Vakama lifted his blazer claw and angled it to reflect the dim sunlight. On a nearby rooftop, Nokama did the same. One by one, the signal was repeated by all the Toa Hordika, relaying that they were in position for the strike.
“I am not sure I like this plan,” said Nuju. “How are we supposed to take them by surprise with the Tahtorak wandering around?”
“The city is full of Rahi. He’s just one more,” replied Kualus. “Granted, a very big one.”
It had only been a minute since Gaaki had reported seeing a monster emerge from out of nowhere to menace Whenua and Bomonga. All thoughts of waiting until dark or putting together a sophisticated plan had been scrapped then. If they did not move quickly, Whenua and the Rahaga were as good as dead.
Now the Toa were positioned about a block away from the tower. Onewa was on the ground near the buildings closest to the Visorak base. High above, Krahka, in the form of the hunting falcon Nivawk, circled and looked for points of weakness. The Tahtorak, impatient, was rooting up chutes and throwing them into the sea.
Krahka/Nivawk screeched. It was a signal. Onewa unleashed his spinners at the ground, sending huge cracks running through the pavement. When they reached the already weakened buildings that ringed the tower, the cracks became chasms. One by one, the structures toppled over onto the assembled Visorak.
That was the signal for the rest of the Toa Hordika and Rahaga to go into action. All four remaining Toa launched their spinners into the cloud of dust and debris. Outnumbered as they were, their only hope was to sow confusion among the enemy.
The Zivon at first ignored the battle going on around it. After all, it really didn’t care if the Visorak were killed – dead ones tasted just as good as live ones. Then a fire spinner struck it in the side, just painful enough to be annoying. Inches away from devouring Whenua and Bomonga, it turned to seek out the source of the attack.
“Lucky,” said the Rahaga.
“You don’t know this group of Toa,” answered Whenua. “We make our own luck. Now let’s get free of this webbing before that thing remembers we’re here.”
Onewa, Nokama, Matau, and Nuju were down off the rooftops now. They could hear Sidorak bellowing for the Visorak to regroup and advance. Barriers of ice and stone kept barring their way, cutting off small groups from rejoining the horde. Then the Rahaga would launch spinners into the knots of Visorak, further adding to the chaos. Up above, Vakama hurled weakened fire spinners designed to give off lots of smoke without much flame.
Krahka was the first to spot the Zivon moving toward the Toa Hordika of Fire. Used to living in darkness, the smoke and dust could not obscure the Zivon’s vision. Krahka swooped down and dug her talons into the Tahtorak’s flesh, spurring it on toward the Visorak’s monstrous ally.
Vakama saw his danger too late. The Zivon’s claw slashed toward him, only to be knocked aside by a sweeping blow from the Tahtorak’s tail. Vakama leaped from the roof even as the Zivon charged, slamming into the Tahtorak’s midsection and driving the beast back.
Nuju spotted Whenua trying desperately to free himself from the Visorak web. He launched a spinner and froze the webbing solid. A shrug was enough to shatter it then.
“This isn’t the healthiest place to be right now,” said the Toa Hordika of Ice.
“It was even less so a few moments ago,” replied Whenua. “What’s going on?”
Nuju gestured toward the tower, now being bombarded by air, stone, and water spinners. “We’re giving the Visorak something to think about.”
Bomonga watched as four Boggarak tumbled off the tower and onto a web far below. “They won’t forget this.”
“Good. We don’t want them to… let them remember, and fear.”
On the far side of the tower, Onewa had forgotten the first rule of this operation. The spinners gave the Toa the chance to strike from long range. Closing in on the Visorak gave the spider creatures too many advantages. Caught up in the heat of the fight, Onewa had gotten too near. Now he was pinned against a wall with a half dozen Visorak moving in.
“All right, come on,” he shouted. “Any Po-Matoran could take you! All they would need is a big enough stick!”
The Oohnorak launched their spinners. Onewa managed to dodge all but one, which struck his right arm, numbing it. The Visorak, sensing weakness, advanced.
“Okay, one arm,” said Onewa. “I can beat you with one arm. Don’t let how I look fool you – you’re not fighting some dumb Rahi now. You’re fighting a Toa!”
An Oohnorak leaped, crashing into Onewa and knocking him to the ground. Its mandibles grabbed the Toa’s good arm while the Visorak closed in.
A short distance away, Matau was fending off the enemy with a long piece of pipe when he spotted Onewa disappear beneath a pile of spiders. An air spinner might blow Onewa away along with his attackers. Matau dodged a Roporak spinner and broke into a run. At just the right moment, he planted the end of the pipe into the ground and vaulted over the horde. At the apex of the vault, he let go, crashing feet first into the Oohnorak.
Before the Visorak could recover, Matau helped Onewa to his feet. “Thanks, brother,” said the Toa Hordika of Stone.
“I couldn’t let you go dark-sleep,” Matau replied. “Who would there be for me to annoy?”
“I am sure you would find someone,” said Onewa. “What do you say we pay these monsters back a little of what we owe?”
Vakama landed hard and lay stunned. All around him, the other Toa Hordika were fighting for their lives. He knew he had to get up and help them. But something held him back. He had faced death, and worse, many times since becoming a Toa, yet never like this. Never before had he gone into battle with the knowledge that he was not meant to be a Toa… that this destiny belonged to someone else. And if it was not his destiny, then he might well die here, fate erasing a cosmic mistake.
He looked up. Through blurry eyes, he saw that the Visorak groups were starting to link up. In a few moments, the horde would be reassembled. Once that happened, the Toa and Rahaga would have no chance. They would fall, the Matoran would never awaken, and no one would be left to remember that Toa Metru had ever fought here.
And maybe it’s better that way, he said to himself.
The Tahtorak smashed into a building. Krahka barely managed to avoid being thrown off. The Zivon’s claws and mandibles were snapping at the Rahi’s flesh, but hadn’t yet been able to penetrate its scaly hide. Snarling, the Tahtorak reached down and grabbed the Zivon with his forelegs. Before his enemy could react, the Tahtorak had lifted it into the air and slammed it down onto its back.
But the Zivon was far from helpless. Webbing shot from the tips of its legs, tangling up the Tahtorak. Taking advantage of the distraction, it rolled over and got back to its feet, hissing and spitting venom.
Krahka shifted her form to that of a razor-fish and dove, slicing through the webbing on her way down. Just before she hit the ground, she transformed again, this time into an insectoid Nui-Rama. She flew straight for the Zivon’s eyes. Behind her, a very angry Tahtorak freed himself from the last of the web.
Flitting and buzzing around in the Zivon’s line of sight, Krahka succeeded in distracting it. By the time it saw the Tahtorak’s tail sweeping toward it, there was no time to do anything. The blow connected, sending the Zivon flying toward the tower.
From the top of the tower, Sidorak had been watching the struggle unfold. The Toa Hordika had taken his horde by surprise, that was true, but the momentum was already beginning to shift. Already, the Visorak were moving to isolate the Toa and Rahaga and finish them off. Barring the unforeseen, he would be sharing a victory celebration with Roodaka before the day was done.
A shadow passed over the sun. Sidorak looked up. At first, he wondered when the Zivon had developed the ability to fly. By the time he realized it hadn’t, it was much too late.
Nuju and Whenua had fought their way over to join Nokama at the base of the tower. She did not look happy. “It’s too big and too well made,” she said. “And half the horde has retreated inside. I don’t think we can take it.”
“Maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way,” said Whenua. “Thinking too much like Toa. Try thinking like Hordika.”
Nokama shuddered. “I would rather not, if it’s all the same to you. I did that once already.”
Nuju smiled. “No, he has a point. Tell me, archivist, what do Rahi hate the most?”
Whenua thought back to his years on the job, and then to the sensations he had experienced since becoming a Toa Hordika. The answer was easy. “Confinement. All wild things hate to be trapped.”
“Exactly. The Visorak are trying to keep us from getting in the tower. What if we tried keeping them from getting out?”
Whenua’s answer was cut off by an impact that shook the building. All three Toa looked up in time to see the monstrous form of the Zivon plunging toward them.
“Your friends need your help,” said Norik.
Vakama looked down at the Rahaga. “They can do better without me. I am sure Matau or Onewa could tell you that.”
“You are still angry about what you read in Lhikan’s journal? Vakama, does it matter so much why you are a Toa, so long as you are one? You have the power – that gives you a responsibility to use it.”
Vakama said nothing, but instead sprinted away toward Onewa and Matau. Norik wanted to see that as a success, but he could sense that something was happening inside of the Toa Hordika of Fire… something dark and dangerous that, like an inferno, might well consume them all in time.
The impact of the Zivon striking the ground shook all of Le-Metru. Amazingly, the creature rose again, although it did stagger a bit in its first few steps. Krahka had shifted her shape once more, this time into a cousin of the Nui-Rama capable of hurling its stingers from a distance. She bore in on the Zivon, launching her barbs, only to see them bounce off its hard shell.
The Tahtorak, too, saw the enemy rise again. Ripping up the support struts of a chute, he threw them at the Zivon. The creature batted them away with its claws and charged.
The Kahgarak watched the Zivon mount its attack. The giant spider had been unconscious for part of the battle, so it had no idea where the massive lizard-like Rahi or the flying insect creature had come from. But it certainly knew where they were going.
Spinner already energizing, it started after the Zivon.
Sidorak clung to the top of the tower. The nearest web was a long way below and there was no guarantee he would not simply plunge through it and end up a very messy blotch on the ground. Better to climb back up and reassess the situation.
A rumble came from below. He looked down to see a wall of earth rising up to surround the tower. At the same moment, water spinners produced a drenching rain centered on the structure. The ledge grew slick. Sidorak made a last effort to pull himself back to the roof, but his claws slipped. He hurled himself as far from the building as he could, aiming for what looked like a strong section of web.
The king of the horde struck the web like a rock, but the product of the Visorak held fast. He shook his head to clear it, then glanced at the tower. The earth now surrounded it, and ice spinners were turning the rain to sleet. Ice was building up on the soil, turning it into a wall as hard as stone surrounding the tower on every side. Every exit was blocked, with most of the horde trapped inside. Given time, they could force their way out again, he knew. Still, Sidorak had been leading the creatures a long time. He had seen what happened when Visorak were stuck in a confined space together. If he was lucky, there might be 50 or 60 left in the end out of the hundreds in there now.
Sidorak cursed in a language that had been old when Metru Nui was new. He knew this was only a temporary setback. He would return with another horde and free the tower in a matter of days. But now the Toa Hordika had seen that the horde was not invulnerable. They would not look at the Visorak with the same horror in their hearts again.
Then there is only one answer, he said to himself. We must give them new reasons to fear.
Vakama thought as fast as he ran. Turning the ground to tar beneath them would not stop the Visorak from launching spinners or shooting web. Fire bursts might slow them down, but not defeat them. A wall of fire would trap Onewa and Matau as surely as the spiders.
He was almost ready to give up in frustration when he noticed the overhang. The upper half of the building behind Onewa and Matau had been damaged in the quake, and it now hung out over where the Oohnorak were assembled.
For the first time in a while, Vakama smiled.
Onewa and Matau had watched the wall of earth and ice go up around the tower. It was an amazing sight – and possibly also the last one they would ever see. The Oohnorak were mounting charge after charge, barely held back by the stone and air spinners. Exhausted, neither Toa Hordika felt they could hold out much longer.
The lead Oohnorak sensed their weakness. The hunt was about to end. It took a step forward, another, and another. Then something struck its back, liquid, sizzling hot. The Visorak screeched and threw itself back.
Now a rain of molten hot protodermis had begun. Onewa and Matau watched in shock as the white-hot droplets poured down on the Visorak. Here was something they could not fight. A hastily woven web simply melted at the touch of the liquid.
Matau pointed upwards. Fire spinners were striking the overhang. It now glowed red and was rapidly melting. As he watched, one spinner went off course, striking further down the building. Fire spat from it, tearing through the weakened structure.
“Move!” yelled Matau, diving at Onewa. The two Toa Hordika barely managed to get clear as the upper part of the structure came crashing down.
“Are you all right?” Vakama was standing over them.
“Except for almost getting flat-crushed, sure,” said Matau. “Your aim was a little off on that last one.”
“A lot of things are off,” said Vakama.
Onewa rose and helped Matau up. “More than you know, fire-spitter. More than you know.”
“Give me the answer!” bellowed the Tahtorak. “Give it to me now!”
The only answer the Zivon gave was a slash with its claws. When the Tahtorak evaded, the Zivon charged and grabbed its foe. Then its stinger began to strike, once, twice, three times, each time deeper than the last. The Tahtorak roared in pain.
Krahka dove for the ground, transforming into a Lohrak as she flew. She wrapped her snakelike body around the Zivon’s stinger in a desperate attempt to hold it back. Spared from the blows for a moment, the Tahtorak tore off a portion of a nearby building and slammed it on top of his foe.
The Zivon reeled and snapped its stinger forward. Krahka lost her grip and flew into the Tahtorak. The Rahi batted her aside and she slammed into a wall. Masonry rained down upon her.
The Tahtorak reached the Zivon just as it sprang. They collided, toppling over, locked in a fierce struggle. The Tahtorak had strength and weight, but the claws, mandibles and stinger of the Zivon gave it multiple ways to hurt its foe. Seeing an opening, it struck with its stinger, looking to end the battle quickly. But this time the Tahtorak was ready. It caught the offending limb in an iron grip and, with a supreme effort of its powerful muscles, snapped the stinger off. The Zivon screamed and scrambled away.
On a pile of rubble nearby, the Kahgarak had seen enough. It sent its spinner flying through the air at the Tahtorak.
Stirring, Krahka saw the whirling wheel of energy heading for the Tahtorak. She knew what it meant. If the Tahtorak fell, then the Zivon would ravage all of Metru Nui, with nothing to stop it. Forcing herself to rise, she found she was too weak to fly. Instead, she summoned her memories of the six Toa Metru, her body taking on aspects of each of theirs.
There was no time to risk an elemental power blast, and her mind was too scattered to focus it anyway. Instead, she ran, harder and faster than she ever had before. She could already tell she would be too late. At the last split second, she veered off and hurled herself at the Zivon.
The spinner struck. The field of darkness opened to consume the Tahtorak, drawing the Rahi into eternal shadow. At that instant, Krahka struck the Zivon full force, driving it into the Tahtorak. With all three in physical contact, the shadow swallowed them whole. In an instant, they were gone.
Onewa could not believe his eyes. With a howl of rage, he unleashed a stone spinner at the Kahgarak. The massive creature turned in time to see it coming, but too late to stop it. A moment later, it was buried beneath a ton of stone.
The Toa Hordika stood for a long time, watching the rock dust settle. Pouks scrambled over the rubble to stand by his side.
“It’s not much of a marker for her,” said the Rahaga.
“Best I could do,” said Onewa. “And more than she expected, I’d guess. I’m still not sure what happened.”
“You six are Toa, dealing with the Rahi inside,” Pouks replied. “Maybe she was a Rahi who discovered a little Toa inside.”