Matau steered the transport across the bridge leading to Ga-Metru. He tried his best to stay focused on the task at hand, and not pay attention to the damage being done to his beloved city.
“I always believed all this would stand forever,” Nokama said sadly.
“Sometimes you shouldn’t look back,” answered Whenua. “Only ahead.”
“Ahead does not appear so great either,” said Nuju.
The Toa looked ahead to see hundreds of Vahki standing in the middle of the bridge. Twenty abreast, they blocked the way from rail to rail.
“Where to now?” said Matau.
Vakama had gone back to tinkering with the Mask of Power he was crafting. “Our future lies beyond Metru Nui,” he said confidently.
Matau nodded. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but he knew there was only one safe way to get off this bridge. “I sure hope you’re guided by the Great Spirit,” he growled, “because this is definitely cross-wired!”
The Toa of Air threw the transport into a hard ninety degree turn and sped toward the rail. The Toa hung on to whatever they could, hardly able to believe what was about to happen. With a final burst of speed, the transport smashed through the rail and plunged into the storm-tossed waters far below.
The Vahki gathered at the newly made gap in the rail and looked down. There were no signs of Toa or any wreckage of their vehicle. All that could be seen were the waves beating against the bridge supports as if they hoped to bring the structure crashing down.
Then a few bubbles popped to the surface, followed by the transport itself, still intact. The six spheres, strapped to the vehicle, had made it buoyant enough to rise. “We saved them,” said Nokama, pointing at the containers that held the sleeping Matoran. “Now they saved us.”
Nidhiki and Krekka had no idea what was happening. They had served Turaga Dume faithfully, hadn’t they? Even when it turned out it was not Dume at all, they had obeyed his orders without question. Why, then, were they now being drawn into the heart of a vortex of darkness?
“It is time you made good on your promises, my captains,” Makuta said as the two vanished into the pulsating shadow. “For this is your eternal duty.”
With its insectoid legs acting as oars, the Vahki transport moved through the silver sea. Up ahead lay the Great Barrier, a cliff so high it vanished into the sky and so wide it encompassed the entire horizon.
Vakama was paying no attention to the barrier though. His mind was lost in another vision…
Bright light. Then darkness, the same kind of darkness that now shrouded all of Metru Nui. He looked around, uncertain, wondering how he would ever escape. Then a sliver of illumination appeared, like a crack in the shadows. It beckoned him to go forward, for on the other side was a place of safety…
Vakama’s eyes snapped open. He wasn’t certain just what the vision meant, not yet, but he did know it was a sign of hope. That same instinct told him the Mask of Power he had been creating would play some part in all this, so he went back to work on it.
Matau looked on, disapprovingly. In the middle of this crisis, Vakama was still playing mask-maker? “It is time you realized you are a Toa,” he said.
“Time? Of course!” said Vakama. “More time! That is what the false Turaga wanted!” Now he worked even more frantically on his mask. It was almost finished, and if he was right about what it could do –
Vakama’s thoughts were interrupted by another violent tremor. But this one was not caused by thunder in the ground. No, this came from the impact of a winged figure landing hard on a rocky outcropping of the Great Barrier.
The Toa stared in wonder, in awe, in fear. This was unmistakably Makuta, but not Makuta as they had ever known him. This was a colossus in dark, infected armor, with the mighty wings of Nivawk, radiating the power of shadow. Worse, the Toa Metru could see that the tools of Nidhiki and Krekka were a part of his new form as well.
No wonder they stopped chasing us, thought Nuju grimly.
Makuta looked down upon the Toa. Over the crashing of the waves and the howling wind, he snarled, “Your journey must end.”
“By the will of the Great Spirit, it has just begun!” roared Vakama.
“Then conquer the real sea of protodermis!” said Makuta.
With a wave of his arm, great pillars of crystalline protodermis rose from the sea, forming a dangerous obstacle course. Matau struggled with the controls as he steered the craft around them, but the Vahki transport was not designed for complicated maneuvers at sea.
Vakama pointed up ahead. There was a narrow gap in the Great Barrier through which light shone, just like the image he had seen in his vision. “Keep to the light, Matau. The future is in your care,” he commanded. Then he turned to the Toa of Ice and said, “Get me as close to him as you can.”
The Toa of Ice nodded as his mask began to glow. His telekinetic power reached out and lifted Vakama into the air, sending him hurtling up toward where Makuta waited.
Down below the Toa fought on. Onewa jumped from the craft to smash one pillar to fragments with his proto pitons. But two more rose up dead ahead, so close their spikes ground together. The transport was on course to smash into them.
“We need to quick-turn!” said Matau.
Nokama slung her hydro blade and dug it into the side of a pillar. Then she hung on with all her strength as Matau threw the transport into a sharp turn, narrowly avoiding the barrier up ahead. But victory had not been won – another pillar rose up abruptly, crashing into the transport and sending the silver spheres flying into the sea.
Nokama spotted them floating toward certain destruction. “The Matoran!”
Nuju saw them as well, and it broke his concentration just enough to send Vakama plunging into the sea. But the Toa of Fire was not ready to give up. He dragged himself from the water and scaled the cliffside to face Makuta.
The two circled each other warily. Vakama reached into his pack and produced the completed Mask of Power he had fashioned from the Great Kanoka disks.
“The Mask of Time,” breathed Makuta. Then the master of shadows smiled. “You are a great mask-maker, Vakama. You could have many destinies.”
Vakama hesitated. Makuta, sensing his doubt, moved in closer. “Fire and shadow are a mighty combination. Come join my brothers and I, Vakama.”
The Toa of Fire smiled. “I desire but one noble destiny,” he said, placing the Mask of Time over his own Kanohi mask. “More than any power you can offer me.”
“Then accept your doom,” thundered Makuta. He gathered his energies and sent a serpent-like stream of dark energy from his chest straight toward Vakama.
The Mask of Time glowed. A wave of temporal force flowed from it, striking Makuta. The movements of the master of shadows slowed, as did his energy stream, which now hung almost motionless in midair.
Stripped of Makuta’s control, the sea calmed. The five Toa down below quickly went to work retrieving the Matoran spheres. None of them noticed that Turaga Lhikan was missing.
Although he wore the Mask of Time, Vakama’s control of it was imperfect. He was unable to stop the same temporal wave that slowed Makuta from slowing himself as well. He could feel his mind and body slowing down – and now there was no way to dodge the tentacle of dark energy heading for him.
Then there was motion. Turaga Lhikan was running up to Makuta and Vakama, diving into the temporal wave right in front of Makuta’s dark energy. The energy bolt struck Lhikan head on, shattering the shield created by his own mask. Lhikan was drained of all color as the darkness took hold. The disruption of the wave broke its power, and sent Vakama’s Mask of Time flying into the sea.
Vakama knelt over the dying Turaga, saying, “That was meant for me.”
“No,” Lhikan responded weakly. He gestured toward the Great Barrier. “This is my lifetime’s journey. Yours lies beyond.”
Vakama struggled with the feeling of grief that threatened to overpower him. He leaned in close to hear Turaga Lhikan’s whispered words.
“Trust your visions,” the Turaga said. “I am proud to… have called you brother… Toa Vakama.”
With that, Lhikan’s eyes went dark and his heartlight ceased to flash. Broken-hearted, Vakama removed the Turaga’s mask, even as the shadow of Makuta fell upon him once more.
“Fool!” snapped Makuta. “Without the Mask of Time, it will take a lifetime to achieve what destiny demands. But your lifetime will be brief.”
Makuta launched another tendril of dark energy at Vakama, forcing the Toa to scramble for safety. Then Vakama’s mask suddenly began to glow, and his body faded from view. He had become invisible!
Makuta fired more blasts wildly, but missed the Toa by a wide margin. Vakama hurled a rock, sparking another blast from Makuta at the point where it landed. Then the master of shadows aimed at the point from which the rock came, his dark energy forcing Vakama into a hollow of the cliff.
The Toa of Fire removed his disk launcher and wedged it hard into a crevice on the cliff face. As soon as the launcher was separated from him, it became visible. Makuta smiled and sent a tentacle of dark energy to grab it.
“You cannot hide from me, Toa!” said Makuta.
“I don’t need to anymore,” Vakama replied.
The shadow wrapped around the launcher and tried to pull it toward him – but Vakama had wedged it in too deeply. Makuta found himself struggling with the power of the Great Barrier itself. Instead of the launcher being drawn toward him, he was being drawn toward the Barrier.
Vakama returned to visibility as Makuta slammed into the cliff. Dazed, but still defiant, the dark one snarled, “If Toa Lhikan could not defeat me alone, how can you?”
“Because he is not alone!” The voice was Nokama’s. The six Toa stood together once more.
The Toa raised their tools, with Vakama substituting his firestaff for his disk launcher. Their six elements flowed together to form a beam of pure white energy, which they hurled at Makuta, leeching his shadow power from him. A shell of protodermis formed around the master of shadows, sealing him in. With a final burst of power, the beam marked his prison with the sign of the Toa.
The Toa broke formation and the power beam ceased. Vakama looked at Lhikan’s mask and saw the streak of a star reflected in it. “Look skyward!” he said.
The Toa turned their eyes to the heavens. Lhikan’s spirit star was shooting across the darkened sky. As they watched, it exploded into six new stars.
“Six spirit stars…” said Vakama.
“The Great Spirit proclaims it!” said Nuju. “We are Toa!”
The six heroes raised their fists and clanked them together. Their trials were far from ended, they knew, but they would face them as heroes of Metru Nui.
Vakama looked down from the cliff to see that all six spheres had been retrieved and lashed once more to the transport. “We’ll return for the rest of the Matoran soon,” he said. “But first let us ensure the safety of those we have with us now.”
Much time would pass before the Toa Metru would first set foot on the island that lay far beyond the Great Barrier. An even greater span of time would go by before they returned again with as many Matoran as they could rescue from Metru Nui. In that time, the Toa would fight many battles, make new allies and confront powerful new enemies. They would learn lessons about heroism and sacrifice that would never be forgotten.
Now, after so very long, they at last stood on the beach. Hundreds of silver spheres littered the sands. The Matoran within them still slept.
“Toa Lhikan sacrificed his power for us,” said Vakama. “Now we shall do the same for them.”
Vakama placed his hand on one of the capsules. His mask began to glow brightly.
“May the heart of Metru Nui live forever,” he said solemnly.
Power flowed from him and the other Toa, spreading like a blanket of pure energy over the capsules. One by one, the eyes of the Matoran snapped open, their heartlights began to flash, as awareness returned to them. By the sacrifice of the Toa, they had been brought back to waking life.
The heroes looked at one another. They were Toa no longer – by giving up their power to save others, they had become six Turaga. They watched with happiness and pride as the spheres opened and the Matoran emerged.
“This is the island of Mata Nui, named in honor of the Great Spirit,” proclaimed Vakama.
The Matoran looked around at the beach, the ocean, the trees – it was all so very new to them. One Matoran, Takua, ran up to Vakama and directed his attention to another. It was a Ta-Matoran named Jala whose mask had been badly damaged in the transport.
Vakama looked at Turaga Lhikan’s mask. Then, smiling, he removed Jala’s damaged Kanohi mask and replaced it with Lhikan’s. Rejuvenated, Jala rose to join his friends. A Ga-Matoran named Hahli rushed to embrace him and welcome him to the Matoran’s new home – the island of Mata Nui.