Vakama laughed, his whole body shaking. “Tahu swinging through the trees? No wonder he was in such a foul mood when he returned to Ta-Koro that day.”
Nuju ran through a complicated series of gestures. Matoro translated, “Perhaps it did the Toa of Fire some good to see the world the way Lewa sees it.”
“They have been good Toa brothers since then,” said Matau. “All doubtfear is gone, it seems.”
“Perhaps, Matau,” said Onewa. “But if we make the wrong decision… if we tell the Toa all that has gone before… then won’t they ‘doubt-fear’ us? We have kept this from them for so long, would they ever trust us again?”
Nokama rose to her feet. “Brothers, I know what it is to betray a Toa. I have done it, and not so very long ago. Listen to my tale, and I beg you not to judge until I have reached an end.”
The Turaga fell silent as the Turaga of water began to speak…
Hahli rowed her canoe frantically through the bright blue waters of Gali’s Bay. She ignored the schools of Makuta fish that pursued the boat, despite the fact their jaws could easily tear the craft to pieces. Nothing mattered but finding Turaga Nokama.
She beached her boat on the outskirts of Ga-Koro and raced up the sand. Macku was on the beach, repairing a seaweed fishing net. “Have you seen the Turaga?” Hahli asked.
Macku could see how upset her friend was and put down her work. “Yes, she is inspecting the work site. What’s the matter?”
“I’ll tell you later,” Hahli said, on the move again. “I have to talk to her!”
She found Nokama up on a ridge, supervising a Ga-Matoran work team. A Bohrok squad had tried to build a dam to cut off the waters that fed the bay, until Gali drove them off. Now the Matoran were tearing down what was left of the structure.
“Nokama! You have to come quickly!”
The Turaga turned and saw Hahli. The Matoran was out of breath. “What is it, Hahli? Calm down and tell me.”
“It’s Gali Nuva. I saw her on the beach, and this huge wave came at her… She raised her aqua axes… but she couldn’t stop it! Her power over water is gone!”
Nokama frowned. She suspected something like this might happen when the Toa Nuva symbol was stolen from the village. “Where is Toa Gali now?”
“Still on the beach, last I saw,” said Hahli.
“Stay here. I will go to her. She will need someone who understands.”
Nokama arrived on the beach to find Gali stalking up and down, her aqua axes tossed aside like they were worthless fish bones. The Turaga had never seen her so angry before.
“Gali? Are you unharmed?”
The Toa of Water’s eyes flashed. “I cannot hear the water. I am deaf to the song of the waves, Nokama, the ebb and flow of every river and stream on Mata Nui. I walk this island, but I am no longer a part of it. No. I am not unharmed.”
Nokama bent down and picked up the aqua axes. “Your Toa tools are not to blame.”
“No, my brother Toa are,” Gali snapped. “I told them we should stay united. I told them there would be another menace and we would be stronger together. But Tahu and Kopaka would not listen… not even Onua stood with me.”
Nokama handed the tools back to the Toa. “And will raging like the storm change that? Be at peace, Toa. Remember, calm waters are the easiest to travel.”
Gali walked away and sat down on a rock overlooking the bay. “With respect, Turaga, that is easy for you to say. You do not know what this feels like.”
Nokama laughed softly. “You are so wise, Gali, yet know so little. You are swimming in my wake, Toa. There is nowhere you can go that I have not traveled before.”
Nokama walked to the water’s edge and dove into the bay, swimming with long, easy strokes. “One day I will tell you a tale, and you will understand. But for now… come with me.”
Another world exists far beneath the waters of Mata Nui. Here schools of fish congregate around protodermis reefs, feeding on the microscopic organisms that dwell within. Then, without any warning, the school compresses itself into a tight cluster, in a desperate attempt to defend against a Takea shark on the hunt. One pass, two, and the cluster is shattered, fish darting every which way in a race for safety.
Gali had seen this many times in her travels under the sea, but never before had she understood how vulnerable the fish must feel. It is bad enough the Bohrok-Kal menace the island, but if Makuta should return… The thought filled her with fear. Without their elemental powers, the Toa Nuva would stand as much chance against the master of shadows as those little fish had against the shark.
The Toa of Water forced herself to focus on the present. Nokama was swimming quickly, leading Gali deep into the night-black waters near the bottom of the bay.
The journey ended in a sea cave, one Gali could not recall ever exploring. Inside she discovered that the cavern held air pockets. The atmosphere was heavy and stale, but breathable just the same. A large lightstone embedded in the wall illuminated the entire cave.
“Why have you brought us here? What is this place?” Gali asked.
“It is a place of memories,” Nokama replied. “Look.”
Carved into the stone were six figures, each wearing a Kanohi Mask and carrying a strange tool. They did not look familiar to Gali, but there was no mistaking the fact that these were Toa.
“Who –?” she began.
Nokama gestured for her to be silent. “Who they are… or were… is not for you to know right now. But they are one reason you are here. As for the other reasons, you will find a Kanohi Nuva in this cave… and a test as well.”
“A test? Why, Turaga?” Gali demanded. “After all the Toa have achieved on Mata Nui, why must we still be tested?”
“When you know the answer to that, Toa Gali, you will have passed the test,” answered Nokama, already swimming out of the cave. Gali pursued, but a huge stone slab suddenly slammed down, blocking the cave mouth. She threw all her might against it, but it would not budge.
The Toa of Water was trapped. The only thing worse than that was knowing that she had been betrayed by the one she trusted most.
Outside of the cave, Nokama let go of the ancient stone lever that triggered the slab. In her heart, she wished there had been another way. But Gali would need true wisdom in the time to come, and not every lesson can be taught by a Turaga telling stories. Some only life can teach.
I hope Gali can forgive me… if she ever finds her way out, thought the Turaga.
Gali treaded water and tried to think. There would be time later to learn why Nokama had done this. Right now, she needed to find a way out.
She thought about the other Toa Nuva and how they would approach this problem. Onua and Pohatu would rely on brute strength and try to smash the slab. Lewa would see the whole thing as another reason to hate water. Tahu would probably order the slab out of the way, and if it knew what was good for it, the slab would move aside.
And Kopaka? The Toa of Ice always said, “The trap itself contains the key to escape. You simply have to know where, and how, to look.”
All right, Kopaka’s way it is, then, she said to herself. Assuming Nokama is not being controlled by Makuta, she wanted me to find something or learn something here. But what?
Gali took a deep breath and forced herself to be calm. Once all worry and fear were gone, she looked around her, trying to take in every detail. The cave walls were smooth – too slick to climb. Running a hand over one, she noted that it was not the uneven texture caused by years of erosion. These walls felt like they had been polished. This was no natural sea cave, then. It was more like an Onu-Wahi tunnel.
The only other remarkable feature seemed to be the carvings. Gali swam closer to take a good look at them. They were very old, made long before she or the others had come to Mata Nui. The Toa pictured were definitely not her brothers or herself, but something about them did look familiar. It took her a moment to realize it was the Kanohi they wore. The masks were not like any she had seen before, but somehow she knew what they were. And one of the Toa looked like…
No, it couldn’t be, she told herself. I must be mistaken.
Seeing the Kanohi made her realize that she had forgotten the most important clue Nokama had given her. There was a Mask of Power hidden somewhere in this cave. Finding it must be the test, and once she had it, she could escape.
Gali dove beneath the water and began to swim deeper into the cave.
The Toa of Water swam slowly, surfacing now and then to get her bearings in the unfamiliar cave. She had seen schools of Ruki minnows, cut off from the open sea, flitting about in the water in search of escape. Strangely, though, there did not seem to be any larger fish. Didn’t anything live down this deep?
Further exploration answered her question. Through the murky water she spotted bones littering the cavern floor. She retrieved one and brought it to the surface to examine it in the glow of the lightstone. It took her only an instant to remember where she had seen such a bone before: Nokama’s trident. These were Makuta fish bones.
Suddenly, Gali felt very alone and a little bit afraid. Makuta fish were certainly prey for larger creatures, like Takea, but few made any effort to hunt them down. Makuta fish were fast and cunning, with rows and rows of razor-sharp teeth in their mouths. Although any one was powerful enough to survive on its own, they preferred to swim in a school. Together, there was little that could stop them.
Much like the Toa, Gali thought.
But something had defeated the Makuta fish. Something strong enough and fearless enough to challenge them. Gali hoped that, whatever it was, it had abandoned this particular cave long ago.
She looked down the tunnel, but saw nothing that looked like a threat. Just the glow of two lightfish hovering in the water, waiting for their dinner to swim by. Gali wondered if there wasn’t something in the waters beyond them, much larger and much nastier, waiting for exactly the same thing.
Gali continued her journey, scanning beneath the waters for any sign of a Kanohi. She saw none. Against her will, she began to wonder if Nokama could have been lying about the mask. Then she pushed that thought aside.
The two lightfish had still not moved the slightest bit, despite her drawing closer to them. Normally, even a good-sized fish would startle at any movement. Of course, they probably had never seen a Toa before.
Don’t worry, little ones, Gali thought. The Toa of Water will not harm you.
As if in answer, the lightfish suddenly went out. A second later, they began to glow brightly again.
Lightfish never stop glowing, not while they are alive. Which meant those weren’t lightfish.
They were eyes. And they had just blinked.
Gali spun around and hurled herself forward, trying to go back the way she had come. But it was too late. She felt a tentacle wrap around her right leg, then another around her left. Despite all her power, she was being slowly dragged backward.
The Toa of Water looked over her shoulder. The creature that had her in its grip was a monster with twelve enormous tentacles. Each tentacle had a snapping beak on the end, and another, larger beak could be seen in the center of the creature’s body. Its eyes glowed brightly as it pulled Gali closer and closer.
Desperately, she looked for a way out. Fighting the creature was a last resort, she knew. She had no wish to harm anything that lived, and besides, there was no guarantee she could overpower something this size.
Another tentacle was reaching toward her now, trying to wrap around her waist. Using all her strength, Gali dove toward the cavern floor, narrowly avoiding the creature’s grasp. She planted an aqua axe into the stone floor, trying to slow her progress toward the creature. Her free hand reached out for something, anything, to hold on to.
Then she felt the familiar shape of a Kanohi Mask. She had found it! Gali grabbed it and put it on, immediately feeling the speed power of the Kanohi Kakama flowing through her.
Her joy turned to disappointment. She had been hoping it would be a Pakari Nuva. Greater strength would help her wrestle herself free. What good was speed when she was held in such a grip?
Worse, without the powers of the Mask of Water Breathing, she could stay under for only a brief time before she needed air. If she was going to put the Kakama to use, it had to be now.
She remembered something Tahu had once said. “Fire never surrenders,” he had told her. “If it cannot burn through, it burns around. Block its path and it sends sparks through the air, to begin the blaze anew somewhere else. Fire always finds a way.”
Can water do less? Gali asked herself. Then she began to kick her legs, faster and faster, until they were nothing but a blur. Still, the creature would not let go. She increased her speed, straining for air as she forced her legs to move even faster.
In a test of sheer strength, Gali could not win. But even stripped of her elemental energies, she could still be saved by the power of water. Her ultrarapid kicking generated a current stronger than any ever seen before in the waters of Mata Nui. It slammed into the creature with the force of a tidal wave, rocking it just enough for its grip to loosen. Gali seized her chance and rocketed forward. In a split second, the tentacled monster was left far behind.
The Toa of Water shot through the cavern, carried forward by her momentum. She could feel some of the familiar effects of the Mask of Speed. Her reflexes had become lightning quick, the only thing making it possible for her to maneuver at such high speed. Her vision was sharper. Objects that should have been just a blur were sharp and clear to her.
Unfortunately, that also meant she could see what she was heading for: the slab Nokama had lowered over the cave mouth. Now that she had the Mask of Speed, Gali could look forward to being flattened against the stone that much faster.
No! Water finds a way!
The Kakama Nuva was more powerful than the old Mask of Speed. Maybe it could do more than just make her swim more quickly. She had to concentrate… concentrate on getting through that stone.
Gali drew on her last bit of energy and willed her body to begin to vibrate. Every atom in her body began to move until she was nothing but a blur moving through the water toward the slab. If she had guessed wrong, she would be crushed against the stone by her own speed.
Seconds before she was to strike the stone, the Toa of Water shut her eyes. Her final thoughts were of the other Toa. She wished her last words to Tahu and Kopaka had not been such harsh ones. Even more, she wished she could be by their side to confront the dangers to come.
Then the thought hit her – at the speed she was going, she should have reached the cave mouth by now. Cautiously, she opened her eyes. She could see sunlight filtering through the water high above, Ruki fish darting everywhere, even a lone Tarakava lurking close to the shore. She was back in the bay.
Gali called the Mask of Water Breathing back to her and turned back to look at the cave. The slab was intact. Somehow, her vibrations had allowed her to pass right through the stone without injury. The Mask of Speed had been even more powerful than she expected it to be.
She thought of the carvings, Nokama’s “test,” even her differences with Tahu and Kopaka. And she wondered how many of those things were also far more than they seemed.
When Gali broke the surface, Nokama was standing on the beach waiting for her. The Turaga smiled and held out a hand. “Welcome home, Toa of Water.”
Gali waited a moment, then took the outstretched hand and stepped out of the water. “You wanted me to discover the Kanohi Kakama’s powers on my own. You wanted me to see they were no longer the same as before.”
“Nothing is the same,” Nokama replied. “The Toa have changed. Your Kanohi have changed. You may soon find that everything you think you know about Mata Nui, about your life here, is but a fraction of the truth.”
Nokama stopped and looked up into the Toa’s eyes. “You are the Toa of Water, Gali. You, above all, must be able to look beyond the surface and find the hidden depths below.”
Gali considered Nokama’s words as they walked along the beach. When she spoke again, it was to say, “Those carvings in the cave… was that you, Turaga?”
“Me?” Nokama laughed. “Now, Gali, did you see a Turaga in that picture? Those were Toa. Heroes of a long-ago age. I am just the elder of Ga-Koro.”
Yes, you are, thought Gali. But what lies beneath your surface, Turaga?