Takua, Jaller, and Kopaka rounded a hill of ice. Before them spread a snowy valley. Steep cliffs rose on the far side. Set into one of the cliffs was a village, accessible only by a bridge of ice.
But something was wrong. The village wall had fallen. Huts were in shambles, and smoke rose from the ruins. There was no one in sight.
Jaller and Takua raced toward the ice bridge, wanting to help.
Kopaka glanced up as a dark shadow fell over the valley. “Stop!” he shouted.
Takua and Jaller skidded to a halt. The bridge was just ahead, stretching over a deep chasm. From below the lip of the gorge, three terrifying figures hovered into view.
The trio of Rahkshi landed in front of the awestruck Matoran, unfolding their legs to stand at full height. Takua and Jaller goggled up at the hideous creatures, frozen with fear.
The Fragmenter-Rahkshi planted its staff in the snow. A zigzagging bolt arced into the air, then down toward the helpless pair.
Kopaka slid toward them, his shield up. The ice shield deflected the bolt, its energy knocking the Toa backward. The bolt blasted back toward the Rahkshi, shooting a plume of snow into the air as the creatures dove for safety.
The Fragmenter let out an angry roar. Kopaka climbed to his feet and raced away with Takua and Jaller close behind him. The Rahkshi chased them, launching bolt after bolt of energy, which rained down all around the fleeing trio.
Suddenly Kopaka stopped short, flinging out his blade to block the Matoran’s path. Takua and Jaller slid to a stop, realizing that they were about to race right off of a steep cliff that dropped away into a treacherous ravine.
“Prepare,” Kopaka ordered, turning to face their pursuers.
Jaller and Takua blinked, confused, as the Toa tossed his shield facedown onto the snow beside them. Suddenly realizing what Kopaka meant for them to do, Jaller shook his head. “The Captain of the Guard never runs awaaaaaaay!”
His last word was lost in a cry of terror as Takua pushed him onto the shield and jumped aboard himself. The momentum carried the shield skidding toward the cliff. It toppled on the edge, then tipped down, sliding faster and faster along the impossibly steep incline.
Kopaka hardly heard their fading screams. He faced the Rahkshi as they closed in on him.
The Fragmenter-Rahkshi sent yet another bolt of energy arcing toward him. Kopaka somersaulted away, dodging the bolt. As he came down, he tossed his twin blades onto the snow. He landed on them, turning them into power ice skates, on which he glided down the cliff face.
The Rahkshi watched him go, their burning eyes sparking with anger.
Jaller clutched the edge of the shield-sled, now too terrified to scream. The shield sped down the cliff at an awesome speed.
He was relieved to see Kopaka appear beside them. As they neared the bottom of the slope, Takua pointed ahead. “Dead end!” he cried.
The base of the cliff sloped into a sheer rock face. Only a narrow ravine leading to a small lake offered a path through.
Kopaka zoomed ahead of the shield. Bending his knees, he reached back and grabbed the front edge, pulling it behind him as he veered into the ravine.
“Whoaaaaa!” Takua and Jaller yelled as they felt themselves skid up the ravine wall.
But Kopaka yanked the shield back onto the icy path. They sped down the ravine.
BOOM! An arc of dark energy smashed into the snow right in Kopaka’s path. The shock waves knocked him off his feet, sending him rolling into the snow.
The shield flipped over, dumping Takua and Jaller as well. They tumbled head over heels, landing on the very edge of the lake.
The Fragmenter-Rahkshi hissed triumphantly as it hovered down toward him. The other two Rahkshi were right behind the first.
Takua sat up. “Jaller?” he said.
Jaller looked at him, his eyes widening as he spotted the Rahkshi. The creatures hovered right past Kopaka, who appeared to be unconscious, heading straight for the two Matoran.
“Why us?” Jaller said. “What did we do?”
Takua spotted the Mask of Light in his friend’s hand. “The mask!” he cried. He grabbed the mask, which started glowing brighter than ever. Pushing Kopaka’s shield onto the cold water of the lake, he jumped on, using the mask as a paddle.
Left behind, Jaller watched nervously as the Rahkshi approached. He dove out of the way as they hovered toward him. But they didn’t even glance his way. Their glowing eyes were focused on Takua. They hovered out over the water, following him.
Takua paddled as hard as he could. But with every glance back, he saw the Rahkshi gaining on him. Finally they were close enough to reach out for him with their clawed arms.
Takua held the mask close to his chest as the creatures hissed threateningly, grabbing at him. I guess this is it, he thought hopelessly as a clawed hand snapped only a whisper away from his face.
Just then his gaze caught motion back on the lakeshore. Kopaka was awake – he was swinging his ice blade overhead. A second later a blast of elemental ice spun through the air, heading straight for the Rahkshi!
The icy blast hit the Fragmenter-Rahkshi and knocked it off balance. It crashed into the other two creatures, and all three of them toppled and landed in the lake with a splash.
“Ha!” Takua cried excitedly, leaning over the edge of the shield to look at the spot where the Rahkshi had disappeared.
A clawed hand shot up, only inches from his face.
“Yaaaa!” Takua yelped, pulling his head back.
Kopaka twirled his blade, then stabbed the point into the edge of the lake. The water crystallized instantly into ice, the deep freeze spreading rapidly until the entire lake was frozen solid. The Rahkshi, who were just reaching the surface, were trapped in place.
Kopaka and Jaller walked out onto the ice. “Good moves,” Kopaka said when they reached Takua.
Takua shrugged. “Even I get lucky sometimes,” he said, a little awed by the words of praise from the Toa.
“Not luck,” Kopaka corrected. “It is what you do that makes a hero.”
There was a sound from behind them. All three whirled around to look.
“Pewku!” Takua cried in amazement as he saw the familiar form of the Ussal crab trotting across the ice.
Pewku ran toward him. Her feet skidded on the slippery ice, and she wound up crashing into Takua, knocking him over.
Takua laughed and hugged her. “Wow!” he said. “She must have come all the way through the jungle.”
“Not bad,” Jaller said with a smile. “Maybe Pewku should be the Herald, eh, Toa Kopaka?”
He turned to glance at the Toa. But the spot where Kopaka had been standing just a moment before was empty. The Toa was back on the shore, leaping up the sheer face of the icy cliff.
Jaller blinked. “He just left us here!”
Takua nodded, remembering the distressing view of Ko-Koro. “He needs to see his village.” He held the Mask of Light toward his friend. “Here.”
Jaller started to reach for it, then hesitated. “You were looking pretty Herald-like back there. Sure you don’t want to hang on to it?”
Takua slapped the mask against Jaller’s chest. “Tempting,” he said as the mask’s glow slowly faded. “But no.”
* * *
The tan and gray Ta-Matoran trudged through the snowy wastes of Ko-Wahi.
“You and your bright ideas!” complained the gray-clad Matoran.
“Well, I thought Ko-Koro was around here someplace!” shot back the tan Matoran.
“I think we’ve been this way already. I recognize that snow drift.”
“How can you tell one snow drift from another?”
“It takes skill!”
“Okay, Ko-Koro must be somewhere nearby. I say we go right!”
“I say left. We have to choose!!”
After a brief argument, the tan Matoran agreed to try going left. But it only took them deeper into the snow.
“If we keep going in circles,” said the gray-armored Matoran, shivering, “we’re going to end up Makuta bones… FROZEN Makuta bones!”
Something caught the other Matoran’s eye. “Wait a second, I see footprints in the snow – looks like two Matoran. Maybe Takua and Jaller came this way!”
“Hey, Takua’s the Chronicler… maybe he knows something about the refuge! Or at least the way to Ko-Koro.”
They began following the footprints, hoping to find Takua – and some information.
“This doesn’t look like Ko-Koro to me,” the gray-armored Matoran said. “Or this great refuge either.”
“Wait a minute!” exclaimed the tan Matoran, pointing ahead. “Look over there!”
His friend looked up to see a large cave – likely the entrance to a passage to Onu-Koro.
“We need to go to Onu-Koro!” said the tan Matoran.
Before the other villager could respond, the ground started to shake.
The gray Matoran looked around nervously. “Hey, do you hear that?”
Both looked up to see that an avalanche had started on the nearby mountain face – headed right for them.
“Avalanche!” shouted the gray Matoran. “Run!”
Both Matoran made a mad dash for the cave entrance, barely escaping the falling ice and snow. After taking a minute to catch their breath, they looked around the cave.
“Are you sure this is the way to Onu-Koro?” asked the gray-armored Matoran. “Maybe we should take the tunnels…”
“This is a shortcut!” the tan Matoran replied. “Trust me!”
Trusting his friend’s judgement, the gray Matoran agreed to try the shortcut. Before long, the two found themselves in the outskirts of Onu-Koro.
“Wow!” the tan Matoran said, looking around in awe. “Look at this place!”
His companion was not as impressed. “You look at it. I miss Ta-Koro.”
“They say these tunnels lead everywhere on the island. Maybe there’s a tunnel to the great refuge!”
The gray-armored Matoran spotted something. “Hey, look at this…”
His friend appeared to have a sudden realization. “That’s it! The refuge must be beneath Kini-Nui!”
The gray Matoran was about to respond when he saw someone approaching. “Look, it’s Toa Tahu. What’s he doing here?”
The Toa of Fire approached, a streak of green marring his Kanohi mask. “What brings you two to these tunnels?”
“We’re trying to find the great refuge,” explained the tan Matoran.
“Well, he is,” his companion added. “I’d be just as happy going back to Ta-Koro.”
Tahu’s expression turned dark. “Ta-Koro – there is little left for you to go back to now. But your place is with the other Ta-Matoran, not here!”
The gray Matoran turned to his friend. “Toa Tahu is right.”
“No,” the tan Matoran responded, “we’re going to find the great refuge!”
“I have no time for this!” Tahu exclaimed. “But find your way out through the tunnels. Don’t take any shortcuts. And guard yourselves – it is not safe.” With that, he was off.
Taking Tahu’s advice, the two Matoran headed into the tunnels around Onu-Koro.
“Brrrr!” the gray Matoran said, shivering. “I don’t know how the Onu-Matoran live down here. Did you bring a lightstone?”
“I thought you had it!”
Then a familiar, ominous voice boomed from the shadows around them. “No lightstone can pierce my shadows.”
“Makuta!” exclaimed the gray Matoran.
“You still search for a refuge for the Matoran,” Makuta continued. “But there is no place they can hide from me.”
The tan Matoran didn’t waver. “If there’s no refuge, why do you keep trying to scare us off?”
“He’s not trying, he’s doing it!” the gray Matoran said, much less confident than his friend. “And stop making him mad!” Grabbing the tan Matoran’s arm, he started running farther into the tunnel.
“Run, Matoran!” Makuta called after them. “You will find no safety on Mata Nui!”