Turaga Dume, elder of Metru Nui, slammed shut the door of his chamber. Although his face was covered by a Kanohi mask, no one needed to see his expression to know he was filled with cold fury. He looked at the six Turaga assembled around the table, then made a sound of disgust and turned away.
“We have reached the end,” he said, staring out the window at the city he loved. “In a matter of weeks – perhaps months – the Great Spirit Mata Nui will be dead. When he dies, so, too, will our universe. It is time to lower our voices, avert our eyes, and wait for the darkness.”
He turned abruptly and pointed a shaking finger at the other Turaga. “But one of you… could not let our tale conclude with dignity. One of you has betrayed us!”
Stunned by the accusation, the six Turaga looked at each other. Since their return to Metru Nui, they had spent almost all of their time in this chamber, trying to think of some way to forestall disaster. Turaga Dume and Turaga Nuju had read in the stars that Mata Nui was not merely asleep, as they had long believed, but was actually dying. Only the legendary Kanohi Mask of Life could save him.
In desperation, the Turaga sent the heroic Toa Nuva on a quest to the island of Voya Nui. Their mission was to find the Mask of Life and save the Great Spirit. Many days had passed with no word and no sign of them, until even Turaga Vakama conceded that they must have failed… or worse. Only the Toa of Light remained in the city, and there had been much debate about sending him to rescue the others. But it was agreed that a single Toa, even one as powerful as he, would stand no chance if six Toa Nuva had fallen. More, Dume insisted that if by some miracle the Toa Nuva did return with the mask, Takanuva’s presence in the city would be of vital importance.
That left the Turaga with nothing to do but wait and hope. As one day turned into the next, it became increasingly obvious that it was all in vain. The Toa Nuva were gone, the Great Spirit was doomed, and all he had created would perish with him.
“We had agreed that the Matoran would not be told,” Dume continued. “After their great efforts to return to their homeland, it would be beyond cruelty to tell them their time would be cut short. So now I must ask – who among you dared to break this agreement? Who told the Matoran their world is about to die?”
“Now, wait,” said Onewa, Turaga of Stone. “How do you even know anything was revealed? I hear no shouting in the streets, no wailing that the end is coming. Believe me, in my time, I have come to know the sounds of panic, and there are none to be heard.”
Dume sat down heavily in his chair, as if the weight of all his years was on his shoulders. “Jaller is gone,” he replied. “Jaller, who insisted strongly that the Matoran had to know where the Toa Nuva had gone, and why. And with him are Matoro, Nuparu, Kongu, Hewkii, and Hahli, all of them vanished from their homes overnight. They were last seen in Le-Metru, heading for the abandoned underwater chutes that lead to the south.”
“You don’t mean…?” began Whenua.
“Jaller would never be so foolish,” said Vakama.
“Oh no,” whispered Nokama, looking stricken. “I never thought he would…”
Dume turned to look at her. When he spoke, his voice was hard. “So. You told Jaller.”
“Yes,” Nokama replied, with more than a hint of defiance in her voice. “We are facing the possible end of the universe. The Matoran – our friends – have a right to know why they are going to die. But I never imagined Jaller would try to act on what I had shared with him.”
Nuju whistled sharply twice, and then made a slashing motion across his throat. Vakama nodded in agreement. “You’re right, Nuju. They will never make it to Voya Nui alive. We have no choice. We will have to send Takanuva to bring them back.”
“Something I would gladly do,” Dume replied. “Except that he’s gone, too.”
“You shouldn’t have come,” said Jaller.
“You shouldn’t have gone,” Takanuva answered.
The two of them were scouting ahead, while the other five Matoran moved cautiously across the blasted landscape. They had emerged from the underwater chutes only a few minutes before to find themselves on a long, narrow land bridge. They had no clear idea how to reach their destination, other than to travel south and then “up”.
“Hahli was right,” Jaller muttered. “It would have been easier to return to Mata Nui and sail south from there.”
“It’s a big ocean,” said the Toa of Light. “We still might never have found it. I’m not sure what one Toa and six Matoran will be able to do against whatever stopped the Toa Nuva, anyway.”
“Whatever it is, we’ll do it. But you should turn back. If anything happens to you, the city will be defenseless.”
Takanuva gave a bitter chuckle. “And if Mata Nui dies, the city won’t matter. Besides, I couldn’t let you have all this fun by yourselves.”
Jaller paused on a rise. In the distance he could see a tunnel mouth, and beyond that… what? There was no way to know. The Toa Nuva had traveled to Voya Nui in protective canisters, for the Turaga had said any other means of travel would be too dangerous. That meant the Matoran could not count on any opposition ahead having already been dealt with, for the Toa had not passed this way.
“Do you remember that time I went to Le-Wahi, and you had to come find me?” Takanuva asked, recalling when he had been a Matoran. “You know, in the cave.”
“The cave full of stone rats,” Jaller said, nodding. “You were about to be dessert.”
“You charged in, grabbed me… we both fell down a hole… ended up in a venomous rockworm nest,” said Takanuva, smiling. “Had to dig our way through a tunnel full of the remains of its meals to make it back to the surface. What a nightmare.”
“I remember,” said Jaller. “What made you think of that?”
“Just that I have a feeling that trip is going to seem like a Naming Day celebration compared to this one,” answered the Toa of Light. “Go back, Jaller. Let me find the Toa Nuva and the Mask of Life. It’s my job.”
Jaller shook his head. “We all live in this universe. That means saving it is everyone’s job.”
Takanuva sighed. It was next to impossible to win an argument with Jaller, especially when he was right. Rather than continue the debate, the Toa of Light pointed up ahead. “At least let me scout the tunnel alone. If there is anything in there, I’m better equipped to deal with it.”
“Be careful,” said Jaller.
Takanuva laughed. “Now where’s the fun in that?”
The six Matoran stood on the plateau, watching as Takanuva prepared to enter the tunnel. He had done a brief test of his elemental and mask powers, abilities he was still not completely used to. Once he felt ready, he surrounded his body with a luminescent glow and headed for the entrance.
Jaller watched as his friend took one step into the tunnel and utterly vanished. He blinked and looked again, for it made no sense. The Toa of Light’s aura should have been able to pierce any darkness, making him visible until he was well inside the tunnel. Jaller could only think of one thing to say about this turn of events.
In his previous life, as a Matoran, Takanuva had journeyed all over the island of Mata Nui. He had plunged into the frigid depths of the sea and climbed the snowy peak of Mount Ihu. He knew how it felt to be blasted with frigid air in the snowfields of Ko-Wahi. But he had never experienced true cold before, not like this.
His aura had vanished the instant he entered the tunnel. His efforts to restore it had failed, along with every other attempt to use his powers. He had stood up to Makuta, the master of shadows, and won, yet this darkness was proof against anything the Toa of Light could throw against it. Worse, it felt like he was surrounded by a mountain of ice, almost as though the warmth was being drained right out of his body.
He turned around, thinking it best to head back out again. But with the darkness so thick, he couldn’t be sure he was facing the entrance anymore. If he went the wrong way, he might be lost forever.
Takanuva digested that cheerful thought. Then he called upon the Mask of Light again, reasoning that maybe a pinpoint beam of light might succeed where a wider glow had failed. His spirit soared when he actually saw the laser shoot forth. But a second later, it too, had been consumed by the darkness.
Yes, that was what it felt like. It wasn’t that his powers were failing. Something in this tunnel was devouring his light, something hidden and powerful… and very hungry.
Takanuva shuddered, but this time it wasn’t from the cold.