Toa Matau had a secret, one he had not even wanted to admit to himself. It was a dark and shameful fact, something he hoped none of the other Toa Metru would ever learn: He had gotten lost.
For a native of Le-Metru, transport hub of Metru Nui, to lose his way was completely humiliating. A Le-Matoran could track a chute from one end of the city to the other, or keep an airship on course just by spotting landmarks far below. And now here was the Toa Metru of Air, already wandering and confused after only a day in this new land!
It had started out simply enough. Each of the Toa Metru had gone in a different direction, looking for the best place to eventually settle their metru’s Matoran. Only Nokama had remained behind, content that their original landing spot was the best place for a new Ga-Metru. Matau had made immediately for a lush, green part of the island. To him, it seemed to most resemble the controlled chaos that was Le-Metru.
As it turned out, “chaos” was accurate, “controlled” was not. The ground was soft and clung to his feet, making walking a chore. The ceiling of branches was so thick that he could not fly through it. Worse, it cut off the sunlight, making the journey akin to wandering through an Onu-Metru mine.
Then Matau saw reason to smile. He spotted what looked like a long, green cable with a red stripe down the side, similar to the ones that fed magnetic force into Metru Nui chutes. Any native of Le-Metru knew that following a cable would eventually lead to a control center. So Matau kept his eye on the cable as it snaked through the tangle overhead, traveling deeper and deeper into the heart of the jungle. Confident that this clue would lead somewhere worthwhile, the Toa paid little attention to where he was going or how far he had walked.
After a few hours, he reached the end of the cable. But the discovery he made was an unpleasant one: It wasn’t a Metru Nui force wire, it was a vine. It didn’t lead to chute controls or anything like that, but just to more trees. Now here he stood, lost in a dense jungle and unsure what would be worse, roaming around with no idea how to get out or having to shout for help.
This is not Metru Nui. It will never be Metru Nui, he said to himself. I had better start remembering that.
Nuju stood at the summit of a huge mountain, looking out over a snow-covered land. He had been intrigued to discover that the peak was not made of crystal, like the Knowledge Towers back home, but was rather rock covered with ice.
He triggered the telescopic lens built into his Mask of Power to take a closer look at his surroundings. He was at a loss to explain the varied terrains and climates present on this island. It was almost as if the island had evolved with the needs of the Matoran in mind.
Down below, he spotted a snowfield protected from the worst of the elements by an overhanging glacier. This, he decided, would be the perfect spot for a new Ko-Metru. Although, since it will be more a village than a part of a larger city, he noted, perhaps Ko-Koro would be a more accurate name.
Satisfied, he began the long trek down the side of the mountain. As he did, he remembered the words of the Ko-Matoran sage who had first recruited him for work in the Knowledge Towers. Nuju had been wondering how long it might take him to become a seer, a position of great importance in Ko-Metru. His mentor had simply smiled.
“You are mistaken, Nuju,” he had said. “All of life is a journey, and the journey is not about how high you climb or how far you walk. It is about what you learn on the way, and how you choose to use that knowledge. Use it to help others, and the glory of Mata Nui will live inside you. Use it only for yourself, and though you may walk among us, you will have no more spirit than a block of protodermis.”
My journey has certainly taken some unexpected turns, thought Nuju. And none quite so overwhelming as this, having to build a civilization from a wilderness. But the words of my mentor will be my guide. And if I should forget them, this peak will serve to remind me.
Nuju turned and looked back up at the summit. “In the memory of a friend, who now sleeps the sleep of shadows,” he said to the mountain, “I give to you his name. From this day on, you will be Mount lhu.”
Vakama moved carefully across a sea of molten protodermis. His eyes scanned the landscape with a very particular goal in mind, one that went far beyond simply the best spot for a new settlement.
He paused on a rocky ledge and pondered. He and Onewa had discussed at length what life might be like on this island in the years to come. Neither Toa Metru believed they had seen the last of Makuta. Even if they succeeded in bringing the Matoran from Metru Nui to this place, and somehow awakening them, they might still never know peace. If Makuta escaped the prison they had created for him, he would not stop his efforts to dominate the Matoran.
That was why, when Vakama looked around, he did not see simply rock and fire. He saw points of vulnerability that would need to be better protected, perhaps by walls or a moat of some sort. He noted spots that could be easily defended, even by only a few well-trained Matoran. By combining the natural terrain with the ingenuity of Ta-Matoran, Vakama was sure he could create much more than a village.
This will be a fortress, he told himself, one whose gates will never be breached. The Matoran will learn how to do the job of the Vahki, defending their homes against any threat.
Even as he thought those words, pain ripped through his mind. It was another of his visions of the future. They had plagued him all his life, but had grown worse since he became a Toa Metru. This time, it produced not so much a visual image as a feeling, as if he were being drained of all energy. It passed quickly, but not before he realized exactly what it was he was experiencing: the loss of his Toa power.
Even after so long, Vakama was unsure just how accurate his visions might be. But if this one was true – if, somehow, he and possibly the other Toa Metru were going to cease to be Toa – then something would have to be done to insure the safety of the Matoran.
But it will not be easy, he knew. And it will not be something I can do alone.
He fitted his disk launcher on his back and mentally triggered its rocket pack function. Then Vakama soared into the sky and headed for the rendezvous point, wondering how he would convince his friends that their time as Toa might soon come to an end.
Onewa was pleased. He had succeeded in finding a portion of this island that closely resembled Po-Metru. There was plenty of room for a village and scores of caves in which carvings could be stored. The natural canyons would give the new Po-Metru some protection and be a reminder of home for the Matoran.
Now he had more practical matters to worry about. In order to escape the Vahki, Onewa had been forced to use his power to destroy the subterranean waterway that led from Metru Nui to the island. A rain of stone had been enough to down the order enforcement squad, but it had also effectively blocked the Toa Metru from ever returning to the city that way. If they were going to go back and save the rest of the Matoran, a new route would have to be found.
The caves are the key, he thought. Who knows how far underground they might extend? It’s always possible that one of these leads all the way back to Metru Nui, and if so I’m going to find it.
He chose to first explore a cavern whose mouth was high up on the slope of a mountain. He had thought to take one of the lightstones from the transport. Now it provided a dim illumination as he entered the cave.
It was empty. There were no signs that anyone had ever passed through here before, nor that any Rahi had ever made it his home. After only a short distance, the ground began to drop sharply. Onewa smiled. Down was exactly where he was hoping to go, after all.
He heard a scuffling sound up ahead. Something large was heading toward him at a rapid pace. Onewa glanced around, but there were no side passages or recesses in the wall in which to take cover. Whatever was coming, he would have to face it head on.
The Toa of Stone braced himself and held up his lightstone. The sounds grew louder. Suddenly, a massive shape came into view, claws and stinger-tail gleaming in the light of the crystal. Onewa gasped. It was a Nui-Jaga, one of the nastier Rahi of Po-Metru, a powerful scorpion-like creature capable of shattering a stone sculpture with one swipe of its tail.
Onewa forced himself to relax. His Kanohi mask was designed for just this sort of situation. He reached out with its power of mind control to take over the Nui-Jaga.
The Toa reeled as if he had been struck with a hurled boulder. His mental probe had slammed into a solid wall of raw emotion in the mind of the Rahi. The impact shattered the efforts of the mask to claim control of the Nui-Jaga and it was only with supreme effort that Onewa remained conscious.
The Rahi now had the perfect opening to attack. Instead, it rushed past Onewa, knocking him off his feet, and continued to race for the surface. Recovering his wits, the Toa pursued. He was amazed that something as big as a Nui-Jaga could move so fast.
Onewa rounded a corner to see the creature rushing toward the cave mouth. Without slowing, without making any effort at all to stop, the Rahi shot out of the tunnel and plunged into space. The Toa made it to the opening in time to see the Nui-Jaga strike the rocky ground far below. There was no need to go down and check the body. The Rahi was dead.
I’ve never seen anything like that, Onewa thought. What could have made it run so hard it went off a cliff?
Then he remembered the overwhelming surge of feeling he had encountered when he reached into the Rahi’s mind. That held the answer, or at least part of one. It hadn’t been anger, or hunger, or even madness that had driven the Nui-Jaga to race to its death.
It had been stark terror.
Onewa glanced down at the stone resting at his feet. Then he looked back at Vakama.
“You realize, of course, that you are completely insane, fire-spitter,” he said.
The Toa Metru had assembled on the beach where they had first come ashore. Matau had been the last to arrive, for reasons he refused to explain. When they reached the rendezvous point, they found that Vakama was already there and had placed six stones in a circle in the sand.
No one needed to be told what they were meant to be. Each of them recalled the day Toa Lhikan visited six Matoran in Metru Nui and handed them Toa stones. Lhikan had invested each of the stones with some of his Toa power. It was that power that had turned the Matoran into the Toa Metru they were today. But sharing his power had resulted in Lhikan transforming from a Toa into a smaller, weaker Turaga.
“Forget this thought-plan,” said Matau. “I am a Toa-hero, and I intend to stay a Toa-hero.”
“Keep calm,” said Nokama. “No one is being forced to do anything. Let’s hear Vakama out.”
As briefly as possible, the Toa of Fire explained his vision. Nokama, Nuju, and Whenua listened attentively, but gave no indication whether they believed him or not. Matau shrugged. Onewa turned away, shaking his head.
Vakama hurled a ball of fire in the Toa of Stone’s path. Angry, Onewa whirled back around, but Vakama cut him off before he could speak. “This is important! Whether the feeling I had means anything or not, we are not immortals. What if one or all of us should die trying to rescue the Matoran? Shouldn’t we act to ensure that other Toa can follow us someday?”
“But past experience says that if we put our power into those stones, we will become Turaga,” said Whenua. “Then who will there be to save the Matoran?”
“I’m not becoming a Turaga,” Matau insisted. “I will swing from the trees like a Rahi first.”
“Lhikan invested his energy into six stones,” said Vakama, picking up one of the perfectly smooth rocks. “Each of us will put a portion of ours into only one. Then we will hide them on this island, in places that only someone with the heart of a true Toa could ever reach.”
None of the Toa Metru said anything. Vakama looked from one to the other, searching for some show of support. Finding none, he placed the stone in the palm of his left hand and then held his right hand over it. Concentrating, he sent a fraction of his Toa power into the stone. It was a strange and unsettling experience. It felt as if the rock was actually hungry for his energy. Only with a supreme act of will was Vakama able to break off the transfer before he had surrendered too much power.
Nokama waited until Vakama was done. Then she bent down and picked up her stone. A moment later, Nuju and Whenua followed suit. Then all three looked at Matau.
“Fine,” said the Toa of Air, snatching up the stone and tossing it from hand to hand. “But no other Toa-hero will want to follow me. How could another ever compare?”
Only the Toa of Stone still stood apart. Nokama picked up Onewa’s Toa stone and held it out to him. “The Toa need to be six united. Air, fire, water, earth, ice… what are we without the strength of stone?”
Onewa took the small rock from her hand. “All right,” he said. “I’ll do it because you ask, Nokama.”
The Toa of Fire reached out and grabbed Onewa’s wrist. Their eyes locked as Vakama, in a voice as hard as solid protodermis, said, “No. You will do it because it is the right thing to do.”
Onewa shook off Vakama’s grip. “All right, all right. Who died and made you Mata Nui anyway?”
“No one,” said Vakama softly. “And I am going to make sure no one ever does.”