Nokama, Nuju, Onewa, and Whenua made their way through the twisting corridors of the Coliseum. Their goal was the subterranean vault in which the sleeping Matoran were kept, locked inside silver spheres.
“Keep moving,” urged Nokama. “We’re almost there.”
“The Matoran are in the next chamber,” said Nuju.
The four Toa Hordika rushed into the vault and past a pair of massive pillars to reach the storage racks. All around them were stacks of Matoran spheres. The knowledge that they were so close to completing their mission, despite all the obstacles they had faced, filled the Toa with a feeling of triumph.
“We made it!” shouted Onewa.
But Whenua was not ready to join the celebration. His enhanced Hordika senses told him something was wrong. It was what felt like a draft in a room far removed from any outside exits. With a shudder, he realized that it was not a draft – it was something breathing.
The pillars moved, revealing themselves to be huge legs. The ceiling shifted as a massive creature bent down, the monstrous face of a Kahgarak coming into view. The Toa had seen these elite Visorak guardians before, but never one quite so large.
“And that’s a good thing?” said Whenua.
Onewa shook his head. “We are so gonna feel this…”
With a sharp hiss, the Kahgarak attacked. An instant later, the Toa Metru were flying through the Coliseum wall and out into the center of the arena. Debris rained down around them, half-burying them in a pit.
“Weren’t we just here?” asked Nuju, dazed.
Nokama glanced up. Visorak of every type were fast converging on the pit. The Toa were completely surrounded.
“On your feet,” she barked to the others. “Now!”
Standing back to back, the Toa Hordika prepared for what would surely be their last stand.
Matau heard the wind whistle past him as he fell toward the arena floor. Letting go had been a desperate gamble, and it appeared headed for failure.
“What a dark-mess,” he muttered. “I was stupid to think I could quick-save Vakama.”
“You did, Matau.”
The Toa Hordika of Air looked up. There was Vakama, plunging down after him, arms out-stretched. “Vakama!”
“Yes,” said the Toa Hordika of Fire. “The one you know.”
Now they were both falling, but Matau hardly noticed. With his brother Toa at his side, he suddenly felt like they could overcome anything.
“Well, feel free to return the favor, brother,” he said. “There’s no shortage of Toa-heroes who need saving.”
Vakama smiled. “Yes. I have a plan for that.” He grabbed Matau.
“Great,” replied Matau. “But do you have a thought-plan to make us –”
His sentence was cut off by the abrupt halt in their fall. Puzzled, Matau looked up and saw that Vakama had a strand of Visorak webbing tied around his ankle. Its elasticity had stopped their plunge without snapping them in two, for which Matau was grateful. He was less so about what was going to happen next.
Stretched to its limit, the webbing suddenly snapped back, sending the two Toa hurtling up toward the observation deck.
The five Rahaga struggled in vain to undo their bonds. They had seen the valiant fight the Toa Hordika were putting up against the hordes, futile as it might be. They knew once the Toa were downed, Roodaka would have no further use for her “bait.”
“It’s no use,” said Bomonga. “What would Norik do?”
None of the Rahaga had an answer for that. Then a reply came from an unexpected direction – up above!
“Watch, and I’ll show you!”
The Rahaga followed the direction of the voice to see their missing friend flying toward them on top of his energy spinner.
“Norik!” shouted Kualus, overjoyed.
“I knew you’d come for us!” said Iruini. “What took you so long?”
Norik landed and unlimbered his staff, using its edge to slice through the Rahaga’s bonds. “My flying isn’t what it used to be. I’m not exactly a Toa, you know.”
“Not exactly,” agreed Bomonga.
“Now then,” said Norik, “let’s go help those who are.”
The Rahaga reached the arena floor just as the Visorak’s determined attack was about to overwhelm the four Toa Hordika.
“This is it,” said Nokama, almost too tired to lift her fin barbs. “May the Great Spirit welcome us.”
“Mind if we lend a hand?” shouted Norik.
“Or twelve of them?” said Iruini.
“We’re going to need them all,” answered Onewa.
In truth, they were going to need far more than the help of the Rahaga to win the day. The Visorak came in waves, and even with the addition of new allies, it was only a matter of time before the Toa’s defenses were broken.
“Norik, even with your help –” Nokama began.
“I know, noble Nokama,” the Rahaga answered. “And it’s all right.”
Roodaka’s voice cut through the din of battle. “I’m glad to hear you have made your peace, Rahaga.”
The viceroy of the Visorak was riding atop the Kahgarak, the horde assembled around her. If the Visorak were less than enthusiastic to be following the murderer of their king, they were keeping it to themselves.
Roodaka dismounted and looked at the four Toa. “But first, you have something I want.”
“What more could you possibly take from us?” asked Nokama.
The viceroy smiled. “Your elemental powers. Earth. Stone. Ice. Water. Fire already belongs to me.” Then her smile abruptly vanished. “Wait – one’s missing.”
Matau landed hard in front of her. “Yeah. That would be me.”
Vakama followed right after him, taking up a position next to Roodaka. “Thank you, Vakama,” said the viceroy. “Now about those powers…”
Matau willed his Rhotuka spinner to life. Nuju, Nokama, Onewa, and Whenua followed his lead. “You want ‘em so bad?” snarled the Toa Hordika of Air. “Take ‘em!”
The five Rhotuka spinners slammed into Roodaka, unleashing their elemental fury. She was staggered by the onslaught, but not felled. Instead, her response was chilling laughter.
“All right,” said Matau. “Who quick-launched the tickle spinner?”
“Fools!” snapped Roodaka. “Your powers are nothing.” She gestured to Vakama, who still stood silently beside her. “If they are not united.”
Roodaka raised a claw and summoned the dark energy that coursed through her. “And as Vakama stands with me –”
“Actually…,” said the Toa Hordika of Fire.
Roodaka turned to see him activating a fire spinner, aimed squarely at her.
“I wanted to talk to you about that,” he finished.
For only a moment, the viceroy showed fear. Then she regained her composure and gestured toward the horde. “You can defeat me, Vakama, but not all of them. Strike me down, and they will surely destroy you and your friends. Think about it.”
“I have,” answered Vakama. “And seeing as you convinced Sidorak to have the horde obey me…” He turned to the assembled legions of spider creatures. “Get out of here, all of you. You’re free. That’s an order.”
For a split second, the outcome was in doubt. The Visorak had been conditioned for years to blindly follow the orders of their leader. Sidorak had led them to conquest after conquest, and Roodaka was his successor by virtue of his death. Ordinarily, even the orders of their commander could not make them turn on their leader. But too many of them had seen Roodaka lure Sidorak to his death… and betrayal could not, must not, be rewarded with loyalty. Without so much as a glance in her direction, the horde dispersed, abandoning her as she had abandoned their king.
“Traitors!” Roodaka screamed after them.
“You can’t betray someone you’re enslaved to,” said Vakama.
“And to think I thought you could be king,” she sneered.
“I lead only those who choose to follow me,” Vakama replied. “That’s the difference between being a leader and being a tyrant. A certain Toa taught me that. And something else… our destinies are not written in stone, set in place. They are something we have to find for ourselves.”
His spinner rose and hovered in the air. “I’ve found mine.”
Everything happened at lightning speed. In the instant before the spinner was sent on its way, Roodaka pried open a plate on her armor to reveal an ebony stone. Seeing this, Norik rushed forward and screamed, “No, Vakama! Don’t!”
It was too late. Vakama’s spinner crossed the short distance between him and Roodaka and struck her. Its energies combined with those she had already absorbed, setting off a chain reaction. There was an explosion of brilliant light so bright it blinded them all. When the glare had faded, Roodaka was no more, with only shards of the stone remaining to mark her passing.
“Vakama, you have no idea what you’ve just done,” said Norik.
“Her heartstone,” Vakama replied.
“Yes, carved from the same protodermis you sealed the Makuta in. In destroying it, you’ve broken the seal.”
“And set Makuta free,” concluded the Toa Hordika of Fire. He looked at his brothers and sister, safe and together once more. “For some reason, he doesn’t scare me anymore.”
Vakama turned at the sound of an impact behind him. He saw Keetongu on the ground, spent from his efforts against Sidorak and Roodaka. The Toa Hordika gathered by the Rahi’s side.
“You owe me nothing, Keetongu, especially in light of all you’ve already done,” said Vakama. “But my duty requires that I ask – will you change us back?”
Keetongu’s answer came in his own language. Norik translated, “He wants to know why you would want that, now that you have made peace with the beast within? That you might even be the better for it…”
“There’s a promise we must be our old selves in order to keep,” Vakama answered.
“Then so will you be,” said Keetongu.
Vakama held out his fist. The other five Toa Hordika touched theirs to his, forming once more the circle of six.
“All right, big guy,” Matau said to Keetongu. “Hit it.”
Keetongu drew upon his unique power and released his energy in a wave, letting it wash over the mutated forms of the Toa Hordika. The Rahaga looked on, silently imploring the Great Spirit to make things right once more.
The door to the Matoran vault opened once more. This time, it was Toa Metru who stepped over the threshold, not Toa Hordika.
“Time to wake up, my friends,” Vakama said, looking around at the multitude of spheres. “We’re going home.”
It took many hours of labor by the Toa, the Rahaga, and Keetongu to remove the spheres from the vault. They were then loaded into the airships the Toa had constructed for just this occasion when they were Hordika.
“Nice ships,” Matau commented, looking over his own handiwork.
“Just don’t crash them this time,” replied Onewa, smiling.
Nearby, Vakama and Norik stood together. The Toa Metru of Fire took a long, last look at his city, knowing it might well be years before he saw it again. “I guess this is it,” he said.
“No, Vakama,” said Norik. “This is just a different beginning.”
Norik smiled. “I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it for you.”
“Well, whatever it is, thank you.”
“You are most welcome, Vakama,” replied the Rahaga. “But it is I who should be thanking you.”
“I don’t understand.”
Norik smiled broadly. “It’s not every day I get to see a legend, you know.”
The Toa of Fire nodded toward Keetongu. “Yes, he is quite a sight.”
“Indeed,” the Rahaga replied. “But I wasn’t talking about Keetongu.”
It took a moment before Norik’s words sank in. The Rahaga was right – what they had accomplished would live in legend, from this day forward. “The Great Rescue,” said Vakama.
“It’s funny,” said the Rahaga. “You spend your whole life chasing something, only to find when you finally catch it that the pursuit was what was important. That it’s changed you. That you’ll never be exactly the same.”
Vakama nodded. “I guess I’ve changed, too.”
Norik placed a hand on the Toa’s armored shoulder. “And in doing so, freed us Rahaga to be what we are… knowing that the new world and its Matoran are in most capable hands. Which means the last time I will ever use this gesture…,” Norik finished, holding out his fist in the Toa salute, “is to say thanks. I like that.”
“Me, too,” said Vakama, meeting the Rahaga’s fist with his own.
The small fleet of ships had lifted off and were heading out to sea. Aftershocks from Makuta’s earthquake had widened the gap in the Great Barrier, and Vakama believed new tunnels might be found leading to the surface. For a change, no one argued with him.
Riding in the lead ship, Nokama, Vakama, and the other Toa looked down over the city.
“Will you miss it?” asked the Toa of Water.
Vakama glanced down and saw the Rahaga and Keetongu on the observation deck of the Coliseum, their eyes tracking the slow passage of the ships. “Some things,” he answered.
As they neared the Great Barrier, Onewa pointed down to the rocks, alarmed. “Makuta! He’s gone!”
Vakama could see that he was right. The protodermis prison was shattered and the master of shadows had disappeared. “Not for long,” he said. “I imagine we’ll be seeing him again very soon.”
“And when we do?”
“We’ll find a way to defeat him,” said Vakama, steering the ship toward the rift in the barrier. “Because that’s what Toa do.”
* * *
“…Because that’s what Toa do.”
With those final words, Turaga Vakama brought his tale to an end. With one smooth motion, he scooped up the stones from the Amaja Circle. Tahu Nuva took particular note of how he handled the black stone that represented Makuta, the sole surviving shard from that entity’s prison of long ago.
“I was right,” the Turaga said. “Makuta would follow us here, and threaten to cast our new world and all who came to call it home into everlasting shadow.”
Jaller, still caught up in the tale, could barely contain himself. “And…?”
Vakama smiled. “I believe you already know that story, Jaller. Come now, enough of old legends for one day.”
The Turaga rose and walked away, followed by the Toa Nuva, Takanuva, Jaller, and Hahli. “Where are we going?” asked the Ga-Matoran Chronicler.
“To make new ones,” answered the hero of Metru Nui.