From high atop a gleaming Knowledge Tower, Nuju looked down upon the landscape of Ko-Metru. For the Toa Metru of Ice, this was a most unusual vantage point. Normally, his eyes were on the sky, seeking to read the future from the brightness and movements of the stars.
But if Vakama was right, there might not be much of a future for Metru Nui if the Great Disks were not found. It was true that the Morbuzakh plant had done some pretty serious damage to the metru. Still, Nuju was not sure just how far he wished to trust the Toa of Fire’s “visions.”
Down below, all was still and silent. Even the hum of the transport chutes that carried Matoran from place to place was muted here. Nothing was allowed to disturb the work of the Matoran scholars who toiled in the crystal Knowledge Towers. There they pored over the written records of Metru Nui, deciphered ancient prophecies, and crafted predictions of the future. Once, Nuju had been one of them. Now it was up to him to make sure there would be tomorrows to ponder.
At first, it seemed like that would be a simple enough task. The Ko-Metru Matoran who Vakama claimed had knowledge of the disk was named Ehrye. Finding him should not have been an issue. In fact, it was often impossible not to find Ehrye, even when you wanted to avoid him. He was constantly underfoot, running errands for different scholars and pleading for a chance to become one of them.
Nuju, naturally, had said no. Working in a Knowledge Tower required wisdom, patience, and experience. All Ehrye had to offer were enthusiasm and too much energy for his own good. So the Matoran went back to running errands and dreaming of life inside the towers.
And now, when I want to find him, he’s disappeared! fumed Nuju. A search of Ehrye’s home had turned up a marked Ko-Metru chute station map and a disturbing journal entry. It read in part: “I’m going to show them. If I turn over the Great Kanoka disk like I said I would, I’ll learn a secret that will make them beg me to join a Knowledge Tower!”
Nuju shook his head. He had spent his whole life studying what might be and what would be in the days to come, and he knew one thing for certain. There was no future in what Ehrye was about to do.
The Toa of Ice leaped from the top of a Knowledge Tower, his eyes focused on the ledge of another. When he had maneuvered within arm’s reach of it, he snapped a crystal spike from his back and swung it hard. It dug into the side of the tower. Nuju swung gracefully around the building, pulling the spike free as he did so. He repeated the exercise twice more on the way down, growing more used to his new Toa tools along the way. Someday, he knew, that experience might save his life.
Nuju had taken the chute map with him when he left Ehrye’s house. He hit the ground close to the station that was marked on the map. The attendant was deep in thought and did not notice his approach.
“What? Oh!” he exclaimed when Nuju tapped his shoulder. “Who are you? What do you want?”
“I am Nuju, Toa Metru of Ice. I am looking for a runner named Ehrye. Have you seen him?”
The attendant frowned. “Yes, he was here. I saw him talking to a Matoran from another metru. I don’t remember which. Then he jumped in a chute heading for one of the Knowledge Towers. He was muttering something about a disk.”
“Where did he have this conversation?”
“Ummm, let me see. I remember I was analyzing chute dynamics at the time and not really paying attention. But I think it was in that corner over there.”
Nuju turned away without saying thank you. He was in no mood to waste words. Instead, he walked over to where the attendant had directed him and looked around. There was little to be seen, just a Po-Metru carving tool and a pass to the Onu-Metru Archives. Either might be important, or they might have been dropped by any of hundreds of Matoran who passed through this chute station.
The attendant had gone back to pondering. It was something Ko-Metru Matoran spent a lot of time doing, in hopes of one day securing a position in a Knowledge Tower. Unfortunately, it also made it hard to get their attention.
“If you see Ehrye again, hold on to him,” Toa Nuju said.
“Hmmm? What? Hold on to whom?” the attendant asked, confused. Nuju walked away, wondering why he even bothered to talk to some Matoran.
The chute Ehrye had taken led to the lower level of a Knowledge Tower. It was such a silent place it made the rest of the metru seem positively wild and loud. A small number of Ko-Matoran were hard at work, junior seers who hoped to one day ascend to the ranks of those who labored on the upper levels. Nuju had spent most of his life in Knowledge Towers and could not recall ever seeing a group of scholars looking so annoyed.
As usual, trying to get a scholar to take a break from his studies to talk was like trying to teach akilini rules to a Rahkshi. They did not seem at all impressed by the presence of a Toa Metru. It was only when Nuju mentioned that a Great Disk was involved that one of them agreed to talk.
“A Great Disk, hmmm?” said the scholar. “Incredible power. I would love the chance to study one. Do you have it?”
“No, I am seeking it. I believe a Matoran named Ehrye is as well, and he may have come here.”
“Ehrye!” the scholar spat. “So that was his name! He barged in asking a lot of questions about Kanoka disks, the Morbuzakh plant, and other things that were not his business. No, not his business at all! Then he took a chute to the top of the tower, which is forbidden!”
The other Matoran had turned to see what all the shouting was about. The scholar spotted their angry looks and dropped his voice almost to a whisper. “You will find him there, but you must do something for us in exchange for this information.”
The scholar dug into his robes and pulled out a knowledge crystal a little larger than Nuju’s hand. “The Morbuzakh vines have done great damage to our towers,” the scholar explained. With this crystal, a new tower can be grown. When you reach the top level, throw this into the air. Wherever it lands, a new tower shall appear.”
Nuju took the crystal. “A gift to the future of Metru Nui, then. I will do it.”
High atop the Knowledge Tower, the air was crisp and clean. One could always find a sense of peace and the time for contemplating here. What could not be found, at least today, was any sign of Ehrye.
Toa Nuju felt the weight of the crystal in his hand. He approached the edge of the tower, took a deep breath, and tossed the crystal out into space. It tumbled through the air, vanishing into the mist below. An instant later, Nuju followed.
As he fell, he let doubt creep into his mind again. What if Vakama was wrong? What if the Great Disks proved to no one that they were Toa? What if the Great Disks didn’t exist at all but were just legends? What then?
Nuju twisted his body in midair. He could barely see the outlines of the new tower. An instant later, he landed feetfirst on the top of the rapidly growing structure. It lifted him high in the air once more as it took its place among the other monuments to knowledge in Ko-Metru.
From this new vantage point, Nuju scanned the metru. Off to the west, he spotted something that looked out of place. A knowledge Tower’s rooftop was littered with protodermis blocks. Since towers were grown, not built, there was no reason any construction material would be there.
He was about to dismiss it as one more strange thing in a city that seemed to be filled with them when he spotted movement behind the blocks. It was Ehrye! Nuju had barely realized that when he saw something much more frightening – a huge crack traveling up the side of the tower. The whole structure was about to fragment and take the Matoran with it.
Nuju got a running start and leaped off the tower. Using his crystal spikes, he swung from one chute to the next as fast as he could. When he was almost on top of the tower, he let go and dropped.
For once, the Toa of Ice tried not to think about the future. If he pondered the possible consequences of what he was trying to do, he would never be able to do it. He waited until his fall had brought him almost parallel to the crack in the tower, then held out his twin spikes and focused his ice power through them. Twin streams of ice shot from the tools, welding the crack shut as he fell.
Now came the hard part. Most of the damage was repaired, but if he could not stop his fall, he would be an ex-Toa Metru very quickly. He spun, twisted, and dug one spike into the side of the tower. It carved a gash in the crystal and he continued to fall, desperately trying to hang on to the Toa tool. Finally, with the ground much too close for comfort, the spike held and he came to an abrupt stop. No wonder we had to be chosen to be Toa Metru, he thought as he began the long climb to the top of the tower. No one would ever volunteer for this job.
Ehrye was still where Nuju had last seen him: trapped behind protodermis blocks at the very top of the tower. Worse, the blocks had not been stacked haphazardly. They were arranged, almost like a puzzle, in such a way that moving the wrong one would bring them all crashing down on the Matoran.
Nuju spent a long time staring at the blocks before he gently shifted one. Then he went back to analyzing the barricade. Ehrye, impatient, shouted: “Are you going to get me out of here? What are you doing?”
“Quiet,” Nuju replied. “Someone did not want you walking away from this tower. But you are important to the future of Metru Nui, fortunately for you, so the Toa of Ice is going to get you out of what you have gotten into.”
“Yes, I heard you were a Toa,” said the Matoran grimly. “Now I’ll never have a chance at a promotion.”
The Toa Metru ignored him. This puzzle was highly intricate, but it was designed to defeat someone who could not think ahead. They picked the wrong Toa then, Nuju said to himself.
It took an agonizingly long time, but finally enough blocks were cleared for Ehrye to slip out. He stretched himself and looked up at his rescuer. “I suppose you’re wondering how I got here?”
“Yes. You took many risks, Ehrye, and broke a number of laws. I should turn you over to the Vahki and be done with it. But I need you. Or rather, I need the Kanoka disk you have located.”
“Why should I give it to you?” Ehrye replied. “That disk could be my ticket to a Knowledge Tower position.”
Nuju gestured at the pile of protodermis blocks. “It was almost your ticket to a tomb. Think about the future, Ehrye.”
The Matoran spent a few minutes doing just that. Then he said: “I get full credit for finding it? And no Vahki come knocking on my door?”
“Vahki don’t knock,” Nuju reminded him. “They smash doors down. And they keep smashing them down until they find the one you’re hiding behind.”
“You have a point,” Ehrye agreed. “Even if I didn’t have to worry about them, there’s still that big Rahi breath that walled me up here.”
Nuju and Ehrye headed for the chute that would bring them back down to ground level. Still shaken by his experience, Ehrye wouldn’t stop babbling. “I know why you’re looking for that disk, Toa Nuju. It’s the root, right?”
“The Morbuzakh plant – it has a king root. I found that out when I was researching the Great Disk. Stop the root, you stop the spread of the plant. But you need all six disks to do it.”
“Then you will come with me to see the other Toa Metru now,” Nuju said.
“There are more of you?”
“And then we will go get the Great Disk.”
“Oh, I’ll tell you where it is. I’ll even go with you. But you’re going to have to retrieve it. From what I’ve learned, no one but a Toa Metru has a chance of getting that disk from its hiding place.”
“I see,” Nuju said.
“In fact,” continued Ehrye, “I might not get the Knowledge Tower job. But if the Great Disk is as hard to get as I think it is, your job might be open soon, Toa of Ice.”
Neither of them laughed at Ehrye’s little joke.
When they reached the ground, Nuju gestured for Ehrye to follow him. To the Matoran’s surprise, they did not head for a chute station but for the alley behind the tower.
“Where are we going?”
“Knowledge Towers do not crack by themselves,” said Nuju. “Well, sometimes they do, but this one did not. I am searching for the cause.”
Ehrye trailed along behind as Nuju walked up and down the length of the alley. Along the way, the Matoran peppered him with questions. “What are you looking for? Does that mean anything? What does it feel like to be a Toa Metru? Do you think the Morbuzakh plant will wreck the whole city?”
“Enough!” Nuju snapped. “The future will bring the answers to your questions, but only if you stop speaking long enough to notice them.”
“That’s what you always say,” Ehrye grumbled.
“When it stops being true, I will stop saying it,” Nuju replied.
The Toa of Ice moved around to a shadowed portion of the tower. There, just below eye level, was the beginning of the crack that had threatened to bring the whole structure down. Peering closely at it, he looked for any sign of the tool that had been used.
What he found was something quite different. The edges of the damaged area were melted and fused. In many places, the crystal had turned black. No Matoran tool had done this. It was a surge of energy.
Troubled, Nuju knelt down to examine the ground. Crushed knowledge crystals littered the pavement. The Toa of Ice carefully sifted through them to reveal scrapings on the ground below. They were the marks of a four-footed being who had stood right in that spot while he no doubt set his trap.
Vakama was right, Nuju thought. This time. But who is this monster? Why is he doing this? Is he working for someone else, or does he stand to gain somehow by all this damage?
He rose and walked toward the mouth of the alley, not saying a word to Ehrye. The Matoran kicked at the knowledge crystal fragments before following. His thoughts had gone back to the missed opportunity of the Great Disk. If he could have gotten his hands on it or maybe somehow tricked Nuju into getting it for him, Ko-Metru would have been at his feet. Now it would be back to running errands. Unless, of course, he could still find a way to get the disk after Nuju found it.
Ehrye was still pondering that happy thought when Nuju stopped short. The Toa of Ice bent down to pick up an artifact, but Ehrye could not make out what it was. After a moment, Nuju turned around and held the item out. It was a small, intricate carving.
“What’s that?” Ehrye asked.
“I thought perhaps you could tell me,” said Nuju coldly. “This came from Po-Metru. It’s signed by Ahkmou the carver.”
Ehrye shrugged. “So?”
“At the chute station, the attendant said he saw you talking with a Matoran before you left for the Knowledge Tower. He couldn’t remember who it was, but I think I know. It was Ahkmou, wasn’t it? That’s why there was a Po-Metru carving tool in the station. He was careless… must have been in a big hurry.”
“Okay, so it was Ahkmou,” Ehrye replied. “We’re friends. We play akilini together sometimes. What does this have to do with –?”
“Listen to me,” Nuju said, leaning in so close that Ehrye was chilled by his frigid breath. “We are not playing akilini now. All of Metru Nui is at stake. Now, what did Ahkmou want?”
Ehrye broke and ran. Nuju frowned and used a minimal amount of elemental power to block the alley with a wall of ice. Stymied, the Matoran turned around.
“Wrong answer,” said Nuju.
“All right. He said he wanted to carve replicas of the Great Disks as a gift for Turaga Dume. He wanted to know all about them and figured I could get information from the Knowledge Towers.”
“Is that all he said?”
“Yes,” Ehrye answered, his eyes on the ground.
Nuju could tell he was not revealing the whole truth, but there would be time to uncover it later. For now, they needed to return to Ga-Metru and meet with the other Toa. He turned and walked toward the chute station, confident that Ehrye would be wise enough not to try to run again.
“What are you going to do about that ice wall?” the Matoran asked. “Will it melt?”
“Won’t there be questions? I mean, how many Matoran know there’s a Toa of Ice around?”
“It will give the scholars something to ponder,” said Nuju. “And before all is said and done, all of Metru Nui will know that Toa Nuju has arrived.”