In times past, the Toa’s journey from Ga-Metru to Ko-Metru would have been a quick and simple trip through the transport chutes. Any one of a dozen chutes connected the two metru, most running near the Coliseum. But with so many chutes destroyed and the Coliseum now in the hands of the Visorak, Nokama and the others had to take a longer, slower overland route to Nuju’s metru.
Upon reaching the border of Le-Metru and Ko-Metru, they found that the canal once bridged by chutes now played host to a very different kind of span. Visorak had constructed a bridge of webbing to connect the two metru. Nokama, Nuju, Whenua, and Norik crossed over immediately, leaving Onewa and Matau behind to guard the rear.
The Toa Hordika of Stone now stopped to listen. They had done their best to avoid attracting the attention of Visorak along the journey, but he was fairly certain a squad of Oohnorak had spotted them as they neared the border. The strange sounds he heard only confirmed his fear.
“What was that?” he asked Matau.
The sounds grew nearer, the scuttling noise produced by a dozen Visorak closing in on their position.
“I’ll give you one guess, as long as it’s Visorak,” Matau answered. “Beat-feet!”
Onewa started to take a step onto the bridge, then hesitated. “You think it’ll hold?”
“I don’t know. But I’d rather take my chances with it than them.”
“Good point,” said Onewa.
On the other side of the span, Nokama turned back to see her two fellow Toa Hordika still lagging. “Matau, Onewa – hurry!” she shouted.
The Toa Hordika of Stone gingerly put his foot on the bridge. Instantly, he knew it had been a mistake. Strained beyond its breaking point, the webbing snapped violently. Onewa fell backward as Nokama, Nuju, Whenua, and Norik were launched into the air as if from a slingshot.
The three Toa Hordika managed to catch hold of ledges on the chasm wall and scramble up the other side. Nuju looked around and noticed that one member of their party was absent. “Where’s Norik?”
“Up here!” The voice came from above. They looked up to see that the Rahaga was ensnared in a part of the bridge’s webbing. “This is not entirely pleasant.”
“Yeah,” said Whenua. “Been there, done that.”
Nokama glanced back over the bridge. Onewa and Matau were now effectively stranded. Worse, she could see the vague forms of Oohnorak approaching them through the mist. In a matter of moments, her two friends would either be captured by the Visorak or forced off the edge and sent plunging into the canal to their doom.
And the terrible thing is, I am not sure which fate would be worse, she said to herself.
Vakama stood in what had once been Turaga Dume’s inner chamber in the Coliseum, later converted by Makuta for his own dark purposes. The centerpiece of the room was a dark, twisted throne. Even empty, there was no mistaking the fact that this was a seat of power.
“Go ahead,” Roodaka beckoned. “Touch it.”
Vakama reached out and let his fingers brush the throne. In that instant, his mind was flooded with shadows, images of evil deeds past and those to come, and a vast, all-consuming contempt for any who stood in opposition to his desires.
No, not my desires – Makuta’s, he realized. But in this moment, they are the same… we are the same. The eclipse, the earthquake – Makuta caused them by sending the Great Spirit Mata Nui into unending slumber. The Matoran and the Rahi and everything else that lives would be sealed away until such time as they could be awakened to live under our… under his rule. That is why the Visorak are here, that is why they have marched through and conquered land after land, and there is nothing on Metru Nui that can stop us… them… us.
The Toa Hordika of Fire yanked his hand away from the throne as if the chair had bitten him. It felt as if he had been touching it and awash in its corruption for an age, when in reality only a split second had passed.
“What did you see?” asked Roodaka.
Before Vakama could answer, Sidorak entered the chamber. “You can look, Vakama, but don’t touch.”
Vakama turned to see the king of the Visorak approaching, flanked by two Oohnorak. Sidorak sat down heavily on the throne.
“I wanted to thank you personally,” he said to Vakama. “Because of you, the Rahaga will meet a fitting end. Just as soon as I think of one.”
“It is just the beginning of what he can offer you,” Roodaka said softly.
“Is that so?”
“It is, my king,” the viceroy purred. “Vakama is my gift to you. A fitting master for your horde.”
Sidorak shook his head. As much as he respected Roodaka’s wisdom, she was wrong in this case. The horde was far too large for any one field commander to manage. “Hordika or not, there’s only one of him –”
But Roodaka was prepared for this objection. “Which is why the other Toa are on their way here. With Vakama leading your horde, they will be captured and… trained… just like him. Will all six be enough to please you?”
“A fine offer, Roodaka,” Sidorak said.
“Consider it an engagement gift,” Roodaka pronounced, smiling.
“Well, then,” Sidorak replied, glancing at Vakama. “We should introduce you to the horde.”
Matau looped another strand of webbing around two rock outcroppings. Satisfied with what he had created, he looked at Onewa. “Come on.”
“You’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking,” said the Toa Hordika of Stone.
Matau pulled the webbing taut and tested its strength. Then he stepped into the center of the makeshift slingshot and backed up against the resistance of the webbing, stretching it out.
“Yes. You are,” said Onewa, stepping over to join the Toa Hordika of Air in the center. “I knew there was a reason I always liked you.”
Working together, they forced the webbing back, back, until it was strained to the limit. “Tight-hold!” said Matau.
Onewa grabbed on to his fellow Toa. Then they both lifted their feet from the ground and the slingshot snapped forward, launching them out over the chasm just as the Oohnorak burst into view behind them. Spotting Norik entangled below, Onewa reached down and grabbed him. “Going our way?”
“We did it!” shouted Matau. “We’re going to make it!”
But the Toa Hordika of Air had spoken too soon. With the added weight of Norik, their momentum was spending itself too soon. They began to arc down toward the water below.
“Or not,” added Matau.
The Toa Hordika and Rahaga slammed into the water. Above, their three allies watched with concern. “What do we do now?” asked Whenua.
“Seeing as Norik is the one that knows the way to Keetongu,” said Nokama, “we swim!”
She ran and jumped off the ledge, executing a graceful dive into the canal. A moment later, she disappeared beneath the surface of the liquid protodermis.
Whenua looked at Nuju. “Oh, brother.”
The two Toa stepped to the edge, steeled themselves, and jumped off.
Sidorak marched boldly through a Coliseum tunnel, Vakama dutifully following behind. The king of the Visorak reflected on what he had accomplished this day. An “engagement” with Roodaka would have many positive effects. As queen of the hordes, she would share equally with Sidorak in the rewards of conquest, making it less likely she would try to undercut his power in future. This ridiculous competition to earn Makuta’s favor would end. Best of all, Sidorak would now have standing in Roodaka’s land – and given the power of those said to dwell there, that was no small achievement.
Vakama was another matter, of course. Sidorak saw no reason not to trust the Toa Hordika’s defection, and it was true that no other horde master would be better suited to anticipate the strategies of Toa. Still, the king was determined that Vakama’s ambitions would start and end with being field commander, and not extend to the throne. Sidorak knew from experience how quickly a ruthless being could ascend to power.
“You know, Vakama, you remind me a bit of myself at your age,” he said. When Vakama made no reply, he added, “That was a compliment.”
“Thank you, my king,” Vakama said half-heartedly.
“Think nothing of it. Such is the generosity of my rule,” the king continued. “My horde is an obedient one. They will do anything you command. Unless I command differently, of course.”
“Of course,” Vakama replied.
Sidorak slapped the Toa Hordika on the back, almost knocking him off his feet. “Good. Now then –”
They stepped out onto the Coliseum observation deck. Assembled below were hundreds of Visorak of every type, waiting for their orders.
“Meet the troops!” boomed Sidorak.
The eyes of the Visorak spiders went from Sidorak to Vakama. Then, as one, they bowed before their new commander. Despite himself, Vakama felt a flush of pride. These were experienced hunters, crack teams that had ravaged a thousand lands, and yet they were prepared to follow his leadership. Where five Toa had scoffed at him, a thousand Visorak were now ready to fight at his command.
“Perhaps you’d like to say a few words?” suggested Sidorak.
Vakama’s Hordika side rose in full fury. He gave a roar that shook the Coliseum. The Visorak horde rose to its collective feet and responded with a roar of its own. From a distance, Roodaka watched the scene unfold with pleasure. As viceroy, she had limited authority over the horde, and many of the Visorak refused to do anything without Sidorak’s stated approval. But now Vakama ruled the horde, and she would rule Vakama.
Sidorak doesn’t know it, she thought, but he just became expendable.
Toa Hordika flew through an underwater chute at a frightening rate of speed. Unlike the above-ground chutes, this one was still functional, evidently from some power source previously undiscovered by the Matoran.
That explains how the Visorak got to Metru Nui, thought Nokama as she rocketed along. There must be other chutes under the sea that are still operating, though I can’t imagine how.
Her eyes, more accustomed to seeing underwater than those of the others, detected something strange ahead. The chute curved upward abruptly and seemed to be ruptured in places. She could feel a chill in the water as she drew closer to that spot. The next instant, she was no longer in liquid protodermis, but skidding along a sheet of ice inside the chute!
Water, she could handle – ice was another matter. Unable to check her flight, she went hurtling out of the chute, followed closely by Nuju and Whenua. All three sailed through the air before slamming into a snowbank.
Shaken, Nokama looked around. They were in a white world, so bright it was almost blinding. It looked like Ko-Metru, but a Ko-Metru where the weather had gone mad. “Where are we?” she asked.
“Home,” said Nuju.
Whenua shook the snow off himself. “Good. Then you know where we are?”
Nuju looked around. With surprise in his voice, he answered, “No.”
Whenua shook his head. “Always watching the stars. But the earth has its secrets, too.”
Norik’s head suddenly popped out of the canopy of snow above them. “Keetongu has never been found, my friends. It follows that where he lives hasn’t been, either.”
“I don’t believe it.” It was Matau’s voice, coming from somewhere off to the left. Nokama turned to see the Toa Hordika of Air pulling himself out of a snowdrift and pointing into the distance.
“It does sky-touch,” he said, in awe.
Norik and the Toa Hordika looked in the direction he was pointing. Liquid protodermis from the ruptured chute had jetted into the air at some point, only to be frozen solid, forming a mountain of crystal-clear ice.
“Come!” shouted Norik, already racing toward its base.
On the floor of the Coliseum, the Visorak horde drilled in preparation for another battle. High above, Vakama watched over his legions, noting every aspect of their movement style and tactics.
“Is it everything I promised you?”
He glanced behind him to see Roodaka approaching, then turned his attention back to the Visorak. “We’ll soon find out,” he answered.
“Yes, a night of great consequence falls. Be ready – before it is over, many things will change.” She gestured toward the approaching Sidorak. “Here comes one of those things now.”
The king of the Visorak joined his viceroy and new general. “How is my horde, Vakama?”
“Obedient,” answered the Toa Hordika. “And ready, Sidorak, for anything that comes.”
“Especially Toa,” said Vakama.
Sidorak surveyed the scene. As king, he felt he should be issuing some order or offering counsel, but Vakama seemed to have everything well under control. “Well, then… what now?”
“The hardest part,” answered Vakama, gazing out over the city. “We wait.”