Nokama sat alone in the center of the Toa’s makeshift camp, waiting for Norik and Vakama to return. She understood why the Toa Hordika of Fire was so upset – they had all been extremely harsh to him, although his arrogant attitude had almost invited such treatment. Still, understanding did not make her any less angry with him. After all, their quest to save the Matoran was not being made any easier by his hostility.
She heard the sound of someone approaching. “Vakama?”
But it was not the Toa Hordika, only Norik. Nokama was relieved to see him, but could not conceal her disappointment that Vakama was not with him. “Norik, it’s good you’re back.”
“Vakama has a lot on his mind,” the Rahaga said. “We must give him time to find his destiny.”
“And if he finds a particularly bad one?” asked Onewa.
“Now then – we should begin our search for Keetongu at once,” Norik replied, ignoring the question. Nokama and Onewa exchanged glances, wondering why the Rahaga did not want to address the issue of Vakama.
Matau, on the other hand, was more than happy to focus on the new topic. “Right! Keetongu! Getting turned back into our old, ever-handsome selves. Let’s get on that.”
“But where to start?” asked Nuju. He was still skeptical that a creature like this Keetongu could have been in the city without anyone being aware of it.
“Somewhere you know well,” Norik replied. Then he walked off, followed by the rest of the Rahaga. The Toa looked at each other, then decided that Norik’s abrupt departure was meant as a signal that they should join him. They rose and trailed after the Rahaga, wondering just where he was leading.
Some distance away, Vakama continued to walk aimlessly. He kept replaying his conversation with Norik over in his head. Unity… what does that mean? Were the other Toa showing any unity when they kept criticizing the job I was doing? Okay, so I made some mistakes… like Onewa never has, or Matau – he’s the king of mistakes.
I did what Lhikan would have wanted me to do, he said to himself. I put saving the Matoran first, above personal safety or anything else. It just… didn’t work out. And considering what I learned – that Lhikan’s choice of the six of us as Toa was inspired by Makuta, not the Great Spirit – why should anyone be surprised that we – I – fouled up?
“I can do it alone,” he said aloud. He pictured the shocked looks on the faces of the others when they saw that he had rescued the Matoran all by himself. “I’ll show them all!”
Vakama scrambled over a pile of rubble and found himself at the edge of a steep precipice. The chutes that had once run from this spot had long since been destroyed. Now there was nothing but a view of the vast, web-shrouded city of Metru Nui. The Toa Hordika looked out over his home and was struck again by how big it really was. He frowned. What had he been thinking? How could he believe he could challenge an entire city full of Visorak alone? How would trying that benefit the Matoran?
“Who am I kidding?” he muttered. “Maybe Norik’s right. Maybe I can’t do this without the others. Maybe I don’t want to do this without the others.”
His thoughts were interrupted by a Rhotuka spinner whizzing past his head. Vakama leapt, rolled, and came up on his feet to find himself confronting a Boggarak, the blue Visorak that commonly stalked Ga-Metru. Vakama remembered Gaaki saying that on land, Boggarak spinners had the power to totally dehydrate a target and reduce it to dust.
“Thanks for the warning shot,” he said, readying himself to dodge again.
The Boggarak launched a second spinner. Vakama evaded it with ease. The Toa Hordika energized one of his fire spinners, saying, “All right, so you’ve just got bad aim. Watch and learn.”
Vakama launched the spinner. Just as it was about to strike the Boggarak, another spinner struck the wheel of energy and deflected it from its course. The Toa Hordika turned to see three more Boggarak closing in. With the cliff at his back, and the four Visorak in front of him, he was effectively trapped. His Hordika side rose to the fore – all Rahi hate to be cornered – and he gave a fearsome growl.
The Visorak ignored him. They were used to Rahi making threatening noises when the trap was sprung. That was part of the fun of the hunt. Their only regret was that this hunt would be over so soon, but there were still five more Toa Hordika to track down once Vakama was finished.
Those five Toa Metru stood with the six Rahaga before the Great Temple in Ga-Metru. Despite all the damage done to the city, the temple still stood proudly, as if it were a symbol of the fact that, though the Great Spirit Mata Nui now slumbered, he had not been destroyed.
“Here?” Matau asked in disbelief. “I’m sure it could have great-helped our old Toa selves, but now?”
“We’ll never find a way to change back if you keep talking like that,” Onewa snapped.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s gotten into me,” Matau answered, sharply. “Oh, that’s right – some kind of Rahi monster!”
Norik shot looks at both Toa. “If you’re quite done, we should go inside.”
All five Toa Hordika hesitated. Nokama had already been back to the Great Temple since their transformation, and she remembered how hard it had been for her to enter the structure as a tainted Toa. Now the others were feeling that as well. It just did not seem right to enter – yet, if Norik was correct, their only hope of ever being Toa Metru again lay inside. Still, none of them could take that first step.
Is this it, then? Whenua wondered. Are we already so far gone that the temple of the Great Spirit rejects us? And if that’s true, have we already lost our fight?
Toa Hordika Vakama expected to wake up in a cocoon, or a cage – that’s assuming he was going to wake up at all. When the Boggarak paralyzed him, he had fallen and hit the ground just hard enough to stun himself. Now, as he looked around, he wondered if he was still unconscious and dreaming.
He was alone in a chamber he had never seen before. His wrists were bound with thick Visorak webbing that also served to anchor him to the floor. He pulled at his bonds, but they would not give, even to his Hordika-enhanced strength.
His thoughts raced. Confined. Trapped. Again. I hate being trapped! I hate being helpless! I am a Toa… a Toa of Fire… I am… I am… a Hordika!
A howl split the night, a primal sound of rage and despair. For a moment, Vakama wondered what sort of Rahi would make such a sound. Then he realized with a start that it was coming from his own mouth.
“What’s happening to me?”
A tall figure stepped into the room. She moved as gracefully and noiselessly as if she were made of darkness. Her face and body were as black as shadow, but her eyes blazed like the Ta-Metru fire pits. Vakama had never seen her before, but from Norik’s description, he knew who she had to be.
“You are… becoming,” purred Roodaka.
“Yes, but what?”
The viceroy of the Visorak stopped in front of her prisoner. “A friend… or a foe. That’s for you to decide. It’s why I have invited you here.”
Vakama tugged at his bonds again. “Some invitation.”
Roodaka smiled. “Then perhaps this one will be more to your liking – walk with me. I’ve a… proposal for you.”
Vakama’s Rahi senses were on full alert, screaming that there was danger near. He chose to ignore them. “And if I don’t want to hear it?” he asked.
Roodaka reached out to trace the outline of his misshapen features. “Be reasonable, Vakama.”
With that, she turned and began to walk away. Then, as if suddenly remembering his condition, she waved her hand. The webbing binding him fell away and crumbled to dust.
“What harm could come from listening?” she asked, her voice as soft and cold as the winter wind.