ga-Matoran goal and into the stands. The spectators in that section dove for cover as the ball careened into the seats.
Takua was so busy trying to watch the ball that he didn’t pay attention to his own somersault. He hit the ground face-first.
“Ooh!” the announcer said. “I don’t think we’ve seen that move before!”
Takua sat up and spit out a mouthful of dust. So much for his special move! I told Jaller it wouldn’t work, he thought in disgust.
As he looked around, he was just in time to see Hahli sprint past, still kicking the second kolhii ball in front of her. She closed in on the Ta-Matoran goal and whacked the ball with her stick. Jaller dove at it, but it sailed past his out-stretched hand – and straight into the goal.
“Hahli scores!” the announcer cried. “Goal and tournament to Ga-Koro!”
The Ga-Matoran section of the crowd went wild, jumping up and down and cheering loudly for their team.
In the Toa box, Pohatu turned to Gali and offered his fist. She clanked it with her own, grinning widely. Then Gali turned and held out her fist to Tahu. Tahu stared down at the ground, not returning the gesture.
Back on the field, Takua dragged himself after Jaller, who was hurrying to join the other players after grabbing his kolhii bag from the sidelines. He couldn’t believe they’d lost – and it was all his own fault!
Jaller extended his stick to Hahli. “Not bad,” he said with a grin. “For a Ga-Matoran.”
Hahli tapped his stick with her own, ignoring the joke. Then she turned to Takua. “Good effort, Takua,” she said warmly. “Nice move back there – a little more practice and you’ll have something amazing.”
“Thanks,” he said tonelessly, not bothering to look up. It would be a long time before he got over this. A very long time.
Turaga Vakama stepped forward. “Congratulations to Ga-Koro!” he said. “And well played by all.”
The players all turned and raised their sticks in salute to the hosting Turaga. As Jaller raised his stick, the motion jostled the kolhii bag he’d slung over his shoulder. The mysterious Kanohi mask fell out and landed on the ground, rolling against Takua’s foot.
The crowd cried out in amazement as a beam of brilliant, clear light shot out of the mask – aiming straight at Jaller.