Toa Hordika Onewa and Pouks crouched atop a canyon wall. Down below, a small herd of Kane-Ra bulls stirred uneasily in front of a cavern entrance. With all the Po-Matoran gone, the herd had staked out this area as their own territory. They had already been forced to defend it against Muaka cats and so were alert and on edge.
“All right,” said Pouks. “Half a dozen Kane-Ra between you and your goal, Onewa. What’s the plan?”
“That’s easy. I use my Kanohi Mask of Mind Control on the herd leader and make them stampede.”
Pouks shook his head. “Masks don’t work for Hordika, carver. Try again.”
Onewa shrugged, obviously annoyed. “Then I use my power over stone. I cause a rockslide and scare them off.”
“Better. Not good, but better.” Pouks’ tone was mocking. “Got another guess?”
Onewa stood up and tore a chunk of rock out of the canyon wall. “I take this boulder and I throw it at them,” he shouted. “And I keep throwing more until they are buried underneath them. I might even save one for you, Rahaga, if you don’t shut up. Then I march over the Kane-Ra and I get what I came for!”
Pouks walked over and put a hand on Onewa’s arm. He exerted a gentle pressure, trying to get the Toa to drop the rock, but Onewa continued to hold it aloft. “That’s the Hordika part of you talking,” said Pouks. “That’s the part that wants to hurt and destroy.”
The Rahaga pointed down into the canyon. Two Kane-Ra were charging each other, heads lowered and sharp horns primed to pierce each other’s flanks. “You can overcome that part of you, Toa, or you can end up no better than them.”
Glaring at the Rahaga, Onewa lifted the rock a little higher. Pouks looked into his eyes, searching for some sign that a hero of Metru Nui still lived inside that monstrous shell. If the Hordika side has already taken over, I am in for a disappointment, he said to himself. A crushing disappointment.
Since becoming a Toa, Whenua had been in a number of strange places and situations. After being transformed into a bestial Hordika, he fully expected to be in even more bizarre settings. But somehow he had never pictured himself lying half-buried in dirt outside an Archives entrance.
“What exactly are we doing?” he asked.
The Rahaga named Bomonga said nothing. He didn’t even turn to look at the Toa.
“We are supposed to be gathering levitation disks,” Whenua tried again. “Remember?”
This time, Bomonga glanced at his companion. Then he went back to staring into the darkness.
“What are we looking for?” Whenua asked, irritated. “And why are we doing it from under a pile of dirt?”
Bomonga’s answer was more silence. Whenua started to get up. The Rahaga grabbed his wrist and, showing surprising strength, yanked him back down to the ground. “Hey!” snapped Whenua.
The Rahaga pointed into the darkness. An instant later, a night creeper came scurrying across the broken pavement. Roughly seven feet long, with six powerful legs, the creeper’s jaws snapped open and shut as it hunted through the rubble for food.
Whenua was about to say something about there being a time and a place for Rahi watching when something else entered the scene. It was a black Visorak spider crawling rapidly toward the creeper. When the nocturnal Rahi realized its danger, it was already too late. The Visorak spat a stream of webbing, entangling the creeper.
Bomonga’s eyes narrowed. With a guttural snarl, he launched his spinner. The whirling disk flew silently through the air to strike the Visorak and adhere to its body. The spider froze in place. Without waiting for Whenua, the Rahaga sprang from the dirt and began tearing at the webbing that bound the creeper.
By the time the Toa reached the spot, the Rahi was already free. It raced off into the night without a backward glance. Bomonga gestured toward the Visorak, which still stood like a Po-Metru statue. “Learn,” said the Rahaga.
The Hordika part of Whenua rebelled at getting too close to the Visorak. It was an instinctive revulsion, one which took all of the Toa’s willpower to overcome. He reminded himself that before becoming a Toa or a Hordika, he had been an archivist. This was a chance to study the enemy.
Somewhere in the night, a rock raptor howled. Whenua paused, listening to the mournful sound. He wanted to be out there in the shadows, too, exploring, hunting, fighting for survival. A Rahi had no responsibilities, no duties or obligations to others. The more he thought about it, the more that sounded like the right way to live.
He took a step away from the Visorak, then another, as if being pulled by a magnetic force. Bomonga vaulted over a slab of rock and put himself in Whenua’s path. “Learn!” said the Rahaga.
Bomonga shook his head, saying, “You learn, you survive. You don’t…?”
Reluctantly, Whenua turned back to the Visorak. But in his heart he knew it would not be long before he would be unable to resist the urge to join the Rahi prowling the city. When that time came, no Rahaga would be able to stop him.
Vakama smashed open the door to his old forge. He kept pounding on it long after the lock had given way, until the metal was dented and misshapen beyond repair. Then he looked around for something else to hit.
“Was that necessary?” asked Norik.
“No. But it was fun,” answered Vakama. “Didn’t you think so?”
Norik followed Vakama into the darkened chamber. “All I saw was destruction with no purpose.”
“So? I’m a Toa. All we do is destroy, didn’t you know that? Our friendships, our homes, our city… all just rubble. We save no one, nothing, Rahaga. Not even ourselves.”
Vakama picked up a handful of mask making tools and dashed them against the wall. “This place is full of useless junk,” he growled. “We shouldn’t have come back here.”
“You spent many happy days here, did you not?” asked Norik. “Even after you became a Toa, you sometimes wished that you could go back to being a mask maker again, right here.”
“I did a lot of stupid things when I was a Toa. That was the least of them.”
“Anger rules your spirit, Vakama. It makes the burden of responsibility that you bear that much heavier, I know.”
Vakama whirled, seized Norik, and lifted him into the air. “You don’t know anything, little one! You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. So stop pretending you do!”
For a moment, Norik thought Vakama would strike him. But the Toa Hordika simply shrugged and dropped the Rahaga as if he were a broken mask. “Stay out of my way until this is finished,” Vakama warned. “Or I won’t be responsible for what happens to you.”
“I can take care of myself,” Norik answered, brushing himself off. “Can you say the same?”
Vakama didn’t answer. Instead, he began rummaging through a pile of tools, half-finished items, broken masks, and other remnants of his past life. “I know they’re here. Where are they?”
Norik watched him search, noting how casually he threw things aside that must have once had meaning for him. From what the others said, Vakama had always been the most driven of the Toa Metru. Now it seemed that trait was causing him to succumb to his Hordika side that much faster.
“What are you looking for?” the Rahaga asked. “Maybe I can help find it.”
“Just before Lhikan was captured, I had gotten an order from Le-Metru for a half dozen sets of airship controls. I made the parts, but I never had the chance to send them out for assembly. They should still be here.”
Vakama searched his work table and a few other piles on the floor, all without success. Frustrated, he picked up a Kanoka disk and hurled it across the room. It struck the wall, the impact triggering the disk’s weakness power. The outer surface of the wall crumbled away, revealing a small compartment.
One glance at Vakama told Norik that the Toa Hordika had not been expecting this. He made it across the room in three quick strides and tore the hatch off the hidden compartment. He reached inside and emerged holding a fiery red Kanoka disk with the image of a Kanohi mask engraved upon it.
Vakama looked down at the disk as if it were a Lohrak serpent ready to bite him. “This makes no sense,” he muttered. “None. It’s not possible.”
Norik climbed up the pipes and hovered over Vakama’s shoulder. The mask depicted on the disk was definitely not the Toa Hordika’s, nor did it belong to any of the other Toa. “What is this disk?”
Vakama raised the disk and slammed it against the ground. Fire erupted from the Kanoka. Toa Hordika and Rahaga watched it burn out in silence.
When Vakama finally spoke, he sounded like a lost being. “I don’t understand. This is a Toa disk, Norik, for a Toa of Fire. It’s like the one I found in the suva the day I became a Toa Metru. It had an image of my Mask of Concealment engraved upon it, a sign that I was destined to be a Toa by the will of Mata Nui.”
The Toa Hordika picked up the still hot disk. “The mask on this Toa disk belongs to Nuhrii, a Ta-Matoran. He found one of the six Great Disks and helped us save Metru Nui from the Morbuzakh plant.”
Vakama dug into his pack and pulled out his own Toa disk. Even though he no longer had his launcher, he still carried the disk as a symbol of what used to be. Now he looked at it as if seeing it for the very first time. Even from his high perch, Norik could see that something was very wrong.
“Something has been scratched out,’’ Vakama said quietly. “I never noticed it before. Something was here and it was wiped away… and my mask carved on top of it.”
The Toa Hordika slumped to the floor. “Can’t you see? If all this is what it seems to be then it was Nuhrii’s destiny all along. I am a… mistake. I was never meant to be Toa of Fire!”
Norik struggled to find words of comfort, but none came. He wanted to tell Vakama that there was some error, that this interpretation of the evidence must be mistaken. Instead, he said nothing. Silence, he decided, would be far better than lying.