When Kopaka Nuva, the Toa of Ice and protector of the village of Ko-Koro is troubled, he travels to a remote spot on the slopes of Mount Ihu to think. The only sound is the wind rushing through the mountain passes and the crunch of ice beneath his feet. Even other Ko-Matoran rarely go there, so no other living being interrupts his time alone.
Most of the time.
“Brother!” Pohatu’s voice boomed across the snowfield. Somewhere in the distance, an avalanche started by his shout roared down the mountainside.
Kopaka turned and saw the powerful form of the Toa of Stone struggling to walk through the hip-deep snowdrifts. It was tough going for one as heavy as Pohatu. He no doubt needed help making it through.
Without a word, Kopaka resumed walking up the icy pathway.
“I know you can hear me!” Pohatu shouted. Kopaka narrowly dodged the rain of icicles shattered by that sound.
“Mata Nui can hear you, and he is sleeping,” Kopaka muttered.
Down below, Pohatu watched as his brother Toa continued slowly and steadily up the mountain. Walking through snow was almost as bad as being underwater. Then again, Pohatu supposed snow did combine the worst parts of Gali’s realm with those of Kopaka’s. Still, he was determined to reach his destination, with or without the help of the Toa of Ice, and although he wore the Great Mask of Speed, Pohatu hesitated to use it. On this slippery surface, running would not get him there any faster.
Pohatu continued to follow Kopaka through the darkness, doing his best to ignore the cold. In turn, Kopaka ignored him, hoping he would turn back. Sometimes that worked with Pohatu, but not often.
“Help! Brother, help me!”
Kopaka whirled and saw Pohatu floundering in a drift. The Toa of Po-Koro had lost his footing and gone down. Without something solid to hold on to, Pohatu was finding it impossible to rise.
Frowning, Kopaka split his ice blade in two and attached the ends to his feet. In an instant, he was flying down the mountain on his power iceskates, sparks flying as the protodermis blades sliced through the ice. He was aiming for the curved lip of a ridge, and as always, his aim was true. His momentum sent him soaring through the chill air toward Pohatu.
Kopaka waited until he was at the height of his arc, then curled up and did a series of midair flips. He hit the slope at just the right angle and slid to a stop beside the fallen Toa.
“I will help you up,” Kopaka said, as quietly as a snowfall. “Then you will leave my land.”
“I have a better idea,” replied Pohatu, springing to his feet. “I’ll get up on my own, thanks, and then we’ll travel together.”
“You faked your fall.”
“Oh, no, brother, the fall was real… tricky things, these snowfields,” said Pohatu. “I welcomed the rest. And while I was lying there, I thought, trying to get to Kopaka is really quite tiring. If I stay here, perhaps he will come to me.”
“There is a blizzard coming. With my ice powers stolen by the Bohrok-Kal, I will not be able to stop it,” said Kopaka grimly. “Turn back.”
Pohatu folded his mighty arms across his chest. “Here I am, and here I’ll stay.”
Kopaka shrugged. “Very well. When I reach Ko-Koro, I will tell Turaga Nuju to have you dug out when the thaw arrives… if it ever does.” With that, he turned and walked away.
Pohatu frowned and hurried after him. “I thought we could help each other. There are many masks to find. Don’t you remember how well we worked as a team when we first arrived on Mata Nui?”
“You buried me in a landslide, as I recall,” said Kopaka.
“Oh. Well, I didn’t do it on purpose. Besides, that can’t happen now. I’ve lost my powers, just like you have.”
Kopaka stopped dead and looked over his shoulder. “Pohatu, I do not want your help. I do not need your help. I will find the Kanohi Nuva on my own.”
Before Pohatu could answer, Kopaka had vanished into the darkness. The Toa of Stone stared after him for some time. Then he started to follow again, careful to stay in Kopaka’s footsteps.
The blizzard that struck was one of the fiercest ever known in Ko-Wahi. The winds roared down from the summit of Mount Ihu, carrying blinding snow and stinging pellets of ice. In moments, every trace of Kopaka’s passage had vanished beneath the drifts.
Pohatu stopped to think. He knew his brother Toa was following an ice path, but where was it? If he began digging through the snow to search, he would freeze long before it could be found. Unless… unless he could find a new use for the Mask of Speed.
Doing his best to ignore the subzero temperatures and the blowing snow, Pohatu planted his feet on the ground. Then he held his arms out in front of him and began to rotate them, faster and faster, letting the power of the Mask of Speed, Kanohi Kakama Nuva, flow through him. In seconds, his arms became a blur as they sent twin blasts of air before him, which blew the snow aside to reveal the hidden path.
“Let’s see Kopaka do that,” Pohatu said to himself as he resumed his journey.
Kopaka had more to worry about than the snowstorm. When his elemental powers were stolen, his resistance to extreme cold disappeared as well. For the first time, he could feel the numbing temperatures of the Ko-Wahi region slowing him down. All he wanted to do was rest, preferably someplace warm. He would lie down and sleep, only for a few moments, in the shelter of a rock outcropping. Then he would be ready to resume his search for the masks.
The cold and the darkness were closing in on him. In icy dreams, he saw two of the insect-like Bohrok-Kal, Kohrak-Kal and Nuhvok-Kal, stealing the symbol of his Toa power from his village. His energy was gone. He could hear them shouting his name, over and over, and something else… a terribly familiar growl.
Kopaka awoke with a start. Standing over him, saliva dripping from its jaws, was a Muaka. The largest and fiercest predator in Ko-Wahi, the great cat saw anything that moved as prey. Its claws dug into the icy floor as it sniffed Kopaka, trying to determine if the Toa was still alive and might be a threat.
Once I would have been far more than a threat, Rahi, Kopaka thought, using the Matoran name for a wild animal. Two days ago, a single ice blast from my blade would have left you frozen solid. But today it is just a powerless tool and little defense against a beast of such power. The Bohrok-Kal have stolen all my Toa energies.
It was then that Kopaka heard his name shouted again. That was no dream. It was Pohatu, still searching through the snow for his brother Toa. Better still, it was enough to distract the Muaka just long enough for Kopaka to roll away, grab his blade, and sprint toward the mountainside.
The Muaka bellowed and pursued, its long legs easily making up the ground between them. Kopaka could just see a narrow ledge high on the rock face. If he could reach it, he would be safe, since it was too high for the Muaka to reach. But somehow he doubted the Rahi would give him the chance to climb.
There was no time to plan. Kopaka broke into a dead run, holding his ice blade in both hands. He could feel the Muaka’s breath on his back. His feet were slipping underneath him, and he knew any fall would be his last.
Eyes locked on the mountain, Kopaka counted down seconds. He would get one chance to make this work. If he failed, Ko-Koro would need another protector. So I will not fail, he said to himself.
Before the Muaka could react, Kopaka planted one end of his ice blade into the ground and vaulted high into the air. He struck the mountain hard and began to slide down the ice-covered rock. He was slipping off the ledge, with the Muaka waiting below, jaws open wide.
Something whizzed past him, burying itself in the rock with a loud metallic sound. Kopaka reached out and grabbed it. It was one of Pohatu’s climbing claws! Down below, the Muaka snapped at the Toa’s heels. With his last bit of strength, Kopaka hauled himself onto the ledge.
The Muaka snarled and leaped, scrambling in vain to hold on and then sliding back down to the snow. It was preparing for another try when the sharp crack of rock striking rock caught its attention. The sound repeated three times before the Muaka decided it might mean easier prey and loped off to investigate.
As soon as it was gone, Pohatu appeared. “I might not still command the rock,” he said, “but at least I can still toss one.”
Kopaka yanked the climbing claw free and tossed it to the Toa of Stone. “I thought you had turned back, Pohatu.”
“I was going to,” the Toa said, shrugging, “but mask hunting alone is like playing the sport of kolhii alone – good practice, but not much fun.”
Kopaka slid down into a snowbank and approached. When he spoke, his voice had a bit less ice in it than usual. “You should go home, Pohatu. This is no place for you… perhaps not even for me, anymore.”
“Turaga Onewa said something to me before I left Po-Koro,” replied Pohatu. “He said it’s easy to be a hero when you have plenty of power and your only worry is whatever enemy is fool enough to challenge you. It’s not so easy when all you have is your wits and your biggest enemy is yourself.”
The eyepiece of Kopaka’s mask extended and whirred as he scanned the mountainside. “That sounds like Onewa. You two are much like the stone you represent. Solid. Practical. Down to-earth.”
“Well, thanks, I –”
“Dense. Hardheaded,” Kopaka continued. “And stubborn.”
“You’re welcome, Kopaka,” Pohatu snapped. “Oh, no, rescuing you was my pleasure.”
Kopaka glared at his brother Toa. “If your trick had failed, the Muaka might have had us both. The strength of the Toa would have been reduced by one-third and our villages would be in peril. Foolish risks are a luxury we cannot afford.”
Pohatu pointed up the mountain. “Then maybe we should get out of the way of the avalanche!”
It was too late to react. A wall of white slammed into the two Toa, knocking them both off their feet and carrying them along in its wake. Helpless, they tumbled end over end down Mount Ihu, bashing into rocks and almost losing their Kanohi. Kopaka made a desperate effort to will the avalanche away, but not even the slightest trace of his powers remained.
Toa of Ice and Stone wound up sprawled in a heap at the base of the mountain, half buried in snow. Long minutes passed before they staggered to their feet, exhausted and aching. “I hate winter,” Pohatu growled.
“The Mask of Shielding would have protected us from that,” Kopaka said. “We need to find the Kanohi Nuva now. As long as you are here, Pohatu… you might as well travel with me.”
“It’s certainly been fun so far,” the Toa of Stone replied, brushing snow from his arms and legs. “Onewa mentioned a Mask of Shielding in an ice cave near here. Any idea where that might be?”
Kopaka did not answer. He stepped away from Pohatu and activated the power of his mask, enabling him to peer through tons of stone into the network of caves within Mount Ihu. It was the work of moments to find a cavern in which there was a lone Kanohi Hau Nuva, the Mask of Shielding.
“It is nearby,” he reported. “Perhaps half a kio up the mountain. But the entrance is –”
Before Kopaka’s eyes, Pohatu vanished, only to reappear a split second later. “Blocked by boulders. I know. I saw,” the Toa of Stone said. “Mask of Speed, remember?”
Kopaka’s eyes narrowed and his voice was like sleet striking a suva shrine. “Don’t do that again.”
Pohatu was tempted to argue, but the storm was growing worse. Neither Toa could see more than a short distance ahead. They walked together in an uncomfortable silence, fighting the wind and the snow as they made their way back up the mountain.
Finally, though, it was too much for the Toa of Stone. “What’s the matter with you, brother? I rescue you, you aren’t pleased; I scout ahead to save time, you aren’t pleased. Is there no pleasing you, Toa of Ice?”
Kopaka stopped and said, “I am not here to be pleased. I am here to find Kanohi Nuva so I can regain my stolen powers and truly be the Toa of Ice again. If you wish to help, fine. If you wish to talk… seek out Toa Lewa.”
Not another word was spoken by either.
The cave mouth was not a pleasant sight. The entrance was blocked by massive boulders that had fallen sometime during the night. Even Onua Nuva, Toa of Earth, helped by his Mask of Strength, would have had a difficult time clearing them all away.
Kopaka set to work trying to pry the stones free with his ice blade. But the tool was not designed for that type of work and he soon gave up in frustration. Pohatu, meanwhile, had done little but stand to one side, observing.
“Difficult,” Kopaka said.
“No, no,” answered Pohatu. “Simple. Watch me.”
Pohatu approached the pile of stone and gently laid his hands upon it, first on one spot, then another. He almost seemed to be listening to the rock, though how he could hear anything above the howl of the winds, Kopaka had no idea.
“It’s a puzzle, brother,” said Pohatu. “Each stone supports another. Alone, they are powerful. Together, even a Toa cannot budge them. But the key to the puzzle is there, if you know how to look.”
“Where did you learn this?” asked Kopaka.
Seeing that his brother Toa was genuinely interested, Pohatu smiled. “Onewa taught me. He said that his knowledge of rock is older than the rocks themselves. Not quite sure what he meant by that, but it certainly sounds impressive. Ah! Here we are.”
Pohatu drew back his leg and slammed a center stone with a mighty kick. The rock splintered and flew apart. Robbed of their support, the other stones collapsed, revealing the cavern entrance.
“See? When they can’t work together and share the burden, they can’t perform their task.”
For just the briefest instant, Kopaka almost smiled. “Yes, brother. Perhaps I do see.”
Kopaka led the way into the ice cavern with Pohatu close behind. The Toa of Ice carried a lightstone, its glow reflecting off of the polished surfaces of the cave. The only sounds were their breathing and their heavy footsteps on the ice.
Pohatu lost track of how far they walked. He was beginning to wonder if they would be able to find their way out again, then reminded himself that Kopaka’s Mask of X-Ray Vision would show the way. He felt uncomfortable here, with so much ice cutting him off from the feel of stone.
Their progress was halted by a great crevasse that yawned in the cavern floor. Pohatu crouched and peered into the gap. “It’s blacker than Makuta’s spirit down there, brother. No telling how far it goes.”
“We will find out,” said Kopaka. “The Kanohi Hau is at the bottom.”
Pohatu sighed. “Someday I am going to have a long talk with whoever hid these Kanohi,” he said, checking to make sure his climbing claws were well fitted.
Kopaka split his ice blade in two, taking one half in each hand. They would not be as efficient as Pohatu’s claws, but they were strong enough and sharp enough to serve as climbing spikes. He scanned the crevasse again, satisfied that there was nothing down there but the mask, and nodded to Pohatu. “We begin.”
Pohatu rammed a claw into the ice wall and swung his legs over the edge of the gap. “I hope Mata Nui appreciates all this, if he ever wakes up.”
The climb down was slow and treacherous. Once one of Pohatu’s claws slipped, and only fast action by Kopaka kept the Toa of Stone from plummeting to the floor far below. By the time they reached the bottom, both Toa were exhausted.
The gray Mask of Shielding, the Kanohi Hau Nuva, was wedged in a far corner, perhaps a hundred kio away. Its power would protect a Toa from any physical attack, provided it was not unexpected. Of all the Great Masks, it was perhaps the most valuable to possess now, when the Toa were without their elemental energies.
Kopaka took a step toward the mask, but Pohatu grabbed his arm. “Hold it, brother! Do you feel that?”
“I am not one with the earth like Onua, but something is wrong… very wrong.”
Suddenly a violent earth tremor struck the mountain, shaking it like it was a toy in the hands of a Matoran. Pohatu looked up in time to see the roof of the cavern far above collapsing, sending tons of rock and ice plunging toward them.
Pohatu didn’t hesitate. He rammed Kopaka hard with his shoulder, sending the Toa of Ice flying across the icy floor toward the Kanohi. Kopaka slid to a stop against the wall, an arm’s length from the mask. Stunned, he looked up to see half the mountain about to crush Pohatu.
Kopaka scrambled and grabbed the mask, slamming it onto his face. The Hau Nuva mask had the power to protect those near the wearer as well. If he was in time, the shield might extend to Pohatu. If not…
The shield flared to life around Kopaka. Stone rained down upon it and shattered to harmless fragments, while the ancient energies of the Kanohi kept the Toa of Ice safe. But there was no sign of Pohatu.
It felt like an eternity before the quake ceased. Kopaka scrambled over the rubble toward where Pohatu had last been standing and began to dig with his hands. “Pohatu! Pohatu!” he shouted, but the only answer was the echo in the cave.
In the end, he was forced to give up. Nothing stirred beneath the rock.
“Good-bye, my brother,” Kopaka said. “Perhaps we were too different to truly be friends. But a noble heart beat within that body of stone.”
Grimly, he turned from Pohatu’s final resting place and began the long journey back to the surface.
A full day passed before Kopaka reached the village of Po-Koro. Matoran lined its newly constructed walls, on the alert for any appearance of the Bohrok-Kal. The approach of the Toa of Ice sent a stir through the guards, for all knew he rarely ventured out of Ko-Wahi these days.
Turaga Onewa met him at the gate. “You journey alone, Kopaka, in this dangerous land?”
“No,” replied Kopaka. “I journey with the memory of a fallen brother.” He handed Onewa the Kanohi Hau Nuva. “This belongs here. Without Pohatu, it would never have been found nor would I be alive to carry it. He died as he lived, a true hero.”
“I thank you for that, brother!” The booming voice came from behind Kopaka. All who saw him that day would later say that the Toa of Ice was not so cold as some believed. For he turned with a smile to see the approach of Pohatu, battered and weary but very much alive.
“Pohatu! It is good to see you once more,” Kopaka began. Then he swiftly added, “I mean, it is good to know that Po-Koro will not be left undefended in this time of danger.”
“Thanks to you,” said Pohatu. “The power of the Mask of Shielding protected me, but not before I was stunned by the falling rubble. Still, it enabled me to survive the quake and your efforts made it easier for me to dig myself out. Too tired to climb, I walked until I found a tunnel that led to another, and so on. I emerged in Onu-Koro and made my way here.”
Kopaka took the Hau Nuva from Onewa and handed it to Pohatu. “This is yours. Although I believe your courage is a greater shield than this mask could ever be, Toa of Stone.”
“I will take the mask anyway, brother, with gratitude,” replied Pohatu. “For I believe we will need every bit of power – and all of our courage – to make it through the days to come.”