Nokama looked around at the other Turaga. With the exception of Whenua, all of them looked as if she had just suggested building a temple to Makuta.
“Those Toa carvings should have been covered up years ago,” said Vakama. “Showing them to Gali without talking to the rest of us first was most unwise.”
“Why? Because I do not like asking Toa to risk their lives for us again and again while lying to them about the past?” replied Nokama.
“Nokama speaks the truth,” said Whenua. “Listen to her.”
“I have been listening,” said Onewa. “I have yet to be convinced these Toa will understand the tales of Metru Nui. It seems they barely understand one another.”
Nuju gave a shrill whistle and ran through a complicated series of gestures. Matoro translated, “Sometimes accepting what you do not understand is the first step toward understanding. Hear Nuju’s story and decide for yourselves…”
Gali Nuva stood on Kini-Nui in the twilight, remembering. It had not been so very long ago that she and the other five Toa had emerged from the Bohrok nest, changed by protodermis into the powerful Toa Nuva. At first, it seemed like a blessing. Their greater strength and tougher armor would make it easier for them to defend the village from any threat.
But as they began to test their new power, the team began to fracture. Finally, Tahu and Kopaka almost came to blows. Before she even knew what was happening, the two of them had decided the Toa should go their separate ways. Each Toa would pursue his or her own destiny, all thoughts of unity forgotten.
At first, she had dismissed the Toa of Fire and Ice as foolish and stubborn and vowed not to ally with them again. Now her talk with Nokama had convinced her that perhaps she was the one being stubborn. Gali decided she had to try to bring the Toa back together.
Her meditation was interrupted by the arrival of Kopaka. “Hahli sent word that I was needed,” said the Toa of Ice. “So I am here.”
“Thank you, Kopaka. I knew you would not refuse my summons.”
The Toa of Ice said nothing. He looked uncomfortable, but then he often did around Gali. She had always insisted on treating him as a friend, even when he insisted he did not want or need friends.
“It concerns the Kanohi Nuva Masks,” she said. “As soon as one other arrives, I will explain.”
Kopaka’s eyes narrowed. “Another? Who?”
“It is I, Toa of cold breezes!” The voice belonged to Tahu, who vaulted onto the Kini-Nui to stand beside them. “You can go back to your snow fortress. I am sure Gali and I can handle matters.”
Kopaka smiled. “Perhaps, if all Gali needs is water boiled.”
“I sent for both of you!” Gali said sharply. “Tahu, kindly stop acting like you are Mata Nui’s gift to us all. Kopaka, for a Toa of few words, you never seem to know when to be quiet.”
“I did not come here to be lectured, sister,” Tahu replied. “I have business in Ta-Koro, and –”
“We three have business right here, Tahu. Masks of Power are waiting to be found, but I cannot find them alone. And neither can either of you.”
Gali looked from one Toa to the other. “Now, do we help one another… or do we let our pride do to the Toa what Makuta could not?”
There is an old Mata Nui legend about a horned lava rat from Ta-Wahi forced to ride on the back of a Takea shark to make it across a stretch of water. They were not very good traveling companions. The rat worried that the Takea would eat him, the shark that the rat would burst into flames at any moment, as lava rats are known to do. It made for a very quick and very tense trip.
The three Toa making their way along the border of Ta-Wahi and Ko-Wahi made the rat and the shark look like the best of friends. Kopaka had not spoken more than two words since they left Kini-Nui. Tahu, on the other hand, had not shut up. Gali was wishing she could have her powers back for only a few seconds so she could summon a cold rain for them both.
“Lewa, of course, was worried about what the Nuhvok-Kal might do, but I knew it would flee before me,” said Tahu. “After that, finding the masks was a simple matter.”
“So you have said,” commented Gali. “Twice.”
“In Ko-Koro, they call it ‘whistling past Makuta’s lair,’” said Kopaka.
“What’s that, Toa of slush?” asked Tahu.
“You tell your tales to keep your courage warm, Tahu,” the Toa of Ice replied. “What better use for hot air?”
Tahu’s hand went for his magma sword. Gali stepped in between the two Toa. “Enough! We have reached our destination.”
Tahu and Kopaka turned to look. The three Toa were standing at the beginning of a narrow path that wound between the mountains. The Toa of Fire was not familiar with the site, but Kopaka knew it well.
“The ‘place of shadow’ – that is what the Matoran call it,” he said. “Even the Bohrok avoided this spot. Is this where the masks are to be found, Gali?”
“Three of them, or so Nokama tells me. But there is great danger here, as well.”
“You have the Mask of Speed,” said Tahu. “Why don’t we just race in, retrieve the masks, and race back out again?”
“Too easy to speed into a trap,” Gali answered. “No, we must make this journey one step at a time. Be on your guard, Toa, for we know not what waits for us within.”
The sun was shining when the three Toa began their trek. It did not take them long, however, to learn how this spot had gotten its name. They were barely on their way when the mountains seemed to close in around them, cutting off all light. The brightest of days turned into the long shadows of dusk in an instant. The warm breezes of Ta-Wahi were gone now, replaced by an icy wind that chilled them to the core of their beings.
No one spoke as they walked. In this place, a whisper would have seemed like a shout. All around was cold, hard stone, without so much as a weed growing amid the rocks. There were no sounds, for nothing dared to live here.
Kopaka led the way, sharing the power of the Mask of X-Ray Vision with his two companions. In spite of this, they heard the danger long before they saw it. It was the rumble of thunder, so loud it shook the ground, and the howl of the wind that almost drowned out their thoughts.
Gali pointed overhead. Black clouds now filled the sky, where a moment before it had been clear. Twin lances of lightning flew from those clouds, striking the peaks and shearing off huge chunks of stone. Boulders flew down the mountainsides heading right for the three Toa.
“The Mask of Shielding will protect us!” Tahu yelled over the wind.
“No!” Kopaka shouted. “It will protect us from being crushed, but not buried! We need the Great Mask of Strength!”
Tahu started to argue, but Gali stopped him with a look. He summoned the Great Mask of Strength, sharing his powers with Kopaka and Gali. All three felt a surge of energy in their bodies as their strength increased.
“Spread out!” Gali said. “We need room to move!”
As the boulders rained down, the Toa struck with their tools, crumbling tons of stone to powder. Without a shield to protect them, even one stone getting through could mean doom. Tahu, Kopaka, and Gali struck blow after blow, swatting away massive rocks as if they were hailstones.
Above, lightning bolt after lightning bolt struck the mountains. Rocks that had taken an aeon to rise to the sky were sent tumbling to the ground in a flash. Only the reflexes and power of the Toa kept them from being overwhelmed.
When the avalanche finally ended, all three sank to the ground, exhausted. “What was that?” Gali asked.
“A welcome from the shadows, perhaps,” answered Kopaka.
“We have to keep moving,” said Tahu. “We can’t let a few pebbles stop the Toa.”
Kopaka used his ice blade to help himself to his feet. “You are right.”
Gali looked up at the Toa of Ice, surprised. “Did you actually agree with him?”
“You do not need the wisdom of a Turaga to know that if we stay here, whatever lurks in this place will know where to find us,” said Kopaka. “We need to move on.”
“Come on, Gali,” Tahu said, helping her up. “This is your expedition. You wouldn’t want to miss the next narrow escape, would you?”
Tahu took the lead this time, while Gali hung back to talk with Kopaka. “You know Tahu does not mean all he says, Kopaka. But so many look to him as a leader, and to him that means he can never ask for help.”
“Then that is the difference between us,” Kopaka replied. “He cannot ask for help… and I don’t need it.”
But Gali was no longer paying attention. Her eyes were locked on the path up ahead and her expression was one of shock. “You may want to change your mind about that, Kopaka.”
The Toa of Ice followed her gaze and saw Tahu, swords drawn, standing before a raging wall of fire. “Toa of ash! What have you done?”
Tahu did a backflip away from the advancing flames. “It was not my doing, brother. It erupted from the ground like lava from the Mangai. Perhaps your icy breath can blow it away?”
“Perhaps you both can stop acting like quarreling Makika toads and pay attention!” said Gali. She pointed to a second wall of fire that had appeared behind them. “We cannot go forward, and back is not looking very appealing, either!”
“Up?” suggested Kopaka.
“At the speed these fires move, we would never make the climb in time, brother,” said Tahu.
Waves of heat washed over Gali and the world began to spin around her. She reached out to steady herself on Tahu’s shoulder. “Brothers… the heat… too much…”
Kopaka looked at Tahu. “You know the ways of fire. If we cannot go over or under…”
“Then we go through,” agreed Tahu. “Gali! We need the powers of the Mask of Speed!”
“Yes… of course…” Gali said, struggling to stay conscious. With great effort, she summoned forth the Kanohi Kakama Nuva.
Tahu took her left hand, and Kopaka her right. With a final glance at one another, the three Toa launched themselves at the fire at top speed. Running so fast their feet barely touched the ground, they broke through the flames and emerged on the other side, unharmed.
“You see? At such speed, even the fire could not touch us,” said Tahu proudly.
“No… no, there is something wrong here,” Gali muttered. She stumbled back toward the fire, reaching out to touch it. Kopaka rushed forward to stop her, but she brushed him aside.
Tahu’s cry came too late. Without a moment of hesitation, Gali plunged her hand into the flames. But no cry escaped her lips, and when she drew it out again, it was not even scorched. “It’s not real. None of it. It’s a trick.”
At first, Kopaka and Tahu thought perhaps Gali had broken under the strain of lost powers and the long trek. But they both knew the Toa of Water too well. They could hear the absolute certainty in her voice, and so they believed her words. As soon as they accepted them as truth, the flames vanished.
“We have seen this once before, in the Bohrok tunnels. We thought it was the Bahrag’s work,” said Gali, her voice grim. “We were wrong.”
“Makuta,” Tahu whispered.
“Striking at us through our minds,” said Kopaka.
“We turned away from unity. When we did that, we turned from our duty and destiny as well,” said Gali. “In that moment, we became vulnerable to Makuta.”
“But no more!” thundered Tahu. “Now we know he sends nothing but illusions at us. And illusions will not stop the Toa of Fire! Come, we will find those Masks of Power! We will make Makuta regret ever hearing the name Toa!”
Without waiting for a yes or no from his companions, Tahu marched off. Gali and Kopaka followed behind, walking quickly to keep their brother in sight. “At least we know now we cannot be harmed, as long as we do not believe in the illusions,” Gali said.
“Yes,” replied Kopaka. “There is only one problem. What if the next danger… is no illusion?”
Darkness brought their journey to a temporary halt. Gali had the unique privilege of watching Tahu and Kopaka work together to start a fire. Once it was blazing, Kopaka went off to stand guard while the other two rested.
Gali was the first to break the uncomfortable silence. “Kopaka tells me Pohatu is well.”
“As is Lewa,” said Tahu. “Of Onua, I have heard nothing.”
“It is not right that we should be so uncertain of a brother’s safety. We were meant to stand together, Tahu, as one.”
“But we are six,” he replied. “Six Toa, each with enough power to defeat any menace… or at least, we once had such power. And we will have it again!”
“Yes. Then we will go our separate ways again, avoiding one another’s wahi, until some new threat rises to strike in the borderlands. That is the price we pay for the pride of fire and ice.”
“Water,” Tahu said, as if it were a curse. “Water soothes and calms and lulls the spirit to sleep. You cannot understand what true power demands.”
Gali’s eyes blazed with anger. “Toa, if the Great Beings see fit to restore my energies to me… I may one day show you what power really is.”
Tahu stood and walked away, saying over his shoulder, “The prophecies may say that we have to work together, sister. But nowhere is it written that we must enjoy it.”
The next day dawned bright and clear, but a shadow still lay over the Toa. Gali and Tahu were not speaking to each other. Kopaka spoke to neither, not out of anger, but simply because he saw no need to clutter the morning air with words.
They had gone only a short distance when Gali called a halt. She had spotted a carving on the rock wall. It showed the six Toa she had seen before, this time in a valiant struggle against… what? It might have been some many-armed sea creature, or perhaps some other Rahi they had never seen before. One thing was certain – they were in a place of fire.
“Impossible!” said Tahu. “If such beings ever roamed Ta-Wahi, I would know of it.”
“As we knew of the Bohrok, brother?” asked Kopaka quietly. “Or the Kal?”
“What are you saying, bringer of winter?”
“Simply that the Turaga hold many secrets. Perhaps too many.”
Gali said nothing, but her thoughts were on her earlier encounter with Nokama. What did they truly know about the Turaga? Was any of it the truth?
She did her best to ignore her doubts as they journeyed onward, but it was not easy. As one of her brothers had once pointed out, there were too many unanswered questions about Mata Nui. Perhaps when the Bohrok-Kal were defeated, it would be time to get some answers.
“There!” Tahu shouted. He was pointing up ahead, where three Kanohi – the Great Mask of Strength, the Great Mask of Levitation, and the Great Mask of X-Ray Vision – sat atop stakes planted in the ground. Although a dull gray when not being worn, still the Pakari, Miru, and Akaku gleamed in the sunlight.
“Perhaps our worries were for nothing,” said Gali. “Our enemy has fled. Nothing guards the masks.”
“Nothing that we see,” corrected Kopaka. “Even with my enhanced vision, the way seems clear.”
Strangely enough, it was Tahu – normally the boldest of Toa – who hung back. “Something is not right here. When have we ever found Kanohi so easily? This is another trick.”
Kopaka focused the power of his Kanohi Akaku on the masks. “They are real. No illusion.”
“I understand your caution, Tahu,” said Gali. “But we do not have time to waste. If the masks are there to be taken, we must take them.”
Reluctantly, Tahu nodded and joined his two companions. Perhaps Gali was right. Perhaps whatever had been placed here to guard these masks had fled. With a final glance at Kopaka and Gali, he reached out to take the Miru.
The next instant, they were plunging into darkness, falling end over end into what seemed like a bottomless well. Tahu had noticed too late that the ground was giving way beneath them. There was no time to grab on to the edge or dig his magma swords into the walls. All he could do was fumble with the Miru and hope the Mask of Levitation would do its work.
The Kanohi did not disappoint. As soon as the mask was on his face, Tahu could feel himself floating gently in the air, held aloft by the power of levitation. Kopaka and Gali, too, were safe thanks to the power of the Nuva mask.
They reached the bottom, finding themselves in a cold, dark chamber far beneath the surface. All three were on alert, but Gali was the first to say, “We are not alone here.”
“No, brothers, you are not.” Onua stepped out of the shadows, followed by Pohatu, Lewa, and Turaga Vakama. “It seems the Toa Nuva are together again, if not in the way we would have wished.”
“Who is responsible for this?” Tahu raged. “The Kal? If so, I will –”
“No, Toa,” said Vakama. “Even the power of the Kal could not tame what lives in this place. It is a menace I hoped never to face again. Even at the height of your powers, you could not hope to defeat it… only contain it.”
Kopaka frowned. “Another secret, Turaga? What is this thing we face?”
A deafening roar filled the chamber. Each Toa drew his or her tools and looked around, but there was nothing to see.
“What is it, Toa of Ice? A thing of raw power… a creature with no fear. It was created for only one purpose, and one alone.”
The fear on Vakama’s face was clear to see in the glow of his firestaff. “It lives to defeat Toa.”