1

The battle was over. Those Visorak still free had retreated to the border of Le-Metru until further orders. Now, days later, the Toa Hordika surveyed the field of victory and prepared for what was to come.

Onewa and Nuju had worked together to tear down the wall around the Visorak tower. It was hard work, made more so by the need to keep an eye out for spider creatures who might be waiting to leap out. When the last piece of ice and earth had been removed, they opened the hatch leading inside, ready for anything.

The first thing that struck the Toa Hordika was the stench. Visorak did not smell particularly good under normal circumstances. Trap them together for a few days and it was far worse. A rustle of spider legs was followed by the appearance of a dozen or so battered Boggarak. None of them seemed at all interested in a fight.

“Do we stop them?” asked Onewa.

“Instinct would say we should,” Nuju replied. “But I am no longer sure I trust my instincts. They are no threat. It may be best to save our energies for the fresh hordes that will come against us.”

The Toa Hordika spent most of the next day cleaning out the tower, chasing away surviving Visorak and burying the dead. When the ugly task was finished, they stood looking at the structure, puzzled.

“Now what?” asked Whenua. “Knock it down?”

“What purpose would that serve?” asked Norik.

“No purpose,” said Vakama, looking hard at the Rahaga. “It just feels good.”

“That’s the beast talking,” Pouks muttered. “Go ahead, think like Rahi. Act like Rahi. I could tell you stories about how many Rahi have escaped the Visorak over the years. They’re really short stories.”

“I think we can find another use for this,” said Iruini. “That’s if this pack of wild Muaka calling themselves Toa has the patience to do something worthwhile.”

“Talk,” said Nokama. “We’ll listen.”

Onewa hauled another piece of rubble toward the tower. It was backbreaking work, even with the enhanced strength of a Toa. As he walked, he remembered Iruini’s words.

“We won this fight,” the Rahaga had said. “We may win the next one, or we may not. You may take the Coliseum and free the Matoran… or free only a few and then be driven back. You need a place of safety to which you can retreat. This tower can be that place.”

Onewa could remember his reply too. “You’re crazy. I know something about stone. This tower is strong, sure, but eventually the horde would batter down the hatch and that would be the end of it. Even barricading it would only buy us a little extra time.”

“Not if you use my idea of a barricade,” the Rahaga had said, smiling.

Onewa came up over a pile of shattered stone to see the results of the Toa’s labors. A new gateway had been constructed at the front of the tower. At Nokama’s suggestion, it resembled a huge Kanohi mask, like the gates of the Coliseum. A strong portcullis had been put into place as well. The Toa Hordika of Stone paused to survey the structure, then shook his head and said, “Still not enough.”

“Drop that and come here,” said Iruini. “All of you, gather around.”

The six Toa Hordika did as they were asked. Norik passed among them, gesturing for them to raise their tools and lightly touch the surface of the new structure. For an instant, their tools blazed to life, only to fade out again.

“What was that?” asked Nuju.

Iruini scampered away, picked up a rock, and threw it at the portcullis. Just before it struck the bars, bolts of fire and ice shot from the walls of the gateway and disintegrated the rock.

“Just as your tools can charge your Rhotuka spinners with greater elemental power,” said Norik, “you can charge other physical objects as well. You will have to repeat it numerous times to maintain the charge, but while it has a portion of your power, it will be a formidable barrier.”

“Let’s invite some Visorak to be our home-guests,” said Matau. “I want to try this out.”

“You’ll find out, Toa, that the Visorak have a very bad habit,” said Kualus. “They never wait for an invitation to come calling.”

Roodaka stood on a rocky crag overlooking the protodermis sea. Here on the Great Barrier, she could view the entire city, enjoying the sight of it slowly being strangled by Visorak webs. She often came to this spot when she needed time to plan, far away from Sidorak’s ranting.

Of course, that was not the only reason she journeyed here atop a mutated Nui-Kopen wasp. The true attraction was a slab of protodermis marked with a Toa seal. Behind this slab lay imprisoned the master of shadows, Makuta. Her power, Sidorak’s power, even the might of the assembled hordes was not enough to free her sovereign.

But the Toa have the power, she thought. What they created, they can undo. And undo it they shall, if I have to rip the Toa power out of them.

Sidorak didn’t understand. To him, Metru Nui was just one more game of conquest. He hated the Toa Hordika because they were not surrendering before his might. Their resistance might serve to embolden the Visorak to rebel. In addition he knew that by now the Rahaga would have spun their wild tales of Keetongu, the Rahi said to have the power to undo everything Sidorak had built. If such a creature existed, and if the Toa found it…

“Nonsense!” she spat. “It is an old Rahaga’s tale they have told for decades, trying to keep their wretched spirits up. There is no Keetongu. There never was. And even if it existed… I know how to deal with Rahi.”

Roodaka turned and peered at the crystalline protodermis shell, trying to glimpse Makuta’s face. All she could make out was a dark blur, but it was enough. She knew he was in there. She knew his mind was aware of her presence, even if his body could not move.

“Soon, Makuta,” she whispered. “I have used the most devastating tool I could imagine against the Toa: the truth. Already, it must be eating away at their resolve. They will fracture… their spirits will crumble to dust… and in their last moments, they will know their return to Metru Nui served only to free their greatest enemy.”

Makuta did not answer. But the shadows grew deeper around Roodaka, as if their master was offering a sign of his approval.

The Toa Hordika and Rahaga sat in a clearing near their newly christened “Tower of Toa.” Vakama had used his Rhotuka spinner to start a fire. The Toa Hordika didn’t really need the warmth – in fact, the fire put off their Rahi sides – but the Rahaga were not quite so immune to the elements. Despite their successes, the mood around the flames was grim.

“We did well,” said Nokama, “considering.”

“Considering what?” asked Matau.

Vakama glanced at the Toa Hordika of Water. He knew the answer to his question before he asked. “You learned the truth as well?”

“Yes,” she replied. “We were never meant to be Toa Metru. The destiny belonged to others. But I suppose it is our destiny now, for good or ill.”

“Lhikan knew,” said Vakama, frowning. “But he went against his instincts. Something made him choose us. Why?”

Onewa rose. “I think I can answer that. But you won’t like what you hear.”

When none of the Toa responded, he continued. “Think back. Toa Lhikan suspected something was wrong in the city. Makuta, in the guise of Dume, sent the Dark Hunters to stop him. But the false Dume couldn’t be sure they would succeed before Lhikan was able to create more Toa.

“So Makuta studied the signs in the stars. He discovered that the Matoran who had found the Great Disks were destined to be Toa. They were far from perfect candidates, but with Lhikan to lead them, they might have been an effective team. I guess he never considered that Lhikan might have to sacrifice all his Toa power to create a new team.”

Matau wished he could find some way to drown out Onewa’s voice. He could guess what was coming next.

“Makuta planted the thought in Lhikan’s mind to choose other Matoran. Without his even being aware, Lhikan was being directed toward picking six strong-willed, stubborn types who would never get along, let alone follow any leader or be able to function as a team. In other words, us.”

“It cannot be,” whispered Nuju.

“I found Makuta’s lair in Po-Metru,” said Onewa. “I read the story in his own words. We are Toa Metru, brothers and sister… by the grace of Makuta.”

“Born from shadows to defend the light,” Vakama said quietly. “Is it any wonder the beasts inside us are so strong?”

“So what do we do now?” said Whenua. “Now that we know where we came from?”

Nokama looked at each Toa Hordika in turn. “We worry about where we’re going… not where we’ve been. Makuta wanted us to turn on each other, fight among ourselves, so that he could succeed. But we stopped him. And we will go on stopping him and others like him. It’s who we are – it’s what we do.”

The other Toa nodded their agreement. But in their hearts, doubts grew where none had ever been before, and the coming dawn felt very, very far away.

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