“Takua?” Jaller called urgently. “Takua?”
There was no answer. Jaller grumbled under his breath, then hurried toward the Wall of History, a stone carving that decorated one side of the village of Ta-Koro. The wall was covered with the brave deeds of the great hero Toa Tahu, who had been foretold through legends long before he and the other five Toa had ever appeared on the lush tropical island of Mata Nui.
Jaller reached the Wall of History. He saw Takua’s kolhii stick leaning against it. Kolhii was the island’s most popular sport, and Takua and Jaller were supposed to be on their way to a match.
“Takua!” Jaller shouted, annoyed. He hurried through the door carved into the wall.
Jaller raced down the steps. At the bottom he found himself in a lava runoff tunnel. Ahead, he could hear a deep rumble, which grew louder and louder as he walked on.
Finally the tunnel widened into a cave. A wide river of lava flowed through it, tumbling relentlessly toward a steep drop-off – the spectacular thousand-foot Lava Falls.
But Jaller paid no attention to the falls. He had just spotted a small figure hopping from rock to rock across the lava flow. The figure was wearing a blue mask and carrying a lava board under one arm. On the shore at the edge of the cave, a crablike Ussal was waiting patiently. Jaller recognized her as Takua’s faithful pet, Pewku.
“Takua!” Jaller yelled. “What are you doing down here?”
Takua winced. He’d forgotten all about the kolhii game.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Sorry, Jaller. Hang on a sec, I just want to check out that totem.” He pointed to a stone pillar just ahead.
Jaller glanced toward it. “You’re hopping across lava to look at a stupid warning totem?”
“I got curious,” Takua grinned.
Jaller sighed. “Do you know what Turaga Vakama would say?”
Takua shrugged. “Can’t say exactly,” he said lightly. “But I’m betting the word irresponsible would come up.”
Takua hopped to the next rock, trying not to think about what Vakama, the leader of the village, would say or do if he found out about this.
Now that he was here, Takua wasn’t about to turn back before reaching his goal.
Soon he was only one jump away from the edge of the island. It was a long jump, but he didn’t hesitate. He flung himself toward the shore. His hands scrabbled for a hold as one foot slipped back toward the lava. He felt the sizzle of heat and yanked his foot to safety. Leaping to his feet, he grinned and bowed.
Jaller couldn’t help smiling. “Very impressive,” he said. “Now let’s go!”
Takua barely heard him. Now that he was closer, the totem sign on the stone pillar looked stranger and more interesting than ever. He pulled it loose and turned it over in his hands.
“Huh,” Takua murmured as he stared at the symbol inscribed upon the stone. It was like nothing he’d ever seen before.
Suddenly there was a rumble, loud enough to overcome the distant roar of the falls. Takua glanced up just in time to see the stone pillar beside him sink into the ground. The island and its surroundings began to quake violently.
“Whaa — oof!” Takua cried as the sudden quake knocked him off his feet. The totem slipped from his grasp. Takua lunged for it, but he was too late. The totem slipped into the lava and disappeared. “Aah,” Takua groaned in disappointment.
“Hurry up!” Jaller called, as the cavern’s stone ceiling began to crumble under the force of the quake.
A section of the wall cracked and collapsed. Lava spurted through the opening, swelling the river within the cavern. Takua gulped as the rising river wiped out the path of stones he’d used to reach the island. How was he supposed to get back to shore now?
Before he could figure that out, he was nearly blinded by a sudden beam of brilliant light. What in the name of Mata Nui is that? he wondered, squinting toward the source of the light.
It was a mask. A mask like the ones he and Jaller and every other Matoran wore – but different. This mask glowed with the light of a thousand suns. It was floating in the lava, unharmed by the intense heat.
Only a Toa’s mask can do something like that, Takua thought in awe.
“Jaller!” he called. “Look!”
Jaller’s eyes widened as the mask floated past the spot where he and Pewku were standing. “A Great Kanohi mask!”
Takua leaned out over the edge of the island. He had to get that mask!
The Kanohi mask danced and whirled just out of reach. If he could just stretch a little farther…
Got it! he thought with triumph as he finally grabbed the edge of the mask. Pushing himself back from the edge of the river, he sat and studied his prize, which seemed to glow more brightly than ever. He was barely aware that the quake was fading away as quickly as it had come. He turned over the mask to reveal strange, incomprehensible writing on the other side.
“Wow,” he murmured curiously. “Never seen this language…”
“Takua!” Jaller called.
Takua had almost forgotten about his friend. Glancing up, he recognized the look of impatience on Jaller’s face. He climbed to his feet, still holding the mask.
“Hold your Rahi, I’m coming,” he called back.
“Oh, really?” Jaller replied. “Learned to fly, have you?”
Takua grimaced, remembering that his path of stones was now under the lava. He was stranded. Or was he? “Here,” he called to his friend. “Take the mask.” Without waiting for an answer, he heaved the mask across the river.
Jaller caught the mask. Hmmm, he thought. It looked much brighter from a distance. Must have been a reflection from the lava…
As he looked up again, he saw Takua holding up his lava board and suddenly realized what his friend was planning to do. He gulped.
“Are you sure about this?” Jaller called nervously.
“Not at all!” Takua replied cheerfully. He grabbed a flat, paddle-shaped stone. Then he took a deep breath and flung his lava board forward. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” he cried.
As the board landed in the lava at the river’s edge, he leaped onto it. The motion sent him skimming forward over the bubbling lava. But he soon started to lose momentum. The current tugged at the board, turning it toward the falls.
Uh-oh, Takua thought. Using the flat stone he was holding, he started to paddle. He kept his gaze on Jaller and Pewku, who were watching anxiously from the shore.
Suddenly there was a new rumble. The cavern wall collapsed into the river with a splash, freeing a torrent of lava from behind it. The lava burst forward in a huge wave, rushing down the river toward the helpless Takua.
Jaller froze in horror. There was no time to shout a warning – and no time for Takua to get away.